Victorian couple kwenching their thirst for business

EllyDavid Kitchen

For most people, working one job and raising a family is hard enough. For David Burns and Elly Meltzer, working full time and running their beer company is all part of the daily routine.

The couple were inspired to create something new while on a holiday in Morocco, where they enjoyed refreshing iced tea and beer each evening after a day of exploring. After returning to Melbourne, Burns set about brewing his own beer in their backyard shed, and The Beltz Group Beer Company was born.

While Burns admits that it’s tough working a full time job and getting a business off the ground at the same time, he says the couple have always had enough passion and belief in what they were doing to keep going.

“There is an enormous market in the beer industry and we thought we could do something that could differentiate not only our product, but our brand and our story. We could have a brand out there that was a little bit left of centre, a little bit different from the mainstream products and brands,” Burns says.

The Beltz Group currently has two beverages in the market. Their Kwencher Pale Ale was recently named Australasia’s Best Pale Ale at the 2013 Asia Beer Awards, while the Kwencher Clingstone Peach and Darjeeling Tea Infused lagers are winning fans in bars around Melbourne.

Burns says that the extra security afforded to the couple by their jobs is worth the extra time taken to grow the business.

“I think there’s a question mark over when the time will be right to jump in headfirst. It could be a year away or three years away, it just depends on a few factors. The million-dollar question is how fast could you accelerate the business if you were diving in headfirst,” he says.

“Obviously you make more inroads, but we do have systems in place that are enabling us to do that with myself and Elly working full time. I could see us continuing like this quite successfully, and obviously the primary benefit is the guaranteed income. It’s extra security.”

The couple employ a small team and outsource a few elements of the business.

“You have to be realistic about what you can achieve and understand that it will likely cost twice as much and cost twice as long to get to where you want to get to…it’s a big juggle but we stay fit and healthy and are conscious of the work/life balance, which for us is more important than growing a business at a hundred miles an hour,” Burns says.

The business has grown slowly but steadily by focusing on working with independent stores and bars.

“We kick off with Dan Murphy’s in January, and we met Coles buyers recently as well. We’ve grown enough now to be credible enough to have robust conversations with the majors, where up til recently we weren’t quite ready. The journey started with the independents, and then when we were ready, we started talking to the big guys,” Burns says.

At the moment, Burns and Meltzer are preparing to launch Kwencher nationally, fielding interest from Hong Kong, and working on developing new products, but when it comes to big plans for the future, Burns says seeing Kwencher become a nationally recognised beer brand is top of the list.

“We want to make sure we continue have a point of difference and not just create something that’s already out there.”