Just months after announcing plans for a 1,000-capacity, multi-use brewery and venue in the historic Perth Girls School, the team behind FOUND. now unveil FOUND. Lab, a creative workshop for their parent company, located in what is considered "regional" Byford, an hour south of Perth.
With the Perth Girls School site build now delayed until 2023, this new project presents an opportunity to experiment on a smaller scale, according to project co-founder Steve Finney (pictured above with head brewer Will Irving between two ferns).
“There’s been building delays with the Perth Girls School which has meant that we’ve had to look a bit outside the box as to how we get FOUND. started," he told The Crafty Pint. "We were looking at a bunch of warehouses around town, basically anything that was available for commercial lease, and we just stumbled upon this place down in Byford.”
“It’s kind of a blessing in disguise. With the Girls School, finding a hundred staff to run a 1,000-capacity pub in the city is a challenge at the moment. And we’re building a whole new building for a production brewery site and kitchen out the front of a heritage building that’s dug into the hill, so that’s going to take some time, but it will happen.”
This serendipitous new opportunity will reside in a former restaurant site in The Glades, Byford, which has undergone major renovations following a fire. And, while for some this may seem a little off the beaten track, near neighbours King Road and Whitelakes have been enjoying success with growing local audiences.
“There is very little in the area, and we are all about activating sites and spaces in underserviced communities," Steve add.
FOUND. head brewer Will Irving agrees, adding: “As soon as I saw it, I loved it."
The 200-capacity restaurant site will soon be home to a Bespoke Brewing Solutions six hectolitre brew kit, in a location which looks towards an estate lake. While locals will be pleased, FOUND. Lab also offers the chance for them to start small.
“It means that the whole team are able to get on the tools and start building FOUND.," he says. "And it’s called FOUND. Lab for that reason: it’s a precursor to the East Perth site. From there we can hone our recipes and hospitality offering."
Will goes on: “We kitted out the brewhouse so that we can pretty much do whatever we want at times and temperatures to suit whatever hop product is available.”
Steve says they'll maintain a year-round range of six beers, with the focus centred on a 5.4 percent ABV hazy pale-ish number, and then there will be a bunch of barrels for Will to fill in Byford.
“Our naming conventions are a little bit different," Steve says. "We don’t want to be under the constraints of brewing to a certain style or a certain thing.
"At the end of the day, craft beer isn’t brewing to a certain style. We’ve got an idea of taste, flavour and aroma, and ABV in our heads, and that steers every beer we want to make. As opposed to, ‘We need a pale ale, we need a lager, we need a mid-strength’ blah blah blah."
Instead, according to Will, they'll look to "start off with some bourbon barrel-aged stuff and then turn some funky over time", with what Steve calls "a whole bunch" of Whipper Snapper Distillery barrels set to land there as well as some wine barrels.
"In the long run," he adds, "FOUND. Lab will potentially become our wild workshop for the brewery, once the production site is up and running in the city.
“It was always part of our strategy to have more than one venue, and more than one site. Our FOUND. model is all about WA. We’re not looking at the East Coast for any sort of distribution or sales, it’s about growing FOUND. in WA, and we’re proudly West Australian: we want to sell as much beer as we can, as close to home as possible, to make sure that it’s as fresh and as the way that we want it to drink."
These beers will be made predominantly for the Byford site, with a few kegs going to partner venues.
“If we want to grow a WA brand," Steve says, "we need WA people on board. It’s pretty simple."
Although the project is already more than seven years in the making, the pace of this new FOUND. Lab site hasn’t been without incident.
“We’re pretty limited for room height and there was a 2am brainwave of, 'Fuck! Is Will going to fit on the brew deck?!' And, ahhh, he wasn’t, but he is now!” Steve says laughing, not least because of Will's bijou stature.
"My head would have been touching the ceiling based on the original drawings," the brewer adds, "so that changed.”
FOUND. Lab is scheduled to opening in February 2023, with FOUND. at the Perth Girls School now set to launch in 2024.