A Greek tragedy: COVID’s rise sees brewery fall

21 September, 2020 by Gifford Lee

Fall & Rise Brewing’s Yiannis Psimoulis, left, and Petros Gyftopoulos

Melbourne’s Fall & Rise Brewing has made the difficult decision to sell the business after less than a year in operation due to the economic impact caused by COVID-19.

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Established by Greek-Australians Petros Gyftopoulos and Yiannis Psimoulis late last year, the sale of Fall & Rise includes recipes, trademark and their database. When in production, they had distribution relationships with the likes of Blackhearts & Sparrows bottle shops in Melbourne and Canberra and online stores Bucket Boys and Beer Cartel.

While head brewer Yiannis is now moving back to Greece to be with his family, Petros told Beer & Brewer they wouldn’t be making this call if there was a guaranteed end in sight to Melbourne’s lockdown period.

“If there was some light at the end of the tunnel, I think almost certainly, the decision would be different,” Petros said.

“If someone could guarantee, that on the 26th of November Melbourne would move out of lockdown, that would be something for me to hold on to.

“But there is no one who can say that now. We do not know when the vaccine is coming. We don’t know if Melbourne is going to have less than five cases a day to allow us to even move out of a state of lockdown.”

Fall & Rise had been contract brewing at Cockies Beer in Geelong and to date had released two of their own beers: The Rise – a hoppy Kölsch; and Dorchae – an Irish stout; as well as most recently the Alliance oatmeal stout – a collaboration with fellow Melbourne brewery Urban Alley.

Everything had been going to plan, Petros said. They had built brand awareness, established distribution networks and were ready to take the next step and find their own location to brew in-house. In early March they had several investors lined up to assist with the purchase of brewing equipment and had inspected over 30 potential properties in and around Melbourne. Then COVID hit.

“When you’re contract brewing, you are not making any money. You are probably losing money, and now with COVID, especially in Melbourne, the market is very unstable and we do not know how long the restrictions will go on. Breweries are shutting and the economy is struggling and it just isn’t the right time for us to be taking the next step,” Petros said.

“Continuing to contract brew just isn’t the right decision either right now. We are one of the victims of COVID’s financial impact and we just have to move on.”

Petros said a buyer of Fall & Rise could “count on immediate sales” due to existing brand awareness along with a reputation in the industry for personal service.

“Our last release, the collaboration with Urban Alley, was 60 per cent pre-sold. The products are quite recognisable in Victoria and we have made a good start in NSW and Canberra,” he said.

“Just last month I had about 20 to 25 emails from clients asking for our product. But unfortunately we made the decision not to do another batch.

“I really believe that the person who buys the business should do two or three more recipes to further introduce themselves to the market and then move to their own space.”

For Petros, it’s still too early to tell whether this is the final chapter in his brewing dream, but there were no regrets.

“When you have a start-up, you see it like your baby and I don’t want to see it die – even if it is in the hands of someone else.

“We have full time jobs, but for nine months we were finishing those at five o’clock and then working late hours on Fall & Rise. On weekends too. But we loved every minute of it.

“I do not regret doing it because the joy and the excitement and satisfaction of seeing our products in the market and people loving them, you can’t compare that feeling.”

This article was originally published on Beer & Brewer.