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In 2002, Laurence Kain’s parents moved to China for 12 months, leaving 18-year-old Laurence and older brother Dominic alone in the family’s home in O’Connor.
Two teenage boys, a four bedroom house, no parents. You can imagine what came next.
“And you’d be right,” Laurence laughs.
“But what it taught me was twofold: that I loved hosting parties, and that I was actually really really good at it.”
After a stint overseas in London – working for a global hospitality group – Laurence returned to Canberra and went back to partying. But this time he invited the entire city.
It was a huge risk, but Laurence felt a deep connection to, and understanding of, the way Canberra wanted to “let loose”.
Through his own promotion company, Kicks Entertainment, Laurence launched Canberra’s first very own dance music festival – Foreshore – which saw 8,000 people flock to the edge of Lake Burley Griffin, stomping to dance music and clutching bottled Smirnoff Ice.
“Those early days were crazy,” Laurence recalls.
“By year two we’d passed the 12,000 mark and by 2011 – at its peak – we had 24,000 people at Foreshore.
“We knew the young people of Canberra were hungry for it, for their own city to have a stronger pulse and to host the kind of events that said, ‘you think we don’t know how to party here? Watch this.
By 2012, Laurence was keen to downsize festivities to a more intimate setting.
Alongside long time business partner Tom Hertel, he designed an upstairs-downstairs venue in Garema Place: with craft beer mecca Honky Tonks on the ground floor and cocktail lounge Hippo Bar upstairs. Both venues were packed most nights. The weekends saw crowds spill out into Civic’s Garema Place, sipping on independent-label brews in summer and hot cider under heaters in winter.
“At Honky Tonks we were really the first bar doing a selection of craft beers. It was a really new thing for that time.”
Wearing a hole in the Hume Highway between Canberra and Sydney, gathering craft beer to take back to Honky Tonks for sale, Laurence started to feel “at home” with the people, the creativity and the vision of independent breweries like Young Henry’s and Grifter.
It became overwhelming. He wanted to build a business that combined his passion for hospitality, quality beer and the place he called home.
Capital Brewing Co. was born in 2016, the capital’s second home-grown brewery along with the Braddon-based Bentspoke. Capital was, of course, named after its fair home, and immediately embraced and loved by Canberrans.
Nowadays, its brews are shipped to Sydney and right across NSW.
For Laurence, it was a move from delivering experiences to delivering products, though in reality, Capital Brewing Co. provides both. He’s proud of the brewery and loves nothing more than sipping on the fruits of his 80-strong workforce’s labours, but Laurence’s life isn’t all cheers-ing, fairy lights and live bands.
He thrives on the quiet hours of a weekday morning, riding his mountain bike from home in Hackett, along the base of Mount Ainslie, through Campbell to the Capital headquarters at Dairy Road, Fyshwick.
He’s always loved nature: climbing Booroomba Rocks in Canberra’s south and biking through the pines at the Cotter. It’s partly why Capital was the first brewery in Australia to achieve B Corp certification and Climate Active carbon neutral certification.
“Social responsibility, sustainability, our environmental impact … they’re always a work in progress for us.
“Like improving your performance in any area of business or in your life – nothing’s ever finished.”