Officially launched today, Australia’s new Firehouse 51 brewing company will continue to focus on supporting emergency service personnel, their families and other community initiatives.
Started by former Victorian policeman and current firefighter Haz Chinniah, Firehouse 51 will donate proceeds from the sale of its beers to similar charities for every batch brewed. From the first batch of their new Pale Ale Core range, the funds will go to Fortem Australia which supports the mental health and wellbeing of first responders and their families. Beginning with the upcoming release of batch two, donations will be made to Operation Soul Surf – a surf therapy program that supports first responders and military veterans with PTSD, mental health issues and physical disabilities.
Haz (pictured below) told Beer & Brewer he juggles the “passion project” Firehouse 51, which won him the first Brew Rocket scholarship, with his full-time role as a firefighter in addition to being a new parent. He said he would not derive any revenue from the business, but rather wanted it to be strengthened as much as possible so that it could “hold up for the long haul” when it comes to support causes in need.
“There aren’t many beers that matter,” Haz, who in addition to working as a firefighter has moonlighted at Frankston Brewhouse and TWØBAYS, told us.
“People do a lot of things with charities and sometimes they can be punctual. Take the Mallacoota bushfires of 2019 as an example. People there were big news for a while, but then the attention fades. The problem is that some people in Mallacoota are still homeless.
“The most important thing about us is that once social media stops talking about things, once the issues aren’t cool, we’re still here to talk about them and support directly.
“I see our beers as messages in a bottle – or in a can in our case – that keep popping up and talking about really important issues.
“We are a small company and, to begin with, we will not be able to give massive amounts of money financially. But the most important thing we’re bringing right now is awareness (through the causes we support). »
The ultimate plan for Firehouse 51 is to snowball enough that a brick-and-mortar business is possible – where they can not only brew their own beers, but provide space for, among other things, service personnel. emergency and provide jobs for first responders who, for a multitude of potential reasons, can no longer work in their chosen field.
Aside from the name Firehouse 51 being somewhat inspired by the American TV show Chicago Fire focusing on firefighters and paramedics, much of the inspiration for what Haz is trying to achieve comes from visits to the detained craft and operated by All-American Brew Works veterans. brewery in California.
“I sat there one day and watched a guy come in and you could tell he was a veteran and the bartender serving him was also a veteran,” Haz said.
“And there was just this mutual respect and understanding between them. The guy had a few drinks and his debriefing and left. It was so good to see someone like that have a place to go where he is understood and feels like one of his own. He was able to leave after sensing that someone cared and listened.
“We need something like that here – a place where emergency service workers and ex-military or frontline workers all have a place to debrief.”
Take off with Brew Rocket
In June last year, craft beer design agency Craft Instinct, with the help of some industry heavyweights, launched the Brew Rocket Grant to provide a launch pad through brand design and mentorship so a new social enterprise-focused brewing brand can take off.
It is suspected that Firehouse 51 would have had an immediate impact without the grant due to its unique alignment with the emergency services sector and the industry is known for rallying around good causes. But as the first grant recipient, Haz is testament to the fact that the initiative has so far achieved many of the goals it set out to achieve.
While he said he would have wholeheartedly pursued his dream of establishing Firehouse 51 without the grant, he added “Craft Instinct achieved the dream much sooner and better than it otherwise would have. “.
“I always say (to Craft Instinct founder) Jessie (Jungalwalla) ‘I don’t think I’d be here (anytime soon) without your grant’…in terms of design, brand foundation and ability to get started. ” Haz said.
“It would have taken me two years, I think, to take off, but it’s been six months.
“I didn’t expect it to take off so quickly or for sales to be so quick. I rented the cold room from a mate to hold the stock expecting it to be two months or more – we lasted about a week and pretty much ran out.
Sales have been so good that Haz even had to skim a few cases of Pale Ale just so guests have something to drink when the official launch party kicks off tonight (March 17) at Burnley Brewing in Richmond in Victoria where the beer was brewed under contract.
He had planned to have 10 slabs on the bar but that number dropped to “about four after some new causes came to light”.
“(A) guy was running a charity event and asked if he could raffle off some of the beers. I couldn’t say no to that… The beers are for charity after all.
Head over to the Firehouse 51 website here where Haz hopes, if he can keep stock, to have an online store soon.