On a boiling January day in 2017, Eden Brewery opened its doors with cautious optimism. With no prior professional experience, owners Jacob and Deb Newman, had spent the past year battling with the local shire council and learning from YouTube videos how to perfect their ale brewing. A hard-won permit was reluctantly issued by the council, and the brewery opened with hopeful, but measured expectations. They were blown away by the reception.
With the Newmans stationed behind the bar alongside three of their staff, their beer was served to an eagerly waiting crowd. With lines out the front door and standing room only, the brewery made $5,000 in sales the first day alone — far above and beyond their expectations.
With such a warm reception on their first day, the relief was tangible. Jacob and Deb had spent years planning and acquiring the right brewing equipment, and what felt like years attaining the necessary permits. However, managing a successful brewery wasn’t always in the plans for these two.
Jacob Newman had grown up just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas. His first experience with brewing was at the ripe young age of 18, when he and a friend decided to make their own beer.
“In America, you can’t drink till you’re 21,” Neman said. “At 18 you’re not old enough to buy a beer, but smart enough to know how to make it. There’s nothing illegal about buying hops, wheat, barley, and water, so my friend and I decided to start making beer.”
Using the “Brewer’s Bible,” a brewing 101-guidebook, Jacob and his friend learned the basics and made a wheat beer that is still on Eden Brewery’s menu today.
Spurred on by their success, brewing became a hobby that was pursued for a number of years throughout college and subsequent moves overseas. Following graduation from high school, Jacob worked as an Emergency Medical Technician in Dallas-Fort Worth before moving to Papua New Guinea where he eventually met his future wife, Deb, who hailed from Sydney. The two worked on a medical ship before their plans to set up a clinic were disrupted by a series of public beheadings.
“That wouldn’t have been enough on its own to stop us, but at the same time we were losing a lot of our financial support,” Jacob said.
Despite being unable to continue with their dream, their passion for serving others remained as strong as ever and the couple eventually moved to California to train missionaries how to combat human trafficking in Thailand. It was during this time that Jacob rekindled his love for brewing.
“I learned a lot about brewing while I was there. Up until that point I was sort of winging it, which is probably still what I’m doing to be honest,” Jacob said. “We also designed our logo and branding on a whiteboard while we were still in California, and had someone make a digital version of it. We traded our barbecue grill for our logo.”
A Visual Journey
Slideshow photos: Joshua Rust, CC by SA 4.0
Clashes with the Council
Following their spell in California, the couple moved to the small town of Mittagong in the picturesque Southern Highlands. Surrounded by vineyards, Jacob and Deb thought the only thing the area lacked was a brewery. They immediately began making connections with other brewers in New South Wales and searching for a location to set up. With aid from fellow brewer Chris Sidwa, founder of Sydney’s Batch Brewing Company, the Newmans began working through the checklist.
They found an old warehouse on the edge of town and got to work renovating. After a few months of hard labour, the entire brewery was ready to open business. However, despite the progress made behind the scenes, the Newmans ran into continuous roadblocks with their local shire council.
At first, Wingecarribee Council refused their application to serve alcohol, but after much persistence on behalf of the Newmans, they were reluctantly granted a permit to serve during limited hours.
“The council isn’t concerned with contributing to the community,” Jacob said. “They did the absolute best they could have… to make sure this [brewery] didn’t happen, which is such a shame.”
Jacob explained that the council dragged their heels until the Newmans threatened to leave.
“Then they started to move. A year and a half late, but at least they got there.”
Shire Council spokesperson, David Sommers, explained that any difficulty the brewery might have encountered with permits would have been the responsibility of the NSW Liquor Licensing Police, and not the Council. However, he elaborated by describing the Council’s responsibilities in abiding by State laws.
“This requires Council to find the right balance between protecting the environment, supporting a healthy local economy and providing effective access to community services and infrastructure,” he said.
Beer with a Purpose
Despite the initial frustrations involved with the council, Jacob and Deb are still just as passionate about their vision as when they first started. Hoping to create beer that was not only good to taste, but also good for the local community and society, Jacob and Deb searched for a name that represented these values.
“To us, Eden represents what is good and right and how things should be,” Deb explained. “And we wanted beer to return to being good, and kind of redeem it. Make it a center of community, and a place where people can feel welcome and at home and appreciate it.”
This desire to redeem, and in a way, recapture what beer used to represent, is one of the core purposes behind the brewery. In addition to donating 10% of all proceeds to Oxfam for clean water projects, Eden Brewery also utilizes locally grown hops and supports local startups. The brewery recently started selling lemonade produced by a local family, and also collaborated with the local Artemis Wines to create a beer/wine mixer. This support of other small businesses and local farmers is a key component to the reclamation of tight-knit communities that Eden Brewery is pursuing.
Craft brewing has been undergoing a revival over the past few years, thanks in large part to a shift in consumers’ tastes. What was once an industry dominated by the sterile, factory producing beer giants is now returning to a pre-industrial landscape of small, independent breweries.
“We believe that people care about the product. Maybe they’re starting to realize that pale, fizzy water isn’t beer,” Jacob said. “We want to bring beer back to where it was pre-industrialization… It’s no longer up to the big, multinational to decide what that looks like, it’s up to the local breweries.”
This vision becomes more attainable each day. A little over a year since opening, Eden Brewery’s beer is sold at over 30 locations with more being added each month. With so much growth seen in the past 18 months, what does the next step look like?
“We’ll continue to create good beer and create more of it,” Jacob said. “People want to come here to try something new and see where their beer is made. They know us and our values…”
As Eden Brewery continues to invest in their local community and produce great tasting beer, their focus on values will always ensure they remain the cream of the crop.
Locations that sell Eden Brewery’s beer
All the places our beer can be found!
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