LUKE Willis planned to open Lake Mac Brewing Co. in Morisset earlier this year.
Of course, 2020 had different ideas.
Setting up a brewery from scratch is no easy task.
Throw a global pandemic, broken generator and approval delays into the mix, and you have yourself a real challenge.
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Willis, who worked in telecommunications before launching Lake Mac Brewing Co., faced it all this year.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though, and after initially aiming to start operating in the first quarter of the year, Willis opened the doors of his brewery on Friday.
"It has been disaster after disaster. It has certainly been the year for it," Willis tells Weekender, managing to do so with a laugh.
"Starting up a brewery has been a massive learning curve, that's for sure."
The facility is a large-scale operation with an impressive set-up.
The three vessel brewhouse has seven fermenters, as well as a canning line that will allow Lake Mac Brewing Co. to package up its own brews.
"I wanted to have a brewhouse this big. It's maybe too big," Willis laughs.
"A lot of people start out with 500-litre fermenters, but I've got 1000-litre fermenters. The way I looked at it was I don't want to get three 500s and then go, 'Damn, I'm running out of beer. I can't make it quick enough'."
And it's not just a brewery.
It's a pub, too.
There are four beers on tap: two pale ales, a porter and a session IPA, which can be enjoyed in the venue's spacious bar area that has a view through to the brewery set-up.
He eventually plans to offer everything from saisons to sours.
"The session IPA is a bit milder than your typical IPA because I wanted to offer something easy-drinking to begin with," Willis explains.
"I don't want to hit people front on in the face and say, 'Here's a craft IPA, deal with it'.
"We have a number of brews we will be doing and, especially leading up to summer, it would be great to do a lager or pilsner, or a 'lawnmower' beer, as they say, which is lighter and sessional that is perfect to drink on a hot day."
The bar will have a capacity of 100 patrons once COVID-19 restrictions end, but is currently limited to 26.
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Growlers and squealers are available for takeaways and Willis, who does all the brewing himself, plans to add a further four taps to the bar as the business grows.
His venture into brewing began at home 15 years ago.
"Like everyone, I started out as a home brewer. When I was brewing at home, I'd share with my friends and family, and got a lot of good feedback," Willis says.
"Outside of brewing, I have worked as a manager of various types of businesses, so I thought, 'I've got the business knowledge and I've got the beer brewing knowledge. Why not put them both together?'."
The brewery seed was planted about 18 months ago when he recognised a gap in the market following the closure of Morisset Golf Club. There were few places left to go out and get a drink, let alone a craft beer.
"I live in Morisset and I knew there was a shortfall in anything local. There was only the golf club operating at the time and the Lake Macquarie Hotel, which is the main pub in town," Willis says.
"There wasn't too much for young people to do and nowhere to get a craft beer.
"The closest breweries are Malt and Hops [in Beresfield], FogHorn [in Newcastle] or Bay Road in Gosford, but we aren't actually close to any of them, so I thought it was an ideal spot because we are kind of in the middle."
The venue is located in an industrial area with close proximity to the freeway, so he hopes the brewery will become a destination for craft beer lovers as well as those on their way to visit the Hunter's vineyards.
Alongside beer, the bar will offer a range of wines and spirits (including from local producers Newcastle Distilling Co), while food will be available from a rotating list of food trucks on-site, kicking off with Risky Briskets Texas Barbecue.
And there is plenty of beer for opening week.
"I've got 60 kegs ready to go. Four different types, 15 kegs of each, you are looking at 200-odd schooners per keg, so I've got a fair amount of beer," Willis says.
"You don't want to run out of beer when you first open. That's one thing you don't want to do!"