Stepping through the doors of the brand new Your Mates Brewhouse, you are hit with an immediate sense of pride as if by just being a Sunshine Coast local you have some personal stake in the thriving craft beer business.
While the countless schooners of Larry that many Caloundra locals have enjoyed over the last few years does not actually equate to having skin in the game, it is clear the community has accepted the craft beer barons as one of their own.
Proud owners of Your Mates Brewing co. Matt Hepburn and Christen McGarry, have spent the past five years working ‘blood sweat and beers’ in pursuit of what they call ‘the Australian dream’ – to sell beer for a living.
Marvelling at the young Moffat Beach locals brand-new 200m2 brewhouse, it is evidently clear that their hard work has paid off.
The full production facility and brewpub is decked out with seven Your Mates craft beers and a cider on tap, a complete kitchen and locally sourced pub-feed menu, a children’s play area and a pool table with a 2,000L brewery tank soon to arrive.
With old photographs in view showcasing the Your Mates evolution, Matt says that all the 80-hour weeks, hard work and challenges have been more than worthwhile.
“We are so stoked to have built this home for Your Mates where people will not only come and try our beers but will leave thinking ‘wow that’s a destination’.” Matt says.
While brewing beer for a living may sound like the dream job to many Australians, the growth and success that Your Mates have enjoyed in the past few years has not come easily.
“While we market ourselves as a couple of pretty relaxed young guys, behind the scenes we have always worked really bloody hard.” Matt says.
“We were living on the bare skins of our bums for years, paying ourselves next to nothing, but we always had this vision of the Your Mates brand which continued to motivate us.”
Back in 2013 the two beer enthusiasts threw their professional jobs aside as a project manager (Matt) and school teacher (Christen), took a significant pay cut and began their journey into the craft beer industry.
Nurturing the infantile craft beer scene while working at Drift Bar Caloundra, the pair initially introduced Stone and Wood on tap and soon after launched a craft beer club.
“Everyone was like, woah we are in bloody Caloundra what are you thinking no one’s going to drink this hippie crap.”
“But we thought we would see how it went, and straight away it started outselling XXXX Gold.”
Although Matt and Christen initially had plans to launch a bar of their own, the positive reaction to craft beer drove them in another direction.
“A light bulb just went off,” Matt says.
“There was only the Sunshine Coast Brewery on the Coast at that time, and they were a little bit more old school than all of these new breweries that we were seeing from Melbourne and from Sydney so we just thought let’s start our own brewery.”
However, taking their interest and enthusiasm for beer as a consumer to learning about the finer details of producing and wholesaling the product proved to be harder than they originally thought.
“Beer is such a fragile product and it isn’t easy, it’s a process, it’s not just four ingredients and that’s it.”
When the Your Mates brand was launched in 2015, the Sunshine Coast was introduced to the team’s signature pale ale, the mischievous party shirt laden Larry, and the innately clever branding behind the beer took on a life of its own.
Over the next few years Matt and Christen managed to open their own bars, The Basement in Nambour and Taproom at Moffat Beach, increase their wholesale into numerous liquor stores and bars and build a loyal following on the Sunshine Coast.
However, the guys continued to face the same problem, they could not keep up with the demand for their beer while contract brewing.
In mid-2018 the pair were chosen to appear on the cut-throat television program Shark Tank featuring the ever-gruff and to the point investor Steve Baxter.
With over one million eyes across Australia homed in on the program, the guys did not get the deal they were after but landed a one hour exclusive with panellists Steve Baxter and Glen Richards.
“After half an hour, Steve said that we were doing everything right, we just had to keep going and keep at it.” Matt says of their experience.
He said to us ‘don’t discount it, there is no mates’ rates, this is now a legitimate business that you have built, you have a good business plan and now you just need to get the money.”
“When you’ve got Steve Baxter saying that to two blokes from Moffat Beach it gave us the confidence to say, ‘let’s go and do this’.”
With slow continuous growth and perseverance, these Caloundra entrepreneurs are now proudly splashing the Sunshine Coast and beyond with 15,000 litres of beer per month, with 5,000 litres of this sold over the counter of the brewhouse alone.
Follow along the Your Mates journey and introduce yourself to Larry and the team at: https://yourmatesbrewing.com/