It's taken Michael Peloquin a lot longer than he thought to get his brewery up and running. But he's fine with that. He explains why to Glen Humphries, and also why Bulli Brewing Company is in Unanderra.
When he decided to open a brewery Michael Peloquin didn’t think it would be quite so hard – or take so long.
A home brewer for 20 years, Peloquin decided to turn his hobby into a business.
That was around three years ago – the bulk of that time involved trying to find a place to put the fermenters, tanks and kegs.
Mid-last year when he found a place to open Bulli Brewing Company – in Unanderra (all will be explained later) – Peloquin was confident he’d be pouring his beers at the bar by December 2016.
“I think I was foolishly naive to think it would happen that fast,” Peloquin says now.
“It’s just organising all the trades and getting things passed.”
There’s a lot of regulatory bodies to satisfy and electricians, plumbers and other tradies to line up.
And then there’s the fact Peloquin is still working a day job offering financial advice three days a week –all of which combine to make the process of getting things ready seemingly take forever.
He’s still aiming for Christmas – but this one, not the last one.
“The opening date is still December, I just think the year has shifted,” he jokes.
“I’ve had that from a few people - ‘you did say Christmas, you just didn’t say which one’.”
But Peloquin says he has found the delay a blessing in disguise. By going a bit slower he’s been able to avoid throwing buckets of money at everyone, getting in over his head and finding himself flat broke before the doors open.
He’s seen the process as one big learning experience.
“I was confident initially but it was out of ignorance,” he says.
“The more you learn the more you realise how little you know. Even know I realised I only know the tip of the iceberg.
“Now with every month and week that goes by, I’m happy that I didn’t rush into opening the brewery. I wanted to control the build and the expense rather than calling up a big company and saying, ‘here’s a million bucks, build me a brewery’ and then having a debt that I couldn’t jump over and potentially going broke.”
That’d be Peloquin’s financial advisor side coming out. Setting up a brewery doesn’t come cheap, so having a level head financially speaking is a big advantage.
And he’s found himself taking on board a piece of advice he’d previously given to his clients – if you’re going to do something, make sure it’s something you love.
“I often tell my clients if they’re going to start up a business they should do something that’s a hobby, that they really like,” he says.
“Because you usually don’t make any money for the first few years in business, so if it’s not something you really like doing then you’re not going to have the passion to stick with it.”
It’s not like Peloquin has nothing to show for all his work – he’s already set up a cafe inside the brewery.
The idea is to offer a place for those working in neighbouring businesses along Industrial Road a place to get a coffee or lunch – and then maybe come back when the brewery is up and running.
Also, it’s not at all unlikely that someone turning up for a few beers might get a bit peckish – and so the cafe covers that base too.
There’s also plenty of eye-catching graffiti art that make it more than just an industrial space with concrete floor and bare white walls.
“And we’ve put an extra bathroom in – because, if you’ve got 40 blokes there having beers you just can’t have one bathroom,” Peloquin says.
While, Peloquin is looking towards opening this summer, if the warmer weather comes and the beers still aren’t flowing, Peloquin won’t be throwing his hands in the air and giving up.
He’s well past the point of no return or, as he prefers to put it, he just has to keep swimming.
“It’s like the analogy of swimming across a lake,” he says.
“The lake always looks bigger when you’re sitting in the middle of it than when you’re on the edge.
“You get halfway and you think ‘this is a bit silly, why did I start?’. But if you’re in the middle, you have to finish it, you have to swim to the other side, you can’t just swim back.”
Not surprisingly, Peloquin says it’ll be “a bit of a relief” when it’s all systems go and he's pouring his own beers.
“We will have something of value once it’s finished,” he says.
“An unfinished brewery isn’t worth much to anyone.”
Finally, it comes time to deal with the name. It’s called Bulli Brewing Company, but it’s in Unanderra – what’s with that?
One reason is that the name came before the location.
“I would have been in touch with countless real estate agents,” Peloquin says.
“A number of deals fell through – that’s why Bulli Brewing isn’t in Bulli but in Unanderra because there’s no commercial property in Bulli or even Woonona that you can put a brewery into.”
There is another reason – Bulli is a bit easier than Unanderra for out-of-towners to pronounce.
But Peloquin still reckons some will have a problem, hence the brewery logo of a bull with an angry red eye.
“Anyone out of the area calls it Bully. We came up with the bull and the eye so if someone’s looking at the logo and they’re not a local they could work out it’s Bulli.”
Just try doing something like that with the word “Unanderra”.