Date posted: 22/10/2020 5 min read

Meet the CA turned professional brewer: David Black FCA

In 2016, this former Deloitte partner shifted 300km up the coast from Sydney to Forster to brew craft beer for a living.

In Brief

  • In 2017, David Black FCA and his wife, Helen Black, set up The Coastal Brewing Co in Forster, about 300km north of Sydney.
  • It produces a diverse range of brews with the aim to offer a beer style for everyone.
  • COVID-19 restrictions forced the Blacks to shift focus from keg sales to selling canned beer through bottle shops and an online store.
Photo Craig Mason

David Black FCA worked for two decades at Deloitte, ending up as a partner on the assurance and advisory group. Then he turned his home-brewing hobby into a job.

Following a trip to California for research, Black and his wife and business partner, Helen Black, decided to open a production craft brewery. Black left Deloitte at the end of 2016, and the brewery was up and running in June 2017.

David Black FCAPicture: David Black FCA,

Q: Where did the brewery idea come from?

I was always a keen home brewer, brewing 10-20 litres in the kitchen. I did a brewing qualification at Federation University while I was still a partner at Deloitte. We’d also built a holiday home at Forster and, over the years, it seemed a less and less good idea to do the commute back to Sydney at the end of the weekend. So I decided to focus on my passion for beer. We did our research and understood there was a gap in the market for a brewery in Forster.

Q: What sets The Coastal Brewing Co apart from other breweries?

The Coastal Brewing Co is the only brewery for 80km. For most of the year, Forster has a population of about 20,000 with a more elderly demographic [the median age was 54 in the 2016 census]. But over summer, visitor numbers can be in excess of 200,000.

This means we have a wide range of tastes to satisfy – from the hardened VB or Tooheys New drinker to those accustomed to the more flavoursome craft beers.

In the three years we’ve been open we’ve produced more than 30 different beers, from a lemon sour at 2.8% alcohol (that really doesn’t taste like a traditional beer at all!) and lagers and pale ales, up to barrel-aged stouts with more than 10% alcohol. We think we offer a beer style for everyone.

Q: How does being a CA help?

It brings a fundamental understanding of the numbers involved. For example, we know what our inputs, overheads and profit margins are down to the can. That’s not something every craft brewery can do. As the market has become more crowded, we’re seeing some craft breweries with practices we believe are unsustainable.

Q: What’s happened during COVID-19?

Before the COVID-19 restrictions, about 70% of our revenue came from sales of 50-litre kegs to pubs, clubs and restaurants. When those venues were closed, keg sales fell overnight to zero.

We had to pivot our business model to focus on packaging more of our beer in cans for sale through bottle shops and takeaway.

Thankfully, through focusing more on cans, we’ve managed to significantly grow our market penetration during COVID-19, particularly into southern Sydney and down the coast to Canberra. We also got our online store up and running and now ship our beer from Forster to every corner of Australia.

During COVID there has been a real shift in people supporting local produce and smaller Australian-owned businesses. This has been great and we hope it continues post COVID.

Q: You were a partner in Deloitte’s assurance and advisory group. Do you still see yourself as a trusted adviser?

Most definitely. I have two board seats with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust and the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority. We have five to six meetings each year, and I can contribute a lot on the finance and risk side of their operations.

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