For five generations, the Coates family have made their living as dairy farmers in Jindong.  But when Hamish Coates was a broke university student in Perth, he stumbled into an idea that changed the farm’s future forever.

When fifth generation Jindong dairy and cattle farmer Hamish Coates was studying geology and physics at the University of Western Australia, he didn’t have much money.  But he didn’t allow this to stop him from having fun.

Having grown up on a farm, Hamish was always practically minded and had a strong sense of initiative.  When he couldn’t afford to buy beer, he began brewing his own instead.

The completion of his degree coincided with the mining downturn, and instead of the high-paying mining geology job he envisioned, he was forced to return home to his family farm.  Determined not to let what he had learned at uni go to waste; Hamish began brewing beer.

Lots of beer.

Hamish Coates and Mel Holland. Photo: Supplied

He studied brewing online and then at Edith Cowan University’s Joondalup campus, before starting as an assistant brewer at Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co under head brewer Ross Terlick.

With the dairy industry doing it tough, he soon convinced his old man that there were better margins in grog, and together they launched a commercial brewery on the family farm.

Nicknamed Rocky Ridge for the ridge of ironstone that runs beneath their property, the Coates have been running dairy and beef cattle here for over 100 years.  Now, it is one of WA’s largest exporters of craft beer, selling almost 150,000 litres per year to suppliers in Southeast Asia.

Rocky Ridge is now one of WA’s largest exporters of craft beer. Photo: Supplied

Hamish released his first beer under the label in 2017, and quickly grew the company into one of WA’s major breweries.  Seven years since Rocky Ridge first began, and the brewery have increased their output thirty-fold, from 50,000 litres to 1.5 million.

“It was a fortunate set of circumstances,” says Hamish.  “At the time I didn’t feel very fortunate, but now it’s cool.”

Rocky Ridge remains an operating dairy and beef farm, with Hamish’s brother Colin managing that side of the business.  But on the 1200-acre home block, they’ve also established an orchard and hops yard.

The 1200-acre home block. Photo: Supplied

“I love being back on the farm,” says Hamish.  “It was always the place I wanted to end up, I just thought it was going to be a much longer journey getting there.

The five generations that the Coates family have spent working the land has inculcated in them a strong respect for their environment.  Many of the principles that have defined their farming practices have also transferred across to the brewery: treading lightly, supporting local, says Rocky Ridge co-founder Mel Holland.

“That agricultural mindset is woven into everything we do.  The brewery is naturally different, but the methodology is the same as the dairy farm.  Values have stayed the same.  Sustainability ethos is the driving force behind who we are and what we do. That comes from Hamish growing up on the farm and seeing the impact of climate change firsthand.”

A sustainability ethos is the driving force behind Rocky Ridge. Photo: Supplied

Rocky Ridge are also Australia’s first certified sustainable and carbon neutral brewery, and are committed to Net Zero emissions from their brewing process by 2025.   To achieve this, Rocky Ridge have set up a carbon dioxide reclamation plant, recycle their wastewater, and utilise a large solar power and battery system.

They have also maintained their standing as an integral part of their local community and remain mostly a family affair.  They work with local producers and community groups, and aim to be an exemplar of responsibility, restoration, and respect for the land on which they live and work.

“We do whatever we can to make a difference, buying fruit seconds from local farmers to produce our beer.  It’s about local first, wherever we can.  As farmers, we remain an integral part of the local community, and we’re about making a difference to the planet and setting an example, showing that even as a small business, the little things can make a difference.”

Grab a refreshing beer at the Rocky Ridge Tap House in Busselton. Photo: Supplied

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