Q&A: Crafting a safe, enjoyable tipple for coeliacs

This week we chat to Richard Jeffares, who determined that a coeliac diagnosis wouldn’t curtail his enjoyment of a refreshing beer with family and friends. Richard’s venture, TWØBAYS Brewing Co, caters for the approximately 15 per cent of Australians who are gluten intolerant, its beers also of a quality that they can be enjoyed by the rest of the population too.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind you setting up TWØBAYS?

RJ: I just missed great craft beer and the experience I could enjoy before I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. The smell, the look, the taste – and comparing notes with friends and family. I travelled to the US because I heard they had a thriving gluten-free craft-beer scene. And they did! I was able to safely taste a whole range of beautiful beers with gluten-free food in taprooms. Nobody was doing this in Australia, so after a lot of research I decided to open the first dedicated gluten-free brewery and taproom here. We believe everybody should have the opportunity to enjoy great beer with friends and family.

ISB: How have you managed to ensure your beers stand out as quality products for those who aren’t gluten intolerant?

RJ: To make great beer, you need great malts and malted gluten-free grains aren’t available in Australia. We found some dedicated gluten-free malt houses in America, and we are now the exclusive importer of those malts. We predominantly brew with millet, buckwheat and rice malts – ingredients that have been used in brewing for more than 4000 years! By using malt, we’re able to brew beers with interesting flavours, and the range of hops we use lend wonderful aroma to our beers. We also have a very experienced head brewer – which is critical! Our brewery and canning line are all brand new, and have never had any beer containing gluten run through them, so we can be extremely confident that there is no risk of contamination.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground, and how did you overcome it?

RJ: There were some unforeseen delays with council approvals and the brewery arriving from China – but that can be

expected in getting a project like this off the ground. The biggest challenge was creating great beers from these malts. There’s very little information out there about brewing with these interesting gluten-free malts, so we have really had to learn from scratch (which meant a lot of early brews going down the drain!). We are still learning every brew, but we are now able to deliver consistent, quality beer each time – which is what our customers expect.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of TWØBAYS in the next couple of years?

RJ: Our dream is that every bottle shop and venue in Australia stocks at least one gluten-free beer (hopefully more) because we believe nobody should have to miss out on a great craft beer experience with friends and family. We will continue creating new and exciting beers so that everybody has the opportunity to safely taste a range of great beer. Our XPA (Extra Pale Ale) is joining the core range in 2020 (along with our Pale Ale and IPA), and we will release another four seasonal beers in cans. We also plan to offer another 25 seasonal beers through our Taproom; exploring new flavours such as a Double IPA, a passionfruit Gose and a Red Ale.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your entrepreneurial journey you’d share with those who have an idea they’d like to turn into a viable business?

RJ: The key leadership advice I received many years ago is that data never lies – so always test what you are being told with the facts. You have to make sure correct data is easily accessible and quick to analyse. Things move quickly in the start-up world – especially in the craft beer industry – and you have to be ready to react and pivot, making decisions on sound data. Like any other business, we have metrics around our sales, our footprint and the performance of our wholesale accounts. All this enables us to grow the business and make sure we know what is coming up next.

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