• Wed. May 10th, 2023

Behind multimillion-dollar beer brewing company Spinifex

When Mick Little began experimenting with beer and botanicals, he had no idea it would turn into a multimillion-dollar business.

In 2019, just before the pandemic, Mick — a Yamatji/ Noongar man from Perth, founded Spinifex Brewing Co.

And in just under four years, despite its many setbacks, the Broome-based business has gone from strength to strength, contributing to much of the community’s local revenue with the harvest of Gubinge on the Dampier Peninsula.

It also happens to be Australia’s first part Aboriginal and veteran-owned craft brewery that’s known for having the world’s first native infused craft beer range — an idea that started with Mick.

Its business model has been designed to ensure maximum benefit for Aboriginal businesses in the supply chain, with native ingredients provided by Indigenous producers in the South West.

Mick has always been keen to incorporate native ingredients into beer for some time, and following a conversation with a friend, a booming business was born.

“A mate of mine (John Gibbs) who is one of our partners, was doing his own beers and playing with botanicals,” Mick told news.com.au.

As their conversations and ideas evolved, Mick and head brewer John then teamed up with Steve Jansen — the third member of Spinifex.

Together, they started to brew some beer. But, as you’d expect, there was a lot of trial and error involved.

“We started to experiment and went through lot of beers and botanicals until we finally got it right and needed other partners,” Mick said.

That’s when the trio invited veteran Adam Barnard, who is now the company’s CEO, who helped kick start the business.

He provided the seed capital required to get the business off the ground.

“This was of great interest to me because I’d finally seen the tourism industry embracing Aboriginal culture more than ever before,” Adam told news.com.au.

By the time he joined, the trio had already produced two batches — Wattle Amber Ale and Myrtle Summer Ale made using native Australian botanicals provided by Indigenous sources – either farmed or wild harvested.

“It got my attention,” the veteran said. “I could see there was something in this and so I provided the initial funding to get the business off the ground.”

He described the launch as “phenomenal”, adding that people “really got behind us”.

Spinifex went on to produce six beers of which the most successful is F88 – named after the Austeyr rifle that has been in service with the Australian Defence Force since 1989.

The brewing company donates 50 per cent of all sales from the beer towards mental health services for military veterans and members.

Adam said the idea came to him as a way to honour his sister’s partner, who took their own life in 2006 after a tour of Afghanistan.

“I am also a veteran having served in East Timor in 2000 — and raising money for veterans mental health is a long-time passion of mine after seeing many of my colleagues suffer from their service and deployment.”

He told news.com.au veteran suicide is a massive problem and wanted to do something really meaningful to help.

But during the time of launch, the company suffered a huge setback with the pandemic hitting the business hard.

And while it “wasn’t a great time”, instead of distribution nationwide, they shifted their focus to just WA, with things finally looking up again in 2021.

“It was a never ending nightmare of logistic challenges. But we managed to survive after raising a record-breaking $2 million in 48 hours through crowd-funding,” Adam said.

Both Adam and Mick said the success of the business comes down to consumer’s belief in their product.

“We are just such a unique proposition from social consciousness to ethos to charitable support,” Adam said. “It sets us apart and it’s the reason we have been able to be successful though so much adversity.”

Mick said in the few years the business has been around, it continues to evolve with a range of beer that is purposely low in alcohol.

As it states on their site, the team believe drinking responsibly and the experience of sharing a few quality brews with mates is more important to them.

To this day, Mick is still shocked by how far Spinifex has come — a “simple” idea that has since “blown up”.

“We didn’t think it would get this big so quick,” Mick said. “It’s lots of good effort from marketing, to the design on our cans and getting the product out there,” Mick added.

Off the back of their great success, Spinifex opened a popup hospitality venue called Zookeepers by Spinifex in November last year.

And the team is also in the midst building a new multimillion-dollar ale house venue at Broome’s iconic Cable Beach that will cater for up to 600 guests — a great boost for tourism in the area.

Kimberley open for business

While January and February 2023 saw ‘one in 100 year’ floodwaters in the north of WA, what not many Aussies may not realise is that Broome and Kununurra are unaffected, with local operators open for business as usual.

In fact a range of small operators in the Kimberley have reinvigorated their businesses after the floods, including Spinifex with its new ale house due to open at the end of the year.

“You could hear a collective round of applause and cheering across the Kimberley once the access road across the Fitzroy River opened this week,” Natasha Mahar, CEO of Australia’s North West Tourism told news.com.au.

“Our operators can now get on with sharing our otherworldly ancient landscapes and outback experiences with visitors from all over the world with the major road between Broome and Darwin now accessible.”

She said multi-day overland touring is an ideal way to experience the real heart of the Kimberley between Broome and Kununurra – with iconic attractions such as the Horizontal Falls, Purnululu National Park, Lake Argyle and El Questro on itineraries.

“There is much new Aboriginal Product to discover in the Kimberley region as well, where travellers will experience everything from Bush Tucker to cultural corroboree dance and exploring significant islands with storytelling.”

Read related topics:Perth

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