Distinct and different
Burleigh Brewing Company is an award-winning brewery founded in 2007 by former corporate lawyer Peta Fielding, and her brewer husband Brennan Fielding. From the start, the company has dared to be different. Even when they were planning to build their brewery, they refused to settle for a simple, off-the-shelf set-up. Instead, they explored the world for the best equipment they could find, in order to create an operation that blends the ancient, proven traditions of the past with the best, most innovative ideas from the future. That dichotomy has defined the business ever since.
“I always knew I wanted to start a business,” Peta says, recalling the origins of Burleigh Brewing. “That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wanted to be the boss, and I wanted to create something, but at first I had no clue what.”
While earning an MBA from the University of Hawaii, she met Brennan. At the time, he was still in the early stages of his brewing career, but he had already shown some “pretty amazing talent, and had won some pretty impressive awards.” From there, she says starting a brewery was a no-brainer. It was such an obvious move, in fact, that Peta can’t even remember sitting down to decide on it.
“All along, we just knew that was what we were going to do,” she says. “He was passionate about a product and had amazing talent, and I wanted to create a business where he could make the most of it.”
The couple’s dream was first realized in Hawaii, while Brennan was working for a local brewery owned by a larger company based on the mainland. When that company went bankrupt, Peta recalls Brennan coming home and telling her about the uncertain future of his work.
“I started jumping up and down saying ‘Let’s buy it, let’s buy it,” she says. “I didn’t have a clue how that was going to happen, but the seed was planted. And we did manage, with some others, to buy that brewery business at a reduced rate. We spent the next year-and-a-half turning it into something very cool.”
“By then we knew very clearly that we wanted to come back to the Gold Coast and build a brewery from the ground up,” she continues. “We wanted to do it on our terms and wanted to make it exactly what we wanted it to be.”
According to Peta, the laid-back beach town of Burleigh was chosen as their new home for several reasons. Most importantly, however, it was a place they could make their own.
“Craft brewing is much more for us than just a business, or just a way to make a living,” she explains. “Traditionally, beer and brewing in Europe was a very core part of a town. The brewery was like a football team – it was the town’s heart and soul. We wanted to be somewhere where we could replicate that. We wanted to be something that the town could be proud of, and could own in their hearts and minds. We wanted to contribute to the soul of the place.”
A local focus
Today, the company’s strongest market is on the Gold Coast – where Burleigh Brewing is the only craft brewery. Peta says they have always had a local focus, and originally didn’t even think they would send their product out nationally.
“Honestly, the customers kind of forced us to,” she says. “There was too much interest from other places, and we started to feel really bad saying ‘No, sorry, we’re not going to send our beer to you.’”
“Traditionally, how beer used to work is when you go to a new town or a new country and you get to drink the beer from there,” she says. “We like that. We like making a really great product for our local market, and then when we all travel to other parts of the world, we can all discover something new.”
That’s why they have opted against exporting, Peta explains – despite the opportunities they’ve had, and despite the immediate bottom-line impact. That’s also why they have made it an overriding priority to source all their materials locally, even if it costs more.
“Common sense might tell us to look elsewhere and get things cheaper, but we just don’t,” she says. “It’s more important to us to source locally, from our community. We like things to be real, and authentic, and it’s something we can do.”
This local focus is one of the key factors that sets Burleigh Brewing apart in the world of beer, Peta explains. Another factor is the way they constantly strive to be “world class.”
“We use the best ingredients, and we use beautiful clean water, but it’s much more than that,” she says. “We set out to be world class in everything we do, during every step of the brewing process, the branding process, and even our entire business process. Nothing is done without a lot of sincere thought.”
“Burleigh Brewing is about the whole package,” she adds. “It’s about what we do, it’s about how we do it, and it’s about why we do it.”
Burleigh Brewing’s world class quality has not only earned the company the satisfaction and loyalty of customers, it has also attracted a variety of awards attention from industry bodies across Queensland, Australia, and the globe.
At the World Beer Championships, for example, the company has taken home four gold medals for four different beers, and six silver medals for five different beers. They have also won accolades at the RNA Royal Queensland Beer Awards, including Best Beer in Show, as well as Best Queensland Bear two years in a row. And at the Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards in 2011, their unique range of flavors won them the Mayor’s Innovation Award.
Most recently, Burleigh Brewing’s quality was recognised at the 2013 Telstra Business Awards – where they were named Queensland Business of the Year.
“I think we’re all still on a high from that,” Peta says. “Those awards just come with such credibility, and the process of becoming a finalist and then progressing on is intense. Because of that, those awards are very highly regarded. Externally, the words ‘Telstra Queensland Business of the Year’ say a zillion things about us.”
“Internally, that tells us that we’re on the right track,” she adds. “We certainly don’t take it as a sign that we’re done, or that everything we’re doing is right. We take it as motivation to stay on track, and to work hard to live up to what that means.”
Since 2007, Burleigh Brewing has experienced a lot of success – that award is just the latest example of that. Peta credits that success to the close attention they pay to all the details, from the quality of their product to the relevance of their brand and consideration of our customers. Moving forward, she says they are going to keep paying attention.
“We’re not sitting still,” she says. “We’re looking at our range of products all the time, and we’re always thinking about the next thing. As a team, we’re constantly looking to the future.”
“Our vision isn’t about a particular size or rate of growth, or dollars or revenue,” she adds. “That’s probably not surprising, because that’s not why we started the business. We started because we wanted to create something special – special for the people who work here, special for the venues and bottle shops that carry our product, special for the people who embrace our beers and special for our community. Our vision is to keep on doing that, and keep on doing it in a sustainable way.”