Forster possesses the kind of force that draws people in. The coastal getaway in New South Wales and its twin town of Tuncurry are surrounded by pristine waterways, and sandwiched between Wallis Lake to the west and the Pacific to the east.
The glistening waters and beaches of the Barrington Coast see the place fill regularly with swimmers, surfers and boaters, variously searching for dolphins, hoping to spot a whale, or catch their next meal. Indeed, Forster is so famed for Sydney Rock Oysters that you can’t help but feel the name is a little bit misleading – although maybe the name for the sought-after molluscs was chosen in tribute to the Sydneysiders who escape up the coast at every chance.
Since 2017, The Coastal Brewing Co has offered yet another reason to visit the region. Founders Helen and David Black were among the many Sydneysiders entranced by the town, its beaches and the lifestyle that comes with living there. Having decided to leave both the city and their corporate careers behind, the couple first built a house in the area then decided they should go out on a limb as small business owners.
By this point in their lives, David had already spent around two decades homebrewing and both he and Helen regularly filled their travels overseas with as many brewery visits as they could manage. After enjoying the hospitality of brewers in other parts of the world, they wanted to recreate the experience of visiting a new town in the knowledge it would bring with it the chance to enjoy a locally-made beer or two in Forster.
The beers they brew aren’t just made on the Barrington Coast – they serve as a tribute to the region too: each bears the name of a local landmark, waterway or beach. The Coastal logo also features one of the town’s most recognisable and graceful creatures, although unlike an actual pelican, the brewery’s “Beer That Fits The Bill” is designed to enhance your visit, rather than disturb you as you tuck into fish and chips by the beach.
While Coastal's beers act as a fine advertisement for the regional town, Helen and David made sure they created a brewery with the local community at its heart. If there’s a festival or event nearby, Coastal are likely to be a part of it; since launching, Helen and David have also slowly but steadily gone about introducing different styles to locals.
The brewery itself sits in an industrial pocket of Forster and is a production brewery with an accompanying taproom rather than a brewpub and kitchen setup. Call in and, more often than not, David and Helen will be there to talk you through their beers and share their story. Food at the brewery consists of the light snacks / cheeseboard variety, and neighbouring businesses and the occasional food truck are entrusted to provide heartier fare.
The decision to not operate like a pub or club, and to stop serving by early evening, was driven in part by a desire to ensure they didn't compete with the venues that have their beer on tap. Since launching, Helen and David have been well supported by local venues, so this is a way of reciprocating that support – and allowing the couple to maintain focus on their primary role at Coastal: making beer.
They do so on a 1,200 brewhouse and send cans and kegs to an ever-expanding number of locations along Australia’s east coast. As a small, family-run business, the Coastal growth path has been one of organic growth: they’ve steadily added larger fermenters and upgraded their canning line (to 42 cans per minute at time of writing) as required before spreading their reach that little bit further.
Their core range consists of local favourites Town Lager, Boomerang Beach Pale Ale, Palms Pale, Treachery XPA and Black Head Milk Stout, but in the first half decade of operation alone they'd released more than 60 different beers. Of those, it has been their “Very” series of NEIPAs, Hearts Point hazy pale, and barrel-aged releases that have been garnering most attention from craft beer aficionados across NSW, the ACT and, more recently, Melbourne.
Look beyond the beer names and you’ll find more connecting the brewery to the natural beauty of the Barrington Coast too: beers often showcase the region’s produce, be that oranges or honey. It’s in keeping with the region’s burgeoning reputation as a food trail as well as a coastal destination, a change that draws people in whether they’re in search of local bread, cheese, gin or the aforementioned oysters.
And, of course, beer, something The Coastal Brewing Co has been using to draw people in since 2017.