Written by Kerrie Alexander
Many glasses were raised at the opening of Cauldron Brewery three months ago to say cheers to the start of something incredibly special for lovers of craft beer on the Fraser Coast.
For owners Martin and Karen Potter, it was a poignant day that signalled a culmination of three years of sleepless nights, incredibly hard work and over $1 million to open the business Martin had always dreamed of.
The two are well-known around Australia’s craft beer brewing circles, having owned Hervey Bay’s National Home Brew store for the past 11 years.
Three years ago, they put the wheels in motion to bring Hervey Bay its own independent multi-vessel brewhouse, and what a success it has been.
Most breweries have partners, are crowd funded or are awarded government grants, but the Potters have done it all on their own, which is a massive feat.
Karen said the support from the public had been overwhelming, which was a great reward for all the trials and tribulations they faced while building the business from scratch.
“We’ve done it all ourselves and we’re very proud of it,” Karen said.
“It’s a great feeling, the pleasure you get from people coming here and enjoying what we have created is amazing.
“The way that people receive it and are enjoying it, and people walking away smiling is an absolutely awesome feeling.”
Karen started by searching high and low for a site that could house not only the brewery but the home brew store as well, and their building at 1 Old Maryborough Rd was the perfect choice.
Martin spent years designing all the brewing equipment, including 11 fermenters, which were engineered in China and – after waiting over six months during the Coronavirus pandemic – were finally delivered via two semi-trailers in July last year.
The company was to send over an engineer to put all the equipment together but that was scrapped due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, leaving Martin to put all the pieces of the brewing puzzle together himself.
That includes all the piping systems that go to each individual fermenter with temperature controllers.
It needed a science degree to master the creation and luckily that’s something both Karen and Martin hold.
“Once the slab was down and the coating was on, we were ready to install all the equipment,” Karen said.
“We had a crane come in and lift all the actual brewing equipment in place and the fermenters all got put together by a forklift and pallet jacks, which was a massive job.
“There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of swearing,” she said with a laugh.
Now, there can be up to 7500L of beer brewing at any one time, and it takes about three weeks on average to create the perfect brew, depending on the type of beer … and there is many.
Not only did Martin build the business, design the equipment, and brew the beer on site, he has also created over 2500 oneof-a-kind beer recipes.
Karen could not be prouder of her husband who she describes as an “absolute perfectionist”.
“He is an absolutely exceptional brewer,” she said.
“None of his beers will ever come out anything other than perfect!
“He takes a lot of time and care to get it right and working on the recipes to build them and get them right is a big thing.”
Craft beer has a richer and more distinct taste than watery mass-produced beer, and the Potters are both extremely passionate about the taste and flavour, as well as beers rich history.
Karen explained how the Indian Pale Ale hailed from the days when sailors travelling from England to India used Hops to make beer, because the water was tainted and made them ill.
Hops are the flowers, or cones, of a plant called Humulus lupulus that help to keep beer fresher, for longer.
“The more hops in there the higher the price of the beer, and they are expensive to buy,” she said.
“Hops are what give you the flavours and aromas in IPA’S and Pale Ale beers.
“There’s a lot of history to learn and it’s really interesting.”
Many people binge watch TV dramas on Netflix, but Karen and Martin opt for beer making documentaries where they have taken many trade secrets and applied it to their own business.
“Watching all those beer shows enabled us to build a brewery and not make the same mistakes that everyone else made, get it right and have less hassles down the track.
“Being educated is the key. There is a lot of science, chemistry and physics, behind brewing beer.”
They say there’s not one beer that’s been more popular than the other, with all 15 taps getting good use.
Lucky there’s a four-glass tasting paddle available because the decision of just what to drink is a head scratcher.
There’s an exciting selection of pale ales, mid-strength lager, apple ciders, Irish stout, and English Porter, just to name a few.
As a wine drinker, my eyes went straight to the choice of dry and sweet ciders, but Karen assured me that a taste of their sours may just convert me to a beer drinker.
“There’s a lot of beer there that not big beer drinkers will actually drink.
“People walk in here and look at the beer list and just die because they haven’t seen that sort of variety before … it’s definitely not your standard pub beer.
“They stand there and look at it and just don’t know what to choose and often end up with a taster paddle to go through and help them decide.
“There’s also a lot of main stream commercial beer drinkers that have discovered our lager and realise that other beers just aren’t that good in comparison.”
The two have also incorporated an on-site kitchen and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as far as the chef’s perfection goes.
The menu was designed by their son and head chef Patrick who has just as much passion for food as his parents have for beer.
“Everyone just raves about his food,” Karen said.
“He moved back to Hervey Bay to get us started and he had done a wonderful job. He’s very good at what he does.”
The two say there’s plenty of work to still be done but for the most part, they are elated to see the public enjoying the flavours of their labour.
If you haven’t done so already, go along and check them out.
The brewery is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday to Saturday, and lunch only on Sunday’s.
However, you can pop in and get Growler and Squealer refills seven days.
There’s live entertainment on most weekends so bookings are recommended.