Chloe Hoiberg is the sales manager at Burnley Brewing, in Melbourne’s east. Previously, she was a co-owner of The Wild Animal Brewing Co, which she founded with partner Michael Stanzel (now head brewer at Burnley) while the pair were living in Germany. In 2017, after struggling to popularise craft beer in a country focused on the beer purity law, they returned to Melbourne, accepting an invitation to help establish a new brewery. Although, as Chloe recalls, it wasn’t really an invitation they could refuse.
“The day that they met Michael they decided to get a production site down in Dandenong assuming that we would come on board!” she laughs.
The reason why Michael and Chloe were in such high demand was partly due to the former’s German brewing and malting apprenticeship, something they both knew would be a point of difference anywhere in the world.
“He’s a first generation Australian, all his family are German,” Chloe explains. “I realised that we could use his potential German experience not just as a point of difference, but also a quality difference. At the time, craft beer [in Australia] was starting to explode, but still not finding its feet. There was no inspiration and everyone was looking to America for guidance. If we went to Germany and he got an Ausbildung (apprenticeship) then we would know we were making the best beer, rather than just assuming.”
Becoming a brewer was something Michael had always wanted to do. “He used to brew at home, his family used to say ‘if you can brew it, you can drink it!’” As for Chloe, her inspiration came from somewhere a bit different. “At that time, Two Birds was getting big on the market. For the first time ever, I could see myself in this industry as well, because it was previously such a dude-dominated thing.”
So, they packed their bags and headed to Germany. Michael got his qualification, but after that, they found it hard to leave. “We fell in love with Germany,” says Chloe. “We had a great group of friends. We started brewing at home and taking beers to barbecues and whatever, then decided to open up our own label, Wild Animal.”
Although the brewery was successful, it came with its fair share of challenges.
“We were struggling. Kraft in German means “strength”, so everyone always though it was strong beer, not handwerk or hand-crafted beer.
“It’s also a very stagnated industry. I’ve said a million times that craft beer is born out of rebellion, and there’s no need to rebel against the beer in Germany because it’s all considered perfect and high-quality.”
Despite finding success at facing most of those challenges head on, one in particular required too much compromise.
“We had been gypsy brewing out of a winery and they wanted us to tone down and move and be a small-town brewery, which isn’t what we wanted to do. We had lived in a small town before and knew that craft beer didn’t work in a wine oriented place. Instead, we met with the boys [of Burnley] and they asked if we’d think about moving back.
“We moved back in September and this place opened in November. Originally, when we moved back we still had the intention of opening Wild Animal here, but then once we started working with Burnley, we decided that would be enough for us.”
Despite her job description, Chloe’s role isn’t entirely restricted to any one category. “I have the weirdest job. I do more product development than I do sales. When it comes to designing beers its literally myself, Michael and [founder] Neil. For a small company, we’re all super obsessed and also super in each other’s jobs”
As for what they want to achieve with Burnley, the goals are clear.
“We don’t want to be that pointy end craft brewery, we want to be that brewery that if you’ve never had beer before, you get the same experience as someone who is a beer freak. That’s the importance of having a brewery here – people get to taste the beers, watch a brew day, or watch kegging and understand the A-Z of beer making, rather than just drinking the final product.
“Where we are is a weird area, there’s younger people in Richmond but also the old school side of Hawthorn. We are in an interesting place, there’s an overlap of people. Some breweries have a distinct knowledge of what their customers are like, but since ours is so wide and different, we want to be able to cater for everyone.”