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Podcast Episode 05: The Dainton Story with Founder Dan Dainton

Posted by Lachlan McLean on

In a market where limited and new release beers are everything, Dainton are certainly leading the way. We chat about the pressure that this puts on a brewery and the creative streak that is needed to keep the already vast number of beers growing. Lastly we talk about their successful crowdfunding initiative that they launched in April this year and what it means for the future of Dainton Brewery.

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Full Text Transcript Below:


Lachlan: Thanks for joining me today Dan.

Dan: No worries mate. Thanks for having me.

Lachlan: What brings you to Sydney?

Dan: Melbourne weather sucks mate so I'm up here and, it's fucking cold.

Lachlan: It is cold up here at the moment. I can't say it's much better than Melbourne.

Dan: Yes. Look, Sydney's definitely not better than Melbourne but let's leave that one alone. No mate just up checking out a few venues and seeing the-

Lachlan: Nice.

Dan: Yes, seeing how the scene's going. It's looking really good.

Lachlan: Yes, there's a lot of things happening. So we grabbed you in today to have a bit of a chat about Dainton but I thought we might touch on first, just your brewing history. I don't know if people ... your actual brewing history. They obviously know Dainton as a brand and I guess you can find the information but we're happy to touch on how you got into the industry, how did you start brewing, yes.

Dan: Yes, cool. So, I was ... it kind of goes a little bit before I started brewing as to why I got into the industry. So, I actually got fired from my sales job by my uncle. Thanks Uncle Boyd, you prick. No, Boyd's awesome. Anyway. So I was kind of at the end of that job and I actually went for a job to sell James Squire beer with Lion Nathan as they were back then. Didn't get the job but I was like, "Well", I really felt that that was a really cool industry I wanted to be part of. So I thought maybe I could actually create my own brand and I could sell that instead.

Dan: So, it actually started that way. And then my partner at the time, she was like, "Well, shouldn't you learn how to make beer?". And I'm like, "I suppose I should learn something about it".

Lachlan: I read somewhere your parents gave you your first home brew kit.

Dan: Yes, mum gave me a home brew kit for Christmas. The only decent present she's ever given me. That and a melted down Coopers beer bottle clock. That's what I got for the Christmas before. Thanks mom. So, anyway that's how I started. So, I started making beer, it was in my back yard, it was terrible.

Dan: The first few I think poisoned a few mates and I never saw them again. The ones that stuck around went through, I think I did 131 different all grain batches of beer at home in Brunswick.

Lachlan: Wow.

Dan: Yes, over two years. So, do the maths. That's a lot of beer. I got a job in a home brew shop so I was making beer, learning a lot about beer. I started a Graduate Certificate in brewing at Fed Uni as well, two years of that. About six months into that, and a couple of years in the home brewing-

Lachlan: I think you won the Champion Home Brew Amateur Award for-

Dan: I did.

Lachlan: German Pilsner of all things.

Dan: Yes, it was German Pilsner using [Rohaka 00:02:39] whole hop flowers. So it was really not meant to be German Pilsner though it went in as German Pilsner. It did win the Australian Champion for that category.

Lachlan: Then you got a first professional brewing job?

Dan: I did, at James Squire. So, that was a bit of a fluke. An old mate who is also my cousin walked into the home brew show one day and said, "What are you doing", and I'm like, "What are you doing?". He's like, "I'm buying ingredients for my job as a brewer at James Squire".

Dan: A week later he rang me and said, "My boss wants to talk to you about a job". Spoke to his boss over about eleven pints of beer at the Portland Hotel and that was my job interview and, got a job at James Squire as a brewer. So, that's how it's all started and I brewed there for 15 months. And I started brewing ... I started helping at Holgate, just on the side as well and then I got a full time job there.

Dan: So, I was there for about nine months and then I'd been talking to the old man about starting a brewery for years and years and years and years and I got a bit sick of talking about it so I was ...

Lachlan: Went and did it?

Dan: Went and did it anyway. So that was 2013 and started Gypsy Brewing and first beer we made was Red Eye Rye which-

Lachlan: Still rates number three on RateBeer.

Dan: RateBeer. Number three in the world. Yes, so it's doing pretty well.

Lachlan: So I guess you were gypsy brewing for a number of years, how did you find gypsy brewing?

Dan: It was pretty easy to be honest. The challenges around it were probably the challenges we still have now around logistics and getting all the packaging and everything sorted. All the boring stuff that you don't really want to have to deal with. It was challenging.

Dan: I'm going to sneeze, excuse me. I must be getting your cold. We shouldn't have kissed before. So, look I found challenging when we got kicked out.

Lachlan: Yes right.

Dan: We got booted out basically because the guys had sold all their tanks so there was a lot of other brewers in there. That was hard working with those guys but not working with the other guys, it was hard working-

Lachlan: There were a lot of breweries there?

Dan: Yes, yes. So that was challenge and then having nowhere to brew, trying to find other places to brew. Having beers come out of Bendigo Beers, come out of Jameson Beers, come out of Mildura, Brunswick, Ballarat, Derrimut and, there was one other. And we made beer at Hawkers as well.

Dan: So, that was a challenge trying to get consistency across all that.

Lachlan: Was there a moment in the gypsy brewing time or have you always wanted it where you went, "Yes, let's open our own space?"

Dan: That was what we were trying to do from the start. Just took the old man a long time to settle on somewhere he was happy to invest in. So we eventually did find somewhere about two years later so, 2015. And we bought some equipment and we're up and running July, 2016 I think is when we did our first beer.

Lachlan: Right. So it's been a very fast and frenetic few years then?

Dan: It has been mate, yes. Like a lot has gone on in a small amount of time.

Lachlan: So Dainton, I guess if you were to speak to most people in the public and the consumers I think they would take Dainton Beers to be ever changing, lots of new beers, crazy flavours. Limited releases, it's obviously a ... has it always been part of your business focus or is it been a to keep up with the trends in the marketplace or ...? Why so many limited releases?

Dan: They sell. That's probably it. To be honest, I looked at where the market was going and I'm not just talking about the beer market, just consumerism in it's totalitarianism. That's a word I made up. Give me another coffee.

Dan: So, I guess I was just looking at what the demographic's like right now, what our generations like, what do we do, how do people buy? And I could easily see the trend across other categories and it's, "Well, hang on, we were told by a lot of people a couple of years back, just focus on your core, just have a couple of limited's".

Dan: I can see what Holgate had done which worked well for them back in the day, I can see what other people were doing. I could see the guys like Balter and Pirate Life who were only coming up with very small SKU's ... amounts of SKU's and I was like, we're not that company. We don't have millions of dollars behind us. We don't have celebrities backing us. We need to do what we do well which is innovation and creativity and that's how we're going to attack the market that way.

Dan: And it works well for us because we are creative. Well, I'm creative anyway and the other guys-

Lachlan: Does that put a lot more pressure on the whole brewery as a team? I guess you coming up with more labels, more brewing recipes-

Dan: Yes and no. Look, there's huge amount of pressure in other breweries anyway like guys are running full speed and expanding and growing. I've been in those breweries, there's massive amounts of pressure on those guys. Brewing as a job is extremely hard. Hats off to the guys that are still doing it. I'm not doing any preening at all.

Dan: Though as far as, yes coming up with new labels, new recipes, new stupid blurbs put on the back of them, new flavours and trying to get them right and trying to read where people are at in the market, yes, it's a lot of, I wouldn't say pressure, it's a lot of work though. And most of that work is my creativity.

Lachlan: So I guess on that creativity, I actually have been doing some research, found a bit of a blurb or quote that I think what sums up yourself and Dainton-

Dan: Maybe.

Lachlan: It was from The Crafty Pints. They said, "There are those who might break into a rendition of songs from Les Miserables at the most unexpected of moments, compose dark poetry for their beer labels, think nothing of treating the ingredient list for a single beer as if it were a small novella, or engage people in deeply tangential and mind-boggling conversations about everything and nothing. Actually, that's a lie. There aren't “those” who would fit such a description. There is only one. And is Dan Dainton".

Lachlan: Does that sum up Dainton pretty much?

Dan: No come on, there's a lot more than that. I think it might be a bit over the top. No. I think so. And I know the night that Crafty is talking about and that ended as the sun was coming up and he was trying to convince me to give psychedelics to my children. So, yes that's right James. I remember. I think he was on ... Anyway.

Dan: Yes look, there's a bit of that. So, I think you've got to let the insanity out if it's in-

Lachlan: Absolutely. And another thing I found, when you are looking for your first ... I think it was your first sales rep? The first employee on their card? The job description was intergalactic fun and beer legend.

Dan: Yes. It was and he's never forgiven me. He still hates me.

Lachlan: But I think that whole, the feeling you get from all of those things really comes to it in the beers and the fun you obviously see with the styles from the Violet Crumble beer we just had come through to some of the more ... I guess that is pretty crazy, but some of the other ones. Does that creativity ... Have you always been like that? Have you always been creative personality from previous and sales?

Dan: You know what, I'd never really thought of myself as that and I think as I've gotten older, I've just allowed it to come out. And I think it's interesting, I've read a lot about stuff. It sounds like it's a bit of a tangent but, I believe that there is a certain amount of shaming around creativity in particular for men in our society. So, it's kind of hard for yourself to let that kind of stuff out and just be all right with being open and vulnerable around it.

Dan: So, no I haven't always expressed it but, yes it's probably always been a part of me. And now I'm like, "You know what? I am a bit fucking different. I am a bit weird-

Lachlan: Embrace it?

Dan: Embrace it, yes and just let it come out. Look, it doesn't work for everyone but I don't really give a fuck. Like it's true, that's my self expression and yes, it's good to let it out and to be aware of it.

Lachlan: I guess one thing that caught the news last year for Dainton on the whole limited releases, you teamed up with Prince Alfred Hotel in Ipswich, Brisbane and put out I think it was 131 limited releases all at once on tap takeover-

Dan: We did.

Lachlan: How did you do that? How did you do 131 beers?

Dan: I think a better question is why the fuck would we do it? We did it because I said I'd do it over, I think I'd had a light beer at that stage. But yes we did it. We had I think 40 beers come off our big system and then we had another 91 that we'd done on two pilot systems running side by side for six months. Yes.

Lachlan: Was it a successful night?

Dan: It was a successful day.

Lachlan: Anyone tried to ... paddles, try to sample, be like Gaz, trying to get through the whole containers?

Dan: I'm sure there was a few. It wasn't me. I actually drove to the stupid event for some reason thinking back on it now. But yes look, it was a good day. And I think just having a crack at a world record and getting it was well, something fun to do and probably sums us up a little bit too.

Lachlan: Absolutely. I don't think they'd be any brewery in Australia or possibly the world that would try to take that on.

Dan: No, well there's a couple in America that tried to do it but I think we're beating them at the moment. If they do it again well we'll just have to-

Lachlan: Do it again?

Dan: I think so, yes.

Lachlan: I guess also lately especially in the last couple of months, there's been in the news for Dainton, has been crowdfunding. So, we've seen it three or four times now in the industry. Obviously you get to a point in a business where you're like, "Shit, we need to grow". You need the capital. Why did you go down the crowdfunding route?

Dan: Yes look, the reason we did that was I've seen it done really successfully before looking specifically at BrewDog. And I just love the idea that yes, you raise money but really for us, it was really about raising awareness and getting people on board who really buy not only into your company but buy into your story, buy into your brand and buy into the whole thing of it.

Dan: So, we had 248 people invest, average of a thousand bucks or just a bit more each and now they're part of our family. They're our brand ambassadors, they're people who are in along the ride with us and I believe there's a lot of power in that. So, they will talk to their friends and family, "Hey, I'm part of this. Hey, this is what we're getting, this is what we're up to".

Dan: So, it just sort of expands I suppose your ability to promote your product and your brand and your story. So, for me that's what's exciting. I like collaboration, I like connection, I like bringing people together and I think that's something we do by doing a lot of different things. We reach a lot of different people.

Lachlan: Is there any challenges with crowdfunding that you worked out on the way, you didn't really expect?

Dan: Yes, it was fucking heaps. It was probably three to fours months of the hardest work I've done in a long time. There's a lot of legality stuff, a lot of financial stuff. I didn't do it all, there was three of us working on it. My General Manager who's my brother-in-law, Wil and my old man, Kev, we had to basically restructure our company in that time that we were marketing and trying to figure out how we were going to actually raise this money, how we're going to do the marketing around it.

Dan: So there was a lot of that and now that we've got people on board, yes, we've got people to answer to as well. To be accountable for. So whenever we're spending money, I'm looking at it as if this is their money too. They're part of this. For me it's been great. We're more accountable and more responsible now. We've got to do what we said we're going to do.

Lachlan: Is there a point you kind of look back where three or four years ago when you were gypsy brewing and you look back from where you are now, did you ever expect it to get to this point where you're successfully crowd funded, reporting to other people, you've got all your investors now? Do you look back and smile at it or is it a little bit of nervousness or-

Dan: I don't look back often. I really don't. I'm very forward looking. So, that's great, sometimes I do need to stop, be present and do need to have a look in the rear view mirror and go, "Okay, yes we have come a fairly long way", and you have to learn from the mistakes you've made and, I've made heaps.

Dan: So I learned to move on and we plan for the future. But yes, rarely do I look back and go, "Oh cool, that's good". It's more about, "Where do we want to get to now? What are we doing next?"

Lachlan: So being a forward thinker and looking forward with that crowdfunding, what are the plans?

Dan: So the plans are actually laid out in Prospectus and we're following those now. One of the big plans was to get another venue. So that's something we're still actively looking for and look, we didn't put the timeframe on it. I would have loved to have got it in the last couple of months but, we're going over to the States soon to check out a bunch of different things and seeing what they're doing.

Dan: So, I want to get that right. So it will be another venue for us. How and what that looks like we're flexible.

Lachlan: Is that to be closer because I know you're a little way out of the city in Melbourne? Is it to be in the city closer to the CBD?

Dan: That's what we're toying with now. Whether we're going to write in and having a marquee brew pub or like a little pilot system or, just even a bar. Something where we can show the beer off. Or, we go ... the original plan was and we didn't put this in the Prospectus because it's, "Well, we just don't know if we're going to get approval for it". We don't want to promise something we can't deliver, was to go and do more like a beer farm thing down the Peninsular.

Dan: And grow our own hops, have a farm house kind of thing there, do our sour barrel ageing stuff there. Extremely difficult to get anything through the Council and that's fine, nothing against the Council. It's just they're working with what they're working with and it's pretty hard to do that with a brewery. And then have a bar on at the same time that's actually going to pay for it because there's no money in that venture unless it's a hospitality venture.

Dan: So, that's the tricky thing. So, we're toying between those two ideas now and I need to get my old man to see what's going on in America to get him excited and go, "Well, here's what's happening". Because while the crowdfunding raised enough money to fit something out, there's more money that needs to be put in to actually get the property up and going.

Lachlan: Absolutely.

Dan: So, there's that and what we have started doing, another part of the crowdfunding was our sour and barrel ageing programme. So, we started buying into big barrels. We got a couple of a thousand litre barrels coming in as well. We've got a [inaudible 00:18:00]beer and tank. We are transferring that today while I'm away. So we're putting ... I can't say what it is yet but there's ... we're splitting it three ways. There's raspberries, there's passion fruit, there's all kinds of stuff you'd imagine going into it.

Dan: And yes, we're going to start doing bowls again. So six forty ml bottles-

Lachlan: I was just going to ask that.

Dan: Yes, so all of the barrel aged sour stuff will go into bottles. I think it's a better look, it's a better-

Lachlan: I think it still is.

Dan: It's got some more romance around it. I think people [crosstalk 00:18:31]are willing to pay more for it.

Lachlan: Absolutely. You mentioned the, you've got to have a, if you were to do the farm or wherever, you've got to have the venue?

Dan: Yes.

Lachlan: A lot of breweries nowadays and I guess you would have found this, being a gypsy brewer when you don't have that hoe, you don't have that brew pub. How have you found that? You're down south, I think-

Dan: Yes, we're near Frankston, Carrum Downs is a suburb. So we do have a bar there.

Lachlan: If you're moving from there, is that still your home or are you trying to create another home?

Dan: Another home. Call it like a holiday house. Somewhere else that people who can't get down to where we are. I think about when I travel overseas or when I travel to different cities I'm like, "I'd love to get down to Margaret River, I'd love to go to the Hunter Valley or whatever". But the reality is, I'm probably going to only be in and around the city, is there somewhere I can go and try a bunch of different beers and see what that brand's about?

Dan: So, I look at say Stone in San Diego. You come into the airport there and they've got a bar in the airport. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about, You go down to the Petco Stadium and they've got a brew bar down there. So, having that kind of a model to me is exciting. It's a lot of fucking work but that's where I see us going.

Dan: And then, if you look at Rogue, they've got Rogue Farms and they've got a bunch of different brew places all over California and Portland, Oregon. So, yes, that's why we're flexible because I don't think it will just be one, I think it will be a few as time goes on.

Lachlan: Well that sounds absolutely fantastic that there might be more venues opening up possibly hopefully another one, maybe another two and more in the future. But thank you so much for joining me today. Joining up from Melbourne.

Dan: No worries mate.

Lachlan: Go up in sunny Sydney, its actually sunny today.

Dan: It is sunny.

Lachlan: I know. But thank you so much for joining me, taking your time out, bit of telling the Dainton story. There's a lot in there I'm sure people have never heard of.

Dan: Cool.

Lachlan: Thank you so much for joining me.

Dan: Mate, thank you for having me. Cheers.

Lachlan: Cheers guys.

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