A brewing company created to support emergency service workers has been announced as the first winner of a Brew Rocket grant. The grant was launched by brand agency Craft Instinct to reward businesses that put sustainability and social responsibility at the heart of what they do, and the first recipient is Firehouse 51 Brewing Company.
The Melbourne-based brewing company was conceived by Haran Chinniah (above left), or Haz, who works in emergency services and plans not just to raise money for local charities related to first responders, including firies, ambulance workers and members of the police force, but also to create a place in which they can unwind and find employment.
The grant will see Firehouse 51 receive a multi-faceted package of support worth tens of thousands of dollars. This includes a full branding package from Craft Instinct, business development and mentoring from BentSpoke’s co-founder Richard Watkins, a financial coaching session with Peach Business Management, discounts from Sun Tap Decals and Rapid Labels, and a year’s free brewery listing on The Crafty Pint.
Haz says that knowing the winner was about to be announced had him constantly checking his email in recent days, and that as someone entering the industry largely on his own, he's "stoked" to have been chosen.
“Having someone on my side, helping me try and get my goals across the line is awesome, it’s someone in my corner really,” he says.
Craft Instinct founder Jessie Jungalwalla (above right with her team) says, although it was difficult to narrow down the dozen or so entrants, Haz's plan stood out due for both his environmental goals and the unique nature of the project. That impressed the judges, who were drawn from the businesses supporting the grant.
“His unique and personal experience of his concept grabbed the hearts of everyone, and hopefully it grabs the heart of the public too,” Jessie says.
“He’s seen a lot of emergency workers that have been traumatised and unable to return to work. So that idea of employing them at the taproom is really awesome and unique.”
Like many Australian brewing companies, Haz’s inspiration to enter the beer world stems from time spent travelling through America. But it wasn’t just hop forward beers that drew him into the world of craft beer,it was a brewery in Anaheim, California, called All-American Brew Works that’s veteran-owned and operated.
“They had the same kind of model as to what I’m trying to do now," Haz says. "They have a brewery and support current serving people in the army and ex-servicemen.
“How good would it be to have that place – especially in Melbourne where craft beer is so big – where you’re able to support some first responders?”
After starting to brew at home in 2019, Haz has since volunteered at Frankston Brewhouse and Bad Shepherd, while also picking up work at TWØBAYS. He hopes to have the first can of Firehouse 51 beer – a name that relates to the TV show Chicago Fire – out over the next six months, but the longer term goal is to build his own space in Melbourne where emergency workers can connect with one another and the wider community.
“I want it to be a place where emergency services can come in after work and have a debrief and hang out with each other,” he says. “That’s the dream really.”
The other element – one which really stood out for the Brew Rocket judges – is Haz’s desire to provide work for emergency personnel unable to continue working due to injury or issues around mental health. While the beer world has shown itself to be great when it comes to responding to emergencies like bushfires in the short term, Haz says the impacts of such disasters are often felt by emergency service workers much longer, even after they leave work.
"This gives them another avenue to still be a part of the emergency service family and still have those relationships," Haz says. "I think it’s a safe place for people to be supported and be around alcohol in a safe environment.”