The emergence of craft beer in Australia has increasingly become the alternative for Aussies who are drawn to the more ‘artisanal’, ‘hand-crafted’ style of beer. To independently produce craft beer, however, is a distant dream for many small breweries. It takes much-needed resilience to face the many challenges in an industry dominated by giants.
‘Two Birds’, Danielle Allen and Jayne Lewis had this very dream, to run a fully-fledged brewery of their own. This would embark the two birds on a difficult journey filled with barriers and challenges to reach the skies.
It started with a vision to make unique and approachable beers that create amazing times for people by simply holding them in their hand. This vision led to a year of ideas and planning and in June 2011, they quit their full-time jobs and began Two Birds Brewing.
Starting as a contractor for other breweries they would soon launch their first beer the Golden Ale in October 2011 followed by the Sunset Ale in May 2012. But they didn’t stop there. In June, 2014, they opened their very first self-owned brewery, ‘The Nest’ in Spotswood, Victoria. Now Two Birds is an established brewing company, a trailblazer in its craft and has set its sights to become the number one craft beer brand in Australia.
As Australia’s first female-owned brewery it sets a leading example for women in a generally male-dominated industry. I had the great opportunity to speak with Danielle in the Two Birds’ Sydney office about their incredible story and how they got to where they are now.
Words by Danielle Allen, Edited by Tony Zhang
Every co-founder story is a unique one but for Danielle and Jayne, it was one with nostalgia as they had known each other long before the establishment their company.
My business partner, Jayne and I have been friends since we were in our late teens. In fact, we even went to university together where she studied winemaking and video culture and I studied marketing and public relations. After university, we went our own ways to pursue our own careers. I ended up moving to Sydney for my marketing career while Jayne started her career as a winemaker before transitioning to brewery by working for Little Creatures, who are the pioneers of craft beer in Australia. We both followed our own paths and we would never expect that one day we would be starting a business together.
It was on an exciting trip to the west coast when Jayne and Danielle realised how much they had in common, a desire to start their own business. It was here where ideas flew, the ‘lightbulb moment came’ and the starting vision of flight for Two Birds was imagined.
We planned a trip to the west coast in the United States to visit wineries, breweries and Michelin starred restaurants. It was on that trip where we talked a lot about our future, careers and ideals. I always had a burning desire to start my own business but I just hadn’t had that lightbulb moment. However, it came when I heard Jayne wanted to open her own brewery one day. I recognised that if Jayne wanted to do that she would need some kind of business partner to assist with sales, marketing and operational aspects.
After the trip, we just couldn’t let it go. There was something meaningful about that holiday and it felt like it was the next step in our respective journeys. We spent the next six months figuring out our business plan and soon resigned from our respective employers. Jayne was head brewer at Mountain Goat at that time and I was in product development at Woolworths.
After months of planning, Two Birds would begin to take their first flight after launching their first beer, the Golden Ale in October 2011.
It was about 12 months from the trip we took till we launched our first beer, the Golden Ale. We didn’t have the finance and funding to build the brewery from the get-go so we started off as a contract brewer. This meant that we used other breweries to brew our beer. After our first beer, things started taking off shortly after. People liked our beer, our distribution was slowly growing and we were getting lots of inquiries from people. So we decided to add a second beer to our portfolio, the Sunset Ale in 2012.
It was in 2014 that we took the big step of building our own brewery. It was going to be near Jayne since she lives in Melbourne and handles all things brewing. We had always been operating in both states, where brewing is made in Melbourne and the brand managed in Sydney. We found a site, went through all the red tape of council approvals, zoning and work that needed to be done to get a blank site up and running. We then ordered our brew house model from Canada, shipped it around the world and loaded it onto the site. That marked the beginning of building our first brewery, an achievement we used to only dream of.
Representations of their journey
When looking at the Two Birds labels on their beer, you will find a quirky illustration displayed. The labels actually depict the inspirational moments of history in Two Birds brewing’s journey. Each label is symbolic of stories that shape the way the beers were produced and branded. In fact, most of them are objects that fly, a play on the metaphor where Danielle and Jayne are birds who fly to reach new heights.
When looking back at our journey in Two Birds, we thought that every moment should be treasured. We decided to rebrand after five years because it started to look tired. The logos and colours haven’t changed but we just added a bit more depth and storytelling. We worked with our designer in Sydney to make sure the illustrations explained the story, where the beer comes from and what the idea means for us.
For example, the Sunset Ale is a hot air balloon because that’s reflective of the adventures that Jayne and I had in Perth. Watching the red sunset in the hot air balloon is a common experience in Western Australia. It reminded us of our childhood and all the adventures we had, which are very deep memories. That’s why we made the Sunset Ale to have a more complex taste with a lighter finish.
Facing the various challenges in the industry, the journey of Two Birds has certainly been a ride. Although they have already achieved their dream of starting their own brewery, the flight continues on.
There’s a challenge in starting any business but because of our experience, background and knowledge, it wasn’t as challenging as it may seem. I think we definitely came out with confidence knowing our product was good and that it spoke for itself. I guess that’s basically the journey we’ve been on. In the beginning, it was just the two of us, ‘two birds’ with an idea. Now we have over 20 employees, a big portfolio of our own beers, and opportunities to do special things.
Male dominated industry or not, it never stopped us, it never deterred us from launching and doing things our way. We weren’t influenced by others even though we were the minority. We just did what we wanted to do and I guess it appealed and it resonated with our customers. It is never easy in this industry but we simply were two determined gals that didn’t let anything get in our way.
The feature on Two Birds Brewing will also be on issue 3. Stay tuned for it when it comes out.
Also be sure to check out Two Birds Brewing’s new summer beer called the Passion Victim. A play on ‘fashion victim’, Danielle describes it as a “fun and exciting beer that will be awesome for those long hot days.”
Journo for ECX Magazine