Pop by for a smooth locally roasted brew and 30-hour-fermented ciabatta bread and pick up some funky jun.
The family behind Botanical Brew have garnered a cult following for their wholesome fermented drinks over the years, and now they’ve combined their passion for bringing interesting flavours to the region with FUNK, their new fermentation concept store.
Nestled within an intimate brick building on Shannon Avenue in Geelong West, FUNK has quickly become a crowning jewel for locals, providing access to Botanical Brew’s fermented drinks and sauerkraut, as well as coffee, small goods and local produce from small businesses in the region.
Ran by the Spoljaric family, Lilly and Tony Spoljaric and their sons Rainer and Evan, FUNK is all about keeping food local, ethical and real and bringing all the flavours from their Lara brewery to Geelong.
The origins of Botanical Brew began from a single beehive, which Evan and Rainer inherited from their grandfather. The family became passionate about fermenting raw honey, championed by Tony, who opened La Madre Bakery in the early 2000s. Making his own sourdough bread for many years, a knack for fermentation clearly runs deep in the family.
“We inherited a beehive from our grandfather and my brother really took to beekeeping, going on to study agriculture at the University of Melbourne,” Rainer explains.
“After the first year of harvest, we ended up with 50kg of honey from just one hive.”
Taking to the craft and practising sustainable beekeeping, they soon started fermenting their own jun, an alcoholic brew made from fermenting raw honey and organic green tea – the first of its kind in Australia.
“It was just one of those things that we were playing around with in the kitchen and developing for our own interest. It naturally developed and it got to a point where we could see there was a market for it overseas. We saw a niche opening for it in the Australian market and we decided to go all in and give it a crack and see where we can take it.”
On a mission is to create a Jun Kombucha that is traditionally crafted, retaining its integrity and live cultures, Botanical Brew has gone from strength to strength over the years, producing the fermented tea product as an alternative to beer, cider and wine.
Driven with a focus on quality, nature and sustainability, they not only create naturally alcoholic jun in several different flavours but also a non-alcoholic Jun concentrate with their ‘Shrub’.
“This is a more sustainable non-alcoholic Jun ‘kombucha’ alternative, which is up 40 times less wasteful. With the concentrate, you can use it as a morning tonic, add it to different cocktails or mocktails, and even use it for salad dressings, so there are both food and beverage opportunities which makes it quite an exciting product.”
While the family found great success over the years, Botanical Brew wasn’t immune to the effects of COVID, with their main wholesale market located in Melbourne. With the realisation any return to normal could be (and was) months off, the family were inspired to take their dreams to the next level and began to work on the opening of their first concept store. And so, FUNK was born.
“Funk is a play on what we do, funk is fermented, funky things are going on with all the different ferments and that’s what we’re really trying to push, educate and expose people to,” Rainer says.
After more than a year in the works, FUNK opened its doors in June and has witnessed an outpouring of locals offering their support since day one.
Within the intimate brick retail space, you’ll find all Botanical Brew’s fermented drinks such as jun, shrubs and sauerkraut, as well as an abundance of ferment-focused food like sandwiches, baked fig jam doughnuts, barbecued sausages with housemade sauerkraut, and soup with 30-hour-fermented ciabatta bread.
A sleek Kees van der Westen coffee machine produces some of the best coffee in Geelong West, made from Kazbah Coffee Roasters from Birregurra, while delicious homemade treats sit on display.
Alongside all the funky goodness, the fridges and shelves are fully stocked with local wines, hot sauces, takeaway soups, Schultz organic dairy, cheeses, preserves, olives, chilli oils, seasonings and marinades, granola, pickles and vinaigrettes from several brilliant local producers in the region.
Out the back of the homey corner café, you’ll find a carefully cared for garden with a comprehensive vegetable patch and orchard, providing the perfect scenery for a coffee in the sun with your pooch (yes, they’re dog-friendly!). While the garden is beautiful to look at, dishes produced at the café are most used from produce in their garden, further highlighting the family’s commitment to quality, nature and sustainability practices.
Geelong West turned out to be the perfect place to launch a business dedicated to celebrating fermentation and celebrating quality, local ingredients. While the store is currently trading as a café and retail space, the family aims to eventually introduce fermenting masterclasses in sourdough, vegetables and kombucha.
“We also want to get other makers to run some small events: breweries, wineries and cheesemakers to use our space to run some small classes. There are lots in the pipeline and lots that we can explore and trial and see where things go,” Rainer adds.
“We’ve got lots planned and lots that we’re excited to share with people. It will be an interesting and enjoyable journey.”
Funk by Botanical Brew is located at 152 Shannon Avenue, Geelong West. It is open Wed-Sun 7.30am-5pm.