Friday, June 21, 2024

Bundaberg brewer raises glass to King’s Birthday honour

Bundaberg Brewed Drinks Founder, Cliff Fleming, has been awarded one of the nation’s highest honours for services to the regional town he helped introduce to the world.

The Master Brewer was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in The King’s Birthday 2024 Honours List for significant service to business and to the community of Bundaberg.

The award is an unexpected accolade for the 81-year-old, who bought a struggling brewery in 1968 and has built it into one of Australia’s most-loved brands that exports to more than 60 countries and is home to the iconic Bundaberg Ginger Beer.

“I’ve always believed in following my dreams, but I could never have dreamed that one day I’d receive such a prestigious honour,” said Mr Fleming, who continues as a director on the company’s Board.

“It’s incredibly humbling to look through the list of recipients and see the names of so many amazing and talented people, while I’m just a bloke from Bundaberg who decided to have a crack at brewing the best soft drinks I could.”

Mr Fleming moved to Bundaberg in 1968 when he purchased what was then called Electra Breweries with his parents and wife, Lee.

With no prior brewing experience, he worked tirelessly to grow the business and walked a financial tightrope for many years.

His persistence paid off though, with Bundaberg Brewed Drinks – as it was rebranded in 1995 – now employing more than 250 people and in its fourth generation of family involvement.

Bundaberg Brewed Drinks Cliff Fleming
Bundaberg Brewed Drinks founder and master brewer Cliff Fleming.

Mr Fleming said receiving the AM was particularly special as the citation recognised his love for the community of Bundaberg.

“Bundaberg was the perfect place to pursue our dream,” he said.

“There were so many hard times in those early years, days when I wondered if we were going to survive, but so many locals were prepared to lend a hand and support our business.”

Such generosity has flowed both ways, with Mr Fleming having been a passionate supporter of countless community organisations and individuals across the Bundaberg region including:

• Bundaberg East Rotary Club member since 1977 – including serving as President, Secretary and Treasurer and being recognised as a Paul Harris Fellow in 1991, a Service Above Self Award and the highest individual honour a Rotarian can receive
• Former Board Chairman of Don Pancho, a timeshare resort that draws hundreds of visitors to Bundaberg each year
• Former Board member of Bundaberg Tourism
• Former Board member of Independent Recyclers (Bundaberg)
• Former Board member of Independence Incorporated, a Bundaberg disability care provider
• Former Board member of IMPACT, a community services centre for the underprivileged
• Former Board member of Bundaberg Air Show

“Cliff is a renegade entrepreneur whose journey to success is one of true Aussie grit and defined by his love affair with the town his business shares their name with,” said Bundaberg local Phil Ainsworth, who supported Mr Fleming’s nomination for the AM.

“His success has been Bundaberg’s, having financed many charities, businesses and projects and provided guidance on various boards that have made Bundaberg the town it is today.

“He has also done so without chasing glory or recognition. Doing good is enough for him.”

Mr Fleming said his local community was the secret to Bundaberg Brewed Drinks’ success.

“We knew we had a product that people loved but where we are today is largely due to the countless people who were happy to help me along the way,” he said.

“The region has given me far more than I could ever give it and I’m so proud that we continue to call Bundaberg home.”

That will remain the case for decades to come after Bundaberg Brewed Drinks unveiled its multi-million-dollar Master Brewery at Kay McDuff Drive in Bundaberg’s south last year.

The 22,000sq m facility is more than triple the footprint of the company’s previous brewery and has been designed to enable future expansion without impacting operations.

“One of my greatest thrills is when I bump into locals who can’t wait to tell me they’ve seen our Brews on their overseas travels,” Mr Fleming said.

“They take such pride in seeing the Bundaberg name in stores across Europe, Asia and the Americas but nothing can match the pride I have in representing our wonderful community.”

Bundaberg Brewed Drinks
The Bundaberg Brewed Drinks Barrel.

This article first appeared on Bundaberg Now.

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