When Matty Graham and Alex Light lost their jobs in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, pair decided to combine their passions for bowling and beer and help keep local bowling clubs open.
The saw Bowlo Draught born, as a beer that is sessionable, easy to enjoy after an afternoon on the bowling green and with the added bonus of helping to keep the Aussie ‘bowlo’ institution from going extinct.
Graham told The Shout: “Alex and I worked together at Vice, the global media company, and the Australian arm of the business wound up last June. We had done a lot of work together with some large global brands, including beer brands, and we thought we know a thing or two about marketing beer, so it would be good to do it for ourselves rather than someone else.
“We’re also both members of Bondi Bowling Club and that’s where we spent a bit of time together talking about work and I think through a little bit of osmosis, and a little bit of common sense, it seemed like a good call to come up with a beer to celebrate the spirit of bowling clubs, because there currently isn’t one.”
And while the pair had the idea, neither are brewers by trade, and while they know what the enjoyed in a beer there’s still a long way to go from there.
“We had a vision that we wanted to create an approachable beer for bowlos. If you think about those clubs, you’ve got some old hands there, but we really wanted to open up bowling clubs as well. So we decided we wanted to create an easy-drinking, classic Australian lager. One that would be pretty sessionable and nothing to screw up the noses of an 80-year-old midi drinker but did have enough flavour and character to keep you coming back for more.”
Armed with the vision, it was the execution they had to work on so they spoke to several brewers around Sydney and Graham said a couple of those gave them a steer towards Andy Orrell, the brewer at Hairy Man in the Sutherland Shire, who they later found out was also a lawn bowler.
“He was an absolute dream to work with,” Graham told The Shout, “we realised within about two minutes that he was the guy we wanted to work with and we got our first sip of the beer last week and we think it is an absolute belter, we are so happy with it.”
The pair’s marketing background meant they worked on this a slightly different way to a lot of other brands and brewers, as they worked on the brand and had that down and tight early, before then meeting the brewer and being able to create the beer to match the brand.
On that, Light told The Shout: “It seems to me that about 95 per cent of the brands in the market are created by people who are passionate about brewing and they decide to go from their backshed to a professional operation. So starting from a product that is always fantastic but the brand come later.
“From our background we’ve approached it the other way, we identified an opportunity and built a brand and a business model focusing on a specific niche and concept and then developed the product second.
“Our background helped us be really single minded in what we were standing for and a lot of what we didn’t need as a brand. We are by no means set up for success, we know there’s a huge amount to learn, but we are approaching from a different angle.”
He added: “I will say though it has been very refreshing, considering our background in marketing and how competitive that is, just how friendly and supportive the industry has been, and everyone we have spoken to has been and how open they have been with their advice.”
Bowlo Beer will be launched in Sydney on April 18, the 4.2 per cent beer is targeted at the contemporary beer drinker, as well as afficionados of an old school Aussie lager. Initially targeted at local bowling clubs the pair will also target independent bottleshops close to bowlos to stock the beer.