Changes brewing for On De Rock
After two years of ferment, delivery trucks are rolling through again at On De Rock Craft Brewery on Market Lane in Pembroke.
Owner Simon Watkinson, has been struggling to keep the craft beer business going since the pandemic began in March 2020.
“The food and beverage industry has been decimated by the pandemic,” Mr Watkinson said. “It has been very difficult.”
But On De Rock brewmaster David Mellinas said business has been picking up quite a lot since March and April when all the restrictions started lifting.
Mr Watkinson is hopeful that with the tourism season getting busier in Bermuda, business will get even better.
“Our money is made on tourists,” he said. “We are grateful to the local people, but tourists are here to eat and drink. That is where we benefit. The winter months can be pretty grim.”
Mr Watkinson started On De Rock in 2015 with friend David Jones, out of a passion for craft beers.
He spent the early years of On De Rock investing in all the necessary equipment and materials needed to brew craft beer – bright tanks, fermentation tanks, pipes, kegs, hops, yeast. One of the tanks used in the business cost between $8,000 to $9,000 landed. He has seven.
By 2019 they were about to see their first dividend.
“We were going on all cylinders,” Mr Watkinson said. “From month to month sales were going up.”
Business was so good that beer would go straight from the tanks into kegs and onto waiting delivery trucks.
“It never went in our fridge,” Mr Watkinson said.
The pandemic brought all of that to a screeching stop.
“All of our equipment had to be turned off,” Mr Watkinson said. “We had to throw out the beer we had.”
And because of the economic uncertainty, the brewmaster at the time left.
“I said to my wife, well I guess that’s it,” Mr Watkinson said.
But he decided to hold on.
“We should have craft beer here,” he said.
With all the equipment turned off, the business was not sucking up expensive electricity, and his landlord gave him a break on the rent. He was able to supplement On De Rock through another business he runs.
“I was living in hope,” he said.
Then, as things began to ease up last year, he hired Mr Mellinas, originally from Benidorm, Spain. Mr Mellinas had been working in the Cayman Islands and was looking for a change.
“I learnt about brewing beer at home as a hobby,” Mr Mellinas said. “At some point I decided to turn my hobby into a business. I would take the beer to different bars where I was living. People liked it. Today I have 15 years of experience in brewing.”
Mr Mellinas has taken his talents all around the world. He was working in the Cayman Islands and was about to head back to Spain when he heard about the job at On De Rock.
Now Mr Watkinson largely leaves the day to day operations to Mr Mellinas.
“I love brewing beer,” Mr Mellinas said. “This job gives me a lot of freedom, and opens the door to make new beers and to get completely involved from grain to glass. Since I have been here we have done two or three new beers.”
At full capacity, On De Rock can produce 600 barrels per year and sells draft and canned beer. Currently, they are brewing up lager.
“That takes 28 days,” Mr Mellinas said. “We will be releasing that soon.”
Customers include Flanagan’s, The Boundary Sport’s Club, The St George's Dinghy Club, White Horse Pub & Restaurant, The Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, The Astwood Arms, The Loren at Pink Beach, The Reefs Hotel and Club, Pompano Beach Club, The Front Yard, Harbourfront, and Henry VIII Restaurant.
On De Rock Brewery also makes a signature beer for the Swizzle Inn called Savage Ale.