There was a strange collision of universes which brought the Camel Rock Brewery to life. It had been an idea BIG4 Wallaga Lake Holiday Park owner Steve Watson harboured for years, but when the time came to sketch the first layout there was one major issue which had to be addressed: who was going to do the actual brewing?
We know Wallaga Lake is a slice of glorious nature, but brewers don’t grow on trees. But it was when Steve made the commitment to start building his brewery that a brewer magically appeared on his doorstep one night.
“It was about 7.30pm and a Chilean fellow knocked on the door asking about the brewer’s job,” Steve recalled. “We’d had a lot of response to our ad for a brewer but they were mainly people wanting the experience without actually having it. So, we hired Jaime straight away.” And the rest is history.
While the brewery’s doors are open already and serving craft beers, the first pints of locally-crafted ales – distilling under Jaime’s watchful eyes - are still some time away.
Opening the doors and realising his dream has given Steve and his team reasons to feel proud. Here, he explains how it happened.
Camel Rock. One of the most photographed rock formations on the South Coast is Camel Rock, and we’re just opposite Camel Rock beach and we thought we’d be a bit cheeky and steal the name. You can be a bit cheeky with the names of the beers (laughs). We’ve got an Indian pale ale called Camel Toe pale ale; and we’ve got other beers from other craft breweries that we’ve sourced for the moment. We’ll be importing beers and creating our own on site. We eventually want to have a range, a diversity, but mostly ales. We’ve only got one lager on tap. We’re after a taste range from your easy-drinking beers right through to your very hoppy beers, and stouts, especially darker beers as we come into winter. They go really well with pot pies.
The first beer is an Indian pale ale, which won’t be on tap until maybe the end of this month (May) or maybe next month, all going good. We’ll see if it tastes alright once it comes out of the fermenter.
It’s been in my mind for quite a few years. I’ve brewed beer and distilled spirits for a long time, just for home consumption. In fact, our first park – which was Emerald Beach, which we bought 21 years ago – had a big shed out the back, which was a big brew shed. That’s when I started brewing beers. I was going to build it at my last park in Eden but that fell through. We got to our current park at Wallaga Lake. It came with this terrible old ugly building that I was going to bulldoze until I found out the history of the building and realised I couldn’t bulldoze it, I had to do something with it and I thought what a great idea I can have the dream of having my own brewery and preserve a building that’s historic to the region. It just grew from there. And, sadly, it also got more and more expensive (laughs). We’re very happy with the end product, though.
It has been amazing. The local support has been incredible. We’re getting a lot of support from suburbs around Bermagui that are within walking distance or a very short drive who have been regularly patronising us over the past three weeks that we have been open.
We do Friday night happy hour – or it’s happy two hours from 4-6pm. We are open from Thursday through to Mondays from 12pm to 10pm, except Sunday when we are close at 6pm. Sunday is a relaxed kick-back kind of afternoon with live music. Everyone just comes along in our al-fresco area and listens to live music. It’s awesome. Just enjoying a nice beer and good company.
When you picture something in your head and then try and get that on paper to then have it built and all of the team that has been intricately involved – from re-doing slabs to the last slap of paint – all of us have been involved. To look at it and see it, and for it to be exactly how I wanted it.
Exactly. There was one minor change to the al-fresco area, but we had to do that to be compliant with a ramp. But apart from that it looks exactly how I envisaged it.
Holiday parks are all about community, enjoyment and doing stuff together. And everyone enjoys a beer with their mates. Enjoying different beers over a meal is fantastic, especially within the park where you don’t have to drive anywhere. And it’s all set up to be family-friendly so the kids can enjoy themselves while mum and dad relax.
I was always confident that it would work. I was probably not as confident that we would cope with the demand in the first weekend (Easter weekend), and about staffing levels, and that none of us had run a business like it before. The team we have though, is very experienced in hospitality. We have a very experienced chef, great kitchenhand, awesome front-of-house staff. We were cautious about not having too many staff knowing we were coming into winter and not wanting to eat into staff rosters and hours, but also not compromising on what we wanted to deliver as an experience.
It’s an American menu, it’s a funky menu. We have burgers and beer-battered fries. The chef always has specials. Last week it was pot pies with stout, which was fantastic. There’s lots of slow-cooked meats, ribs – we had one weekend where we sold out of our brisket and ribs. We got caned for it (running out food).
(laughs) It’s gotta be fresh, it’s gotta be good. The hardest part is when people come up and say what to do you recommend on the menu. I like everything.
We’ll have our ales on tap this year and some lagers next year. The beers that we currently have on tap are sourced from other craft breweries offering a similar style to what we will make.
It’s been received really well. We just had two families ride their bikes down for lunch, and they loved it. But it’s people who go for a canoe, or fishing or boating – or whatever you do – who think it’s great. They can finish their activity and come and have a beer without having to get back into the car and drive somewhere. They can have dinner, the kids are entertained, it works for everyone.
My wife Sharon. Without her there’s no way any of this would have happened. My brother-in-law was the builder. But every one of our staff members was involved. The original weatherboards took a week of sanding – two people working side-by-side, and then the painting. It’s a one-in, all-in thing at our park. Everyone had a go, the whole team took ownership of it.
Venue: Camel Rock Brewery
Hours: Thursday to Mon: 12pm to 10pm (Sun 12pm to 6pm)
Live music: Sundays
Menu: American style
More info: Click here