One of the pioneers of Ballarat's craft beer movement is looking to expand its business with shares available through a public equity crowdfunding offer.
Rebellion Brewing is giving the public a chance to buy into the business in the hope of raising up to $1.5 million to expand its production capacity, reach and employee base.
The makers of gluten-free O'Brien beer, Rebellion Brewing started after founder John O'Brien was diagnosed with coeliac disease in the late 1990s.
Mr O'Brien said he was devastated to be told he could no longer enjoy a beer due to his new-found gluten intolerance and had to do something about it.
"[The doctor] said I couldn't have pasta and bread and all these other things that had gluten in them, but I could wear that, but I couldn't really wear the no beer mantra that the doctor was putting me under," he said.
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"I decided to start looking at making beer for myself and started tinkering in my own back shed with the intention of only ever making it for myself, but once it got better and better and started tasting pretty good, I started giving it to a few people and people started thinking that it wasn't a bad beer."
Mr O'Brien started to wonder if there was a commercial opportunity in his new hobby and, after some research, found there was a market for gluten-free beer.
After first having the beer brewed under contract in Rutherglen, Rebellion Brewing ended up buying the brewing plant and moving the entire business down to Ballarat.
It was a natural choice for Mr O'Brien, who has a long family connection to the city.
"I went to boarding school here, my great-great grandfather fought at the Eureka Stockade with the 100 or so people that fought on that day... so I've got a long history with Ballarat," he said.
Rebellion Brewing first set up behind the old Creswick Road offices of The Courier before moving to Mair Street and now its larger plant in Wendouree.
Starting off with the O'Brien Pale Ale, Rebellion's range has expanded to a range of craft brews, all made gluten-free with 100 per cent Australian grown ancient grains, malted in-house.
At the most recent Australian International Beer Awards, Rebellion walked away with 13 medals from 13 entries, including six gold medals, two for its lager and one each for its pale ale, brown ale, stout and Belgian ale.
"We're just flabbergasted. It took us 15 years to get three gold medals and we got six in one year," Mr O'Brien said.
"We're stoked about it, it's more than we ever expected so we must be doing something right."
A key motivator of the business' expansion efforts is being able to increase the availability of gluten-free beer.
"The gluten-free market, it's everywhere, cafes, restaurants, pubs, you can walk into any of them and rest assured that nearly all of them will have something gluten-free on their menu but not very many have a gluten-free beer option," Mr O'Brien said.
"We think that with the 'better for you' gluten-free market or just people looking for 'better for you' products in general to align with their healthier lifestyles, we think there's a huge opportunity there that's untapped and we want to grow our business to take up some of that opportunity.
"We're in 2300 stores and venues across Australia and obviously we want to grow that as part of our growth strategy as well."
Rebellion Brewing is running its public share offering through funding platform Birchal in the hopes of raising between $500,000 and $1.5 million.
"We're looking for investors to expand, to expand our production facility, to expand our capacity to deliver it out into the community and to expand our marketing and sales capabilities as well so we're looking to raise capital to do that expansion," Mr O'Brien said.
"That will mean growing our facility here, employing more people in Ballarat.
"We're committed to staying in Ballarat long-term, we actually own this property, we own the building so we're here for the long haul. We're excited about that and what we can do with Ballarat.
"Who doesn't want to own part of a brewery, let's be honest? Most beer enthusiasts would have dreamed about that at one stage in their life."
For more information about the crowdfunding campaign, visit www.birchal.com/company/rebellion.
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