Stories from across the Asia Pacific

Queensland artisan producer liquor licence adds fizz to Gold Coast hospitality

Food & Wine

A burst of new artisan distilleries is reshaping and modernising the Gold Coast’s hospitality scene - pushing a city famous for its nightlife to the vanguard of a new global trend.

Comments Print article

Offering a new level of maturity to match any capital city and an alternative to traditional bars and clubs that helped earn the Gold Coast its “glitter strip” title, the city has emerged as a hotspot for artisan liquor producers and “new-premise” drinking experiences.

Sparkling hard seltzer producer Hard Fizz, which only began production in July 2020, has responded to overwhelming demand to open its Burleigh-based distillery to patrons four evenings a week.

Hard Fizz co-founder and CEO Wade Tiller said the plethora of craft breweries, gin and vodka distilleries on the Gold Coast was “inspiring”, with hard seltzer now added to the growing list of cellar-door drinking options.

“It’s brewed like a beer and it’s all health-forward,” Tiller said.

“The reason it exists is that it’s next to zero sugar, low calories, and it’s part of the better-for-you drinking trend that’s not only local but global. People are more conscious now of what’s going in their body.”

Hard seltzer had only emerged in Australia over the past two years, with Hard Fizz now ranked third in the independent trade nationally and sold in 3,000 stores Australia-wide, he said.

“The category started in the United States five summers ago. We entered the market last summer along with around 40 other brands,” Tiller said.

“We felt like we had a brand that could cut through and do different things. We pitch that there’s no better place to do a hard seltzer than the Gold Coast because of the climate, the outdoor active lifestyle, we’re not afraid of having a good time, and we help make sure the rig’s ready for summer.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and people seem to like that.

“Australia has adopted it faster than we first anticipated, which is great. And it’s good that we’ve got a strong bunch of competitors to make it a thing.”

Tiller said the Queensland artisan producer liquor licence, introduced by the State Government in March 2021, had been instrumental in the rapid growth in unique, new drinking spots across south-east Queensland.

The licence allows local craft brewers and artisan distillers to sell their own product as takeaway and online as well as at pop-up locations including festivals and markets. It also provides the opportunity to sell craft beers or spirits from other artisanal producers as well as Queensland wines.

There are 85 licensees under the new regulations across the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast.

“What we love about it is that it’s local,” Tiller said.

“It allows us to hero our brand, but also hero some great friends as we’ve got some distillers and brewers locally. It’s really cool for the community and allows more people to see these great local brands,” he said.

“There’s a new trend of being proud of your neighbourhood.  This is something that’s been happening globally and now locally – people want to be proud of what’s in their ‘hood.

“There’s a combination of trends that are working in our favour.”

Tiller said the development was contributing to the transformation of the Gold Coast hospitality experience.

“The Gold Coast has matured in its offerings from breakfasts to late night. The bar has been raised by some great operators – you don’t have to go to Sydney or Melbourne now for these kinds of experiences,” he said.

“It continually surprises people when they come here and compare it to the Gold Coast they remembered.”

The five artisan distillery bars making waves on the Gold Coast:

Hard Fizz, Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast

The Hard Fizz experience officially opened on 1 December 2021 at Burleigh Heads. FIZZ HQ bar is open Thursday to Sunday, midday till 9:00pm. The sparkling hard seltzer is brewed from rice and comes in an array of flavours including orange and mango, lemon and ginger, and passionfruit and guava.  The product is brewed at the same location Monday to Wednesday.

WildFlower Gin Distillery, Varsity Lakes, Gold Coast 

WildFlower are known for their botanical gin flavours and unique signature blend that features honey from backyard beehives collected from all over the Gold Coast beachside suburb of Burleigh. Wildflower opened their own gin distillery bar in 2021 and offers classes for do-it-yourself gin makers using 50 different botanicals from honey to seaweed and chilli.

Woodchoppers Inn, Mudgeeraba, Gold Coast

Historic Woodchoppers Inn has just added an in-house distillery to produce its own gin, whiskey and vodka alongside its current offering of BBQ meats and craft beers. Its “Beer, BBQ and Moonshine” move is aimed at adding innovative new flair to the traditional old timber pub.

Granddad Jack’s, Miami, Gold Coast

Opening the batting for the Gold Coast’s artisanal distillery trend in 2018, Granddad Jack’s serves up gin, vodka, whiskey and liqueur. The distillery has won multiple awards for its spirits including the title of World’s Best Coffee Liqueur at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (Barbershop Coffee). Granddad Jack’s has also opened a new bar and distillery in Albion, Brisbane.

Capricorn Distilling Co, Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast

The small-batch urban distillery was established in Rockhampton and expanded production to set up shop at the Gold Coast. This industrial craft distillery produces rums, liqueurs and gins. Their signature spiced rum took out the title of World’s Best Spiced Rum at London’s prestigious World Rum Awards.

More Food & Wine stories