Working for love is a collaborative thing

Love on tap at the launch of Love² beer for marriage equality at Collective Kitchen and Bar in Brisbane (photo by Sam Mehan)

Love on tap at the launch of Love² beer for marriage equality at Collective Kitchen and Bar in Brisbane (photo by Sam Mehan)

“I hope you’ve got your thermals with you – it’s going to be snowing in Albury when we land,” announced the captain as we waited to leave the tarmac from Brisbane airport.

Thermals were not in my luggage. I was dressed, instead, in my “Good Beer Always Helps” t-shirt – a well-washed dark grey number that most of my friends and my wife no doubt think is the only t-shirt I own, so often is it on my back.

This was Tuesday 5th September and I was on my way to Victoria’s beautiful Alpine region to visit award winning independent craft brewers, Bright Brewery – the new brewing partner for the social enterprise beer company that I founded 18 months ago, The Good Beer Co.

The captain was right. The weather was cold, but Bright Brewery’s head of operations Rupert loaned me a jumper and a raincoat so we could sit in the chilled Alpine air and drink some of their delicious “Mountain Crafted” beer from the back of their beer van. The whole Bright team was there.

Bright’s owner Scott, head brewer Richard, marketing guru James and Rupert were all here to talk about  how to go about our first beer together.

Talk turned to politics – the kind with a lowercase “p”. The “debate” over marriage equality was starting to gain traction. There was going to be a postal vote and none of us thought this was fair.

An hour or two later, joined by Scott's partner Sarah, and we’d cooked up a plan to create a beer for marriage equality.

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The next morning, we unloaded the now empty keg from the van at the brewery and reloaded it with a range of Bright’s fantastic beers and Rupert and I hit the road from Bright to Canberra.

That night, the plan to launch a beer for love was locked in. Terri Butler MP, Shadow Minister for Equality (and my local MP), hosted Rupert and me at a busy parliamentary reception for The Good Beer Co and introduced me to the Australian Marriage Equality (AME) campaign. I also got some help connecting with the team at the AME from Paul Oosting at GetUp, who I’d worked with to set up the Better Power campaign in my previous role as Head of Partnerships for green energy company, Powershop.

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Tim Gartrell and the team at the AME were excited and we got them on board as partners, or rather beneficiaries (all profits are going to the AME) for our beer for love, Love². 

Fantastic, except that at this stage, we had zero budget for the beer, no money for any branding, marketing or advertising, and the vote was only about six weeks away.

So my next challenge was to find an agency that was up for working pro bono with The Good Beer Co to create a compelling brand and artwork to help us get the beer out there. Step forward my good friend and creative genius Marty Taylor who has been working for The Good Beer Co on our creative for labels, packaging, social media and more since we kicked things off with our Great Barrier Beer for the Australian Marine Conservation Society just over 18 months ago. 

Marty works for a fantastic agency that’s based, like The Good Beer Co, in Brisbane, called Brother & Co. After a meeting over a beer with one of the brother’s Piet, Marty and his colleague Jason, Brother & Co had agreed to do the work on the name, branding and associated packaging and marketing pro bono – as in for free! 

Love² was born and the work Brother did and continue to do for the beer is just amazing. 

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By this stage the AME’s campaign for marriage equality was in full flow with a focus on getting the Yes vote out before the deadline to get forms back in the post of November 7th. 

The next challenge was to find a partner for our media launch and to lock in some good bars, pubs and venues to put the beer on tap in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. 

We also wanted to do what The Good Beer Co did successfully in the UK when we launched (at very short notice too) a good beer to support the Jo Cox Foundation’s Great Get Together - build a coalition of brewers across the country in support of Love² beer, marriage quality and a resounding Yes to love.

And this is where things really took off. As of today there are over 30 fantastic independent craft brewers from across Australia lined up behind Love² and marriage equality. We smashed our record in the UK with twice the number of brewers getting behind love. They are:  

Aether Brewing Company, Brisbane, QLD

All in Brewing Company, Brisbane. QLD

Balmain Brewing Company, Balmain NSW

Blizzard Brewing Company, Dinner Plan, VIC

Blue Mile Brewing Company, Busselton, WA

Bright Brewery, Bright, VIC

Captain Blights Brewing Company, Hobart, TAS

Cheeky Peak Brewery, Wodonga, VIC

Coldstream Brewing Company, Yarra Valley, VIC

Cubby Haus Brewing, Mount Pleasant, VIC

Edge Brewing Project, North Melbourne, VIC

Fish River Valley Brewing, Locksley NSW

Foghorn Brewhouse, Newscastle, NSW

Himmel Hund Brewery, Brunswick, VIC

Last Rites Brewing Company, Cambridge, TAS

Mr Banks, Seaford, VIC

Newstead Brewing Company, Brisbane, QLD

Old Wives Ales, VIC

Philter Brewing Company, Marickville, NSW

Sparkke Change Beverage Company, Adelaide, SA

The Good Beer Co, Brisbane, QLD

Three (3) Rivers Brewing, Greenfields WA

Two Birds Brewing, Spotswood, VIC

Van Diemen Brewing Company, Evandale, TAS

Wayward Brewing Company, Camperdown, NSW

Willie the Boatman, St Peters, NSW

Wheaty Brewing Corps, Adelaide, SA

Wolf of the Willows Brewing Company, Melbourne, VIC

Young Henrys, Newtown, NSW

Next up Gill from Brewsvegas craft beer festival and Marty from BeerInCiderfestival came on board. Marty has already shown his support for love with rainbow YES wristbands for the thousands who attended BIC during the campaign, the legend. And they were soon joined by Emily, the Editor of Australian craft beer bible Froth, who gave us free advertising and support, and was on hand to help me find some fantastic venues to serve our beer for love.

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On Wednesday 4th October we launched Love² beer to the world, the media + over 150 of our good mates locally, at Collective Kitchen and Bar in Brisbane’s CBD, supported by local AME campaign legends Peter and Nita. We spray painted a keg in rainbow colours and took delivery of some Love² branded t-shirts.

And the beer went on tap across Brisbane over the weekend and in supporting venues in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra the following weekend.

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With the help of my good mates Graham Redfearn (usually busy being an award winning journo for the Guardian and De Smog Blog amongst other publications) and (and ex Huffington Post journo) Cathy Anderson, the launch got the AME and the beer some great media coverage.

Among the good write ups, SBS sexuality covered us toasting the lovely Fiona and Anne, who, I’m bloody stoked to say can now get married if they want to. And the Canberra Times got behind our beer for love at The Old Canberra Inn with a great pic and story too.

Next up, we wanted to help the AME get some media coverage and give everyone who had voted Yes and our LGBTIQ mates a big hug with a beer. Supported by new friends Amanda Blennerhasset from Brand Savvy, and Natasha and Jack from Agency North (also based out of Little Tokyo Two, the coworking space The Good Beer Co works out of) and the crew at Big Fish (who did our animation below) we created and launched “Toast2Love”.

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“This Friday November 3, fifteen pubs, bars and venues across Australia are supporting the ‘Toast 2 Love’ movement by putting the special Love² brew on tap, while more than 100 businesses including Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Medibank, Qantas, and Atlassian are getting involved by serving the Love² beer in bottles at special ‘Toast 2 Love’ Friday drinks events across the country.”

That’s the Weekend Edition talking about how “Toast2Love” went off across Australia.

Like a lot of start up operations, I’m a one person operation which means I’m normally working seven days a week with virtually zero operating budget and no income, cutting things very fine and spinning plates to keep things moving without falling over. I realised how tough (and unsustainable) that is when I got a facebook message from my sister the Friday before we launched “Toast2Love” to call my dad urgently. My mum was in hospital after an accident in her wheelchair and very poorly.

I’m sad to say mum died before I could make it back to the UK to see her. But she brought me up to believe that everyone is equal and she had zero truck with discrimination. I know she was full square behind marriage equality and she would have loved the campaign (and the result).

I found out just how important it is to have good people around you when your world falls apart. I was able to rely on the support of Amanda and Tash who jumped in and took the lead on “Toast2Love” like absolute pros and the team at Bright Brewery who took over work I was due to do. The Good Beer Co volunteers Emma and Sam took over our website and social media, Andrew got himself round all our venues in Melbourne and Tycho from amazing indigenous owned logistics company Winangali Logistics (also my nest door neighbour) took my house keys off me as I headed to the airport with my wife Jo and worked off an email to look after deliveries, including driving round Brisbane in a ute to deliver kegs of beer. And Marty, Piet and Jason at Brother & Co, like Tash and Jack at Agency North, massively over serviced me with support on PR, marketing, advertising and event organisation.

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As I was helping my dad and sister Jess put the plans together for a lovely celebration of mum’s life Amanda and Tash emailed and texted from a big Toast2Love party at Bloodhound Bar in Brisbane where they’d gathered local supporters. Amanda stood in for me to thank everyone for their hard work and friends from across Brissy showed up to share the love. And Andrew texted me from Melbourne as he went on what he called a “crawl for love” of all the amazing venues that supported marriage equality with a Toast2Love that night. Fantastic.

I got back to Brisbane in time to celebrate Yes and join the crowd at Queens Gardens in Brisbane's CBD waiting for the result. 

After what seemed like forever, the man from the ABS confirmed the scale of the victory for Yes and while I was, as usual, trying to post our “Love Wins” giff on social media, two random guys rushed up and gave me a hug. 

Then I saw my mate Dan’s post on Facebook: “*start’s wedding pinterest board*” and I finally lost it and burst into tears!

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That night, thanks to my good friend Nadia who ran the Yes campaign in Melbourne for the Victorian Trades Hall, Rupert and James from Bright Brewery set up and ran The Good Beer Co and Bright’s Love² bar at the Marriage Equality Results Party in Lygon Street in Melbourne. They sold 3 kegs and 10 cartons of beer in less than two hours – unprecedented and insane. And they were still buzzing from the atmosphere the next morning.

And in the following few days I was stoked to receive an order (via good friend and The Good Beer Co Advisory Board member Flyn Van Ewjik, Group Environment Manager for Qantas and the fantastic Kate Rayson, Flyn's colleague on the environment team) for the Qantas marriage equality party. And I was proud to see our beer served up alongside the legends from Sparkke Change Beverage Companywho were way ahead of us in producing a delicious sparkling wine in a can for marriage equality!

Kate grabbed me a lovely pic with the legend that is Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO, enjoying a very well deserved beer for love.

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Just today, as the Senate passed the Bill and it went to the House, I was delivering cartons of Love² across South East Queensland as Christmas gifts for local legends from my good friend Jock Fairweather, the Founder of Little Tokyo Two, and got to talk about how fantastic the Yes result was.

One of the recipients of Jock's beer for love gift was Dr Beck Davis from Griffith University. She told me that her partner of 19 years, Geraldine Donaghue, was a founding member of the Australian Marriage Equality campaign, and we talked about the long struggle that she and Geraldine have been part of together, for nearly 20 years, to achieve equality (check out the ABC news story here).

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It was an absolute privilege to be a really small part of the campaign for a Yes vote in the postal survey we should never have had. It was amazing, but not surprising, to see the support from across Australia’s independent craft beer industry – from brewers, to festivals, to media to venues. Love has most definitely won.

And, on a personal note, I learned that I’m not working alone, to ask for help and to trust good people to help you when you need their help.

As for our future plans, I’m talking to the good folks at Bright and our other partners about how to mobilise our coalition for love and Love² beer to continue to support equality in the aftermath of the Yes vote and, fingers crossed, it’s successful passage into law in Canberra. We're still totting up the sales from our first limited edition run and will keep everyone posted!

And, of course, subject to support, we will have our other very good beers that give back to other good causes ready to go in the NY too. Watch this space and find out more at

There is one other bonus outcome from all this. I now have a different t-shirt to wear.

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PS We weren't the only ones doing good work on marriage equality. There was a lot of awesome work going on pre and during the Yes campaign across the independent craft beer industry of Australia. Read about it in this fantastic article by Amber Smith in our beer for love partners Froth magazine: Change is brewing.

James Grugeon