Around 600 kilometres north of Perth lies the small coastal town of Kalbarri, population 1,300. It's a popular tourist destination that draws visitors with is incredible national parks, awe-inspiring coastline, and a simpler way of life.
These days, there's another drawcard too: nestled in the town’s backstreets, next door to the SES station, is Finlay’s Brewery – previously Finlay's Fresh Fish BBQ, circa 2018), where the team upgraded their brewing system earlier this year brought in Dave Baker to take over brewing operations.
At time of writing, Kalbarri was experiencing the backend of a major clean-up thanks to Category 3 Cyclone Seroja, which caused significant damage to the small town, destroying homes and businesses. It was an unwanted setback for the brewery just months after unveiling the new setup, but the Finlay's team worked fast to reopen their doors, ensuring local punters still had a trusty watering hole in a time of need.
Welcoming and relaxed – although often fully booked so plan ahead – Finlay’s is a unique dining offering with casual, quality fare and friendly service. Trinkets and antiques decorate the venue walls, reminding punters of the businesses’ two decade long history, while the beers are clean, full-flavoured and varied in character.
Though Finlay’s may be set up in an old fish processing facility, Dave and the team are creating modern styles of beer suited to Kalbarri’s warmer climate, as well as to the venue's fresh, seafood driven menu. Takeaways and wider distribution are on the cards too, with a canning line in the works at time of publication.
To find out more about the brewery adding yet another stop for beer tourists along WA's coast, we invited Dave and business owner Warrick Finlay to take part in our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Who are you?
We come from two entirely different backgrounds: Warrick's in commercial printing and Dave’s in power generation. We met at a four-day brewing course in 2017 and went on our respective journeys to enter the craft brewing world.
Warrick and Melissa started Kalbarri’s first microbrewery in 2018 at what was previously called Finlay's Fresh Fish BBQ; the business dates back to 1989 but was previously an ice works and fish processing facility. With a brewhouse expansion in 2021, Warrick was looking to put on a brewer and, having followed my journey and seen the passion I had for brewing, he took a punt at making my dreams a reality – and it came at the perfect time having completed my GBC Qualification – so the jump was made and I couldn't be happier.
Why do you brew?
For the love of creating and delivering a product that brings enjoyment to others. Plus the industry is full of amazing people.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
I think like a lot of other people it started with discovering what beer really could be through pioneers like Matilda Bay and Little Creatures some 20 years ago. I started homebrewing not long after, and about five years ago I was looking for a career change so got serious about becoming qualified and transitioning to commercial brewing.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Finlay's has a long history in Kalbarri over 30 years. Warrick and Melissa Finlay bought the property in 2018 from a previous completely unrelated Finlay family and the business and name have soldiered on from there, although now as a restaurant and brewery.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Myself and original Finlay's brewer Warrick have a soft spot for the Jake’s Point IPA – being a classic West Coast IPA, it is packed full of citrus and tropical fruit forward aroma and flavour, assertive bitterness and dry finish. Along with the Kalbarri Lager, I think these two beers perfectly represent Kalbarri and its surfing/fishing history.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Generally a mix – could be anything from 90s nostalgia, desert rock and stoner fuzz, blues and metal. I try to keep it enjoyable enough for whoever else is around, haha! There is often a bit of a noise war between the brewhouse and the kitchen most days.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
A mix of Rocky Ridge, Blasta, Golden West, Garage Project, Eagle Bay, Feral, Gage and Coopers. We are pretty limited to what we can get so a lot of the time we spend up reasonably big when in Gero or Perth.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Panther Cream from Margaret River Brewhouse was probably the standout for both myself and Warrick.
Where can people find your beers?
We are currently commissioning our canning line so keep an eye out at any local independent store in the coming weeks.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
The goal is to continue producing quality beers that represent who we are, where we are from, and beers that people enjoy.
You can check out Finlay's beers, food and hospitality for yourself at 13 Magee Crescent, Kalbarri, and find them alongside hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues across Australia in the free Crafty Pint app.