22 February 2017
"...I do chuckle heartily with some of the rumours I hear..."
There are loads of reasons for posting on a blog; dispelling disingenuous conjecture, giving insight, boredom and unbridled enthusiasm (actually, probably not that), amongst others. Arguably one of the less prevalent instigators of a post is thanks and, well, that is what this is.
Being a middle aged white male in Brisbane means privilege has been well realised in my life. There’s also privilege privilege and then there’s the steroidal, gratuitous, egregious privilege that has followed me in my travels. It would be easy to think that a life full of stuff is a privileged one, and that’s a very small part of it, but you realise pretty quickly that stuff doesn’t bring happiness, satisfaction or a sense of achievement. Note; this is not a self-help post, I make beer ffs. The privilege of my life is due to two things; opportunity and encouragement. My parents are grouse. Not because they built a successful business from scratch and provided us kids with loads of opportunity but because they encouraged us to work hard and, where possible, think about others. They are also generous to a fault and inspired education above all else, two incredible attributes. The real catalyst for this post is that they don’t receive, nor to be fair, look for or crave the notoriety of just what they have accomplished with Newstead.
I do chuckle heartily with some of the rumours I hear about the ownership of Newstead, indeed I take a sinister pleasure in propagating some of it myself. So lets lay it all on the table in a rare moment of genuine honesty. Newstead is 100% independent and family owned. Peter and Heather Howes (grouse parents, see above) provided 100% of the financial support, as well as leasing to Newstead the two properties it now resides in. Newstead is owned by four people. Peter, Heather, Michael Conrad and myself. While Michael and I have done little to justify the positions we are in, we are humbled by the opportunity and are applying ourselves heartily. That’s it. Simple, straightforward, no silent investors, no relationship to Coles, no plans to take over the world. So why is this important?
To me, mum and dad’s story is poignant for the craft beer movement as it encapsulates both a rags to riches, Australian small business saga and a portrayal of passion and stubborn self-belief that we can all be encouraged by. Dad grew up one of five boys in the undulating scrub of Sunnybank. Hailing from an ancestry of chippies he bucked the trend and set his sights on academia. Mum was birthed in the rigid square of Toowoomba and grew up in the rigid square of the northern suburbs. A conservative upbringing combined with a strong sense of responsibility, being the oldest sibling, mum has a passion for accounting. They met at QIT, QUT before it was a proper educational facility (if you can even call it that; family joke), got married and the rest is history. What history will fail to extrapolate is the weekends spent with two restless kids in the office, or the endless night-time’s of compiling conference notes, or the 100 hour weeks or the 40 weeks a year living out of a suitcase, or the times when it just went to pieces – from 50 employed staff down to three and only being able to pay two. In the end it came good but only because mum and dad stuck it out, dealt with the difficult issues, faced it head on and bloody just got in there and kept going. Growing up in a small business family is unique and it certainly teaches you one thing, grit.
This story may seem self-indulgent but it is. Regardless, I find it frustrating when keyboard warriors have a quip about the behemoth of Newstead. Mum and dad deserve every single cent they worked for and you know what, instead of splashing it on some superficial yacht or penthouse in Miami they decided to invest in their kids. What a ridiculous decision, gutsy and all heart without desire for a squillion dollar return. Surely you guys realise there is no money in beer and certainly not craft beer. We didn’t open the Milton site because we made a huge profit at Newstead, or even any profit. We opened it thanks to another reinvestment by Peter and Heather Howes. So, when we talk about helping fellow brewers, or helping at a local sporting event or charity it has all been due to the generosity of mum and dad. I am so thankful that I am in a position where I can help other legends in this community but by no means can claim any sort of credit. To pass on lesser opportunities than what I was gifted is hardly generous. There is a commercial reality to what we do. We have close to 50 staff (proud Brisbaneites) on the books and a scary number of bills to pay. It does mean, however, that if Newstead fails then it is a lost opportunity for a those who support fiercely independent products or those who want to have a crack at brewing (let’s talk later in the year).
Maybe it would help you guys to understand just what we are trying to achieve with Newstead. Perhaps the proudest moment of my partnership with Michael was when we agreed that we will not entertain the concept of being purchased, as a company. We are in for life and certainly, we are all in. We don’t want to make a million dollars, we don’t want to be rock stars, we don’t want to faff around and rest on our laurels. We simply want to make the best goddamn beer that we can and get it to the people. We want to be a fundamental part of our great community, promoting well-being and health, enjoyment and fun but above all, passion. We want to be learners and teachers, providers, facilitators, helpers, we want to be so ingrained in what it means to be from Brisbane that an appropriately aged lad from Sunnybank would be proud to shotgun a tinnie of Two to the Valley.