A word with Heaps Normal’s Head of Brand – Peter Brennan

9 August, 2022
A word with Heaps Normal’s Head of Brand – Peter Brennan | News | Pause Awards
Nikita Lamba, writer contributor
Nikita Lamba
9 August, 2022

By now you must be well versed with our community of champions and our commitment towards them. So in the lead up to this year’s edition of Pause Awards, we thought of catching up with some of our 2021 winners who make up this community.

And who better to kick things off with than the team over at Heaps Normal!

Having bagged three trophies at Pause Awards ceremony last year, the non-alcoholic beer venture has taken Australia by storm. Their campaigns hit the spot, their personality is real, and their purpose is simple. Which is why it’s no surprise that they’ve made it to Australian’s Top 100 Innovators list too!

Driven by his mission to bring about positive change in drinking culture, Heaps Normal’s Co-founder and Head of Brand, Peter Brennan, sat down with us to chat about the company’s journey, the driving forces behind their growth, and what winning the Pause Awards (and winning multiple, that too) has done for the team.

Check out excerpts from our conversation below:

Do you remember the moment that led to the inception of your business?

There were 2 reasons for wanting to start Heaps Normal. Firstly, I run a branding and design studio called Electric And Analog. After 3 years of running the studio, I had a bit of imposter syndrome and wondered if we could create a brand of our own, without a client telling us what to do. Secondly, my dad was an abusive alcoholic. I lost him to suicide when I was 11 years old, and had always wanted to do something in the non-alcoholic space. These two collided and Heaps Normal was born.

And was there a specific moment in time when you realised that what you were building was potentially game-changing?

I approached 3 breweries with the idea of a non-alcoholic beer. Each one of them politely laughed me out of the room. But I just knew this was going to become something. The first batch of beer that we brewed went into blank silver cans. My wife and our daughter and I put Heaps Normal stickers on them by hand, and we drove around Sydney dropping them off at restaurants, bars and pubs. We had some well-known publicans and sommeliers taste the samples. At first, they called it out as a 4 – 5 % beer. When we told them it was non-alcoholic their jaws hit the floor. For me, that was the moment when we knew we were on to something.

What would you say was the one big factor that helped you grow your business?

Getting accepted into Startmate, the accelerator programme run by Blackbird Ventures was it. We learnt from some of the most incredible mentors in Australia, some of whom are now investors in Heaps Normal.

What would you say is your North Star for your company?

Our mission is to change drinking culture. That’s our North Star.

On a more personal level, what does success look like to you?

Being happy. If you can wake up happy every morning, and genuinely love what you do everyday, you’ve won.

What gets you excited to work on your business, day in and day out?

The fact that we’re making a product that is genuinely changing peoples’ lives. We get messages almost daily from people who have tried our non-alcoholic beers and it has changed their outlook on drinking. We’ve had people message us saying things like their husband/wife was a really angry person after a few drinks, but now drinks Heaps Normal and is happier, and a better husband/wife/father/mother/brother/sister. These are the kinds of stories that get me out of bed in the morning.

How has the local/global ecosystem contributed to your growth and scaling? Anyone in particular?

I think the global wellness movement has definitely helped us. People are a lot more conscious about what they consume these days. Also, statistically, people are cutting down on their alcohol intake and being more aware about what they put into their bodies.

If you could go back in time and fix one mistake or misstep that you took, what would it be?

Getting started earlier.

And finally, how do you think winning Pause Awards impacted you and your business?

Winning Pause Awards has given us much recognition in a really competitive space. We’re so thrilled with the awards we received and are so grateful for the opportunity to put Heaps Normal on a pedestal.

To learn more about Heaps Normal, check them out here.

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Category tracks

The Culture track seeks entries that exemplify the development of an inclusive and collaborative workplace culture, crucial for organisational success and growth. Submissions should illustrate transformative strategies implemented across core business functions, reflecting expertise, leadership, and a clear vision. These strategies should demonstrate a positive impact on the business, its employees, stakeholders, and customers, showcasing how a nurturing culture contributes to overall growth and innovation.

The Excellence track celebrates businesses that have demonstrated remarkable success and impact within their industry, regardless of their size. Entries for this category should illustrate how the business's strategic execution, guided by visionary leadership and exceptional expertise, has significantly influenced the industry. The focus will be on the tangible outcomes of these strategies, highlighting the company's ability to innovate, lead, and leave a lasting impression in its field.

The Good track is focused on recognising companies dedicated to their mission of creating a positive societal impact. Entries should highlight innovative solutions aimed at addressing global challenges such as environmental sustainability, social equity, and community well-being. Successful submissions will demonstrate how their initiatives contribute to significant changes, tackling issues like gender inequality, social imbalance, and injustice, thereby setting a precedent for responsible and impactful business practices.

Awarded to a single entry in a category, Grand Prix is the top accolade in that category. To win the Grand Prix, the entire Judging Board must unanimously agree that the entry deserves the accolade of being the best in that category.

The Growth track is about showcasing how businesses have enhanced productivity and execution to make a significant impact in their market. Entries should highlight innovative strategies that have optimised the customer journey, leading to increased engagement and commercial success. This track is for those who have effectively used their understanding of the market and customer needs to scale their business and achieve notable growth.

The Operators track seeks entries that showcase leadership in fostering innovation within their ecosystems. Ideal submissions will highlight how your initiatives have catalysed the creation of new products or services, bolstered by a culture that uplifts internal teams and the wider community. This track celebrates those who drive progress by empowering voices and forging transformative connections in their industry.


  • Always Evolving New

    Acknowledges a culture of continuous learning and improvement within a company, encourages employee development, and always looks for ways to optimise and innovate operations.

  • Big & Mighty Culture New

    Recognises companies (51-1000 employees) for their exceptional efforts in cultivating a culture that champions innovation.

  • Diverse Co.

    Celebrates workplaces dedicated to fostering innovation through a vibrant tapestry of diverse talents and perspectives.

  • Small & Mighty Culture New

    Applauds small teams of fewer than 50 employees for their remarkable ability to foster innovation and set new benchmarks in their domain.

  • Work Sweet Work

    Acknowledges companies that have achieved extraordinary employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention, creating an exemplary workplace culture.

  • Company of the Year

    Honours an outstanding company that not only showcases exemplary leadership and resilience but also demonstrates a clear, quantifiable impact over the past year.

  • Customer Obsessed New

    Applauds prioritisation, understanding and meeting the needs and expectations of their customers, including feedback, personalised services and ensuring high satisfaction.

  • Defiant Ones

    Recognises firms that lead technological innovation, setting new standards and defining the future of their industries.

  • Hammer

    Celebrates companies that have not only defined success on their own terms but have also concretely demonstrated their triumphs over the past year.

  • I Wish I'd Done That

    Applauds ingenious, simple solutions in niche markets that spark a universal sentiment of admiration.

  • On the Rise

    Celebrates early-stage startups, under 4 years, that have shown remarkable progress and success in their initial years.

  • Prodigy

    Recognises young visionaries under 30 with outstanding talents and achievements, setting them apart in their fields.

  • Singularity

    Highlights AI-driven companies that are pioneering new services or integrating AI to create innovative products.

  • Women in Business

    Celebrates female entrepreneurs and leaders who are forging paths for future generations by creating more equitable opportunities.

  • B-Good

    Recognises businesses that redefine commercial success by positively transforming our economic system for the benefit of all stakeholders.

  • Circular Pioneer

    Celebrates companies at the forefront of circular economy practices, making substantial and sustainable differences.

  • Ethical Leadership New

    Commends companies exemplifying leadership in environmental and social governance, setting standards in corporate responsibility and ethical practices.

  • Going Green

    Acknowledges companies leading large-scale sustainable initiatives, addressing critical areas like clean energy and environmental justice.

  • Collab New

    Honours strategic partnerships and alliances with other businesses to leverage complementary strengths, access new markets, and share resources for synergistic growth and innovation.

  • Design First

    Celebrates companies where design is the heartbeat of innovation, engaging the whole team in crafting groundbreaking products.

  • Going Global New

    Applauds companies that have expanded their reach globally, showcasing exceptional growth and international success.

  • Great Pivot

    Acknowledges companies that adeptly navigate change, leveraging insights to pivot towards delivering outstanding products.

  • Movement

    Recognises unforgettable event experiences that resonate emotionally, drive social change, or achieve viral status.

  • New Model

    Honours businesses revolutionising markets with elegant and disruptive business models.

  • Next Level New

    Applauds companies which had successful strategic acquisition and integration of another entity, staff or an asset that allowed them to further grow and scale their services.

  • Wildfire

    Celebrates companies that have rapidly and significantly impacted their marketplace, online and offline, setting new standards for success.

  • Angel

    Honours visionary angel investors who've significantly contributed to early-stage startups, guiding them toward success.

  • C-Suite

    Recognises exceptional leadership qualities in high-ranking executives, showcasing their management and interpersonal excellence.

  • Creative Maverick New

    Honours unconventional thinkers with exceptional abilities to execute typically unimaginable initiatives, expertly coordinate teams, secure funding or successfully launch multiple ventures.

  • Ecosystem Star

    Celebrates individuals who energise and nurture their communities, fostering engagement and advocacy.

  • Future Builder

    Recognises the determination and resilience of founders who've embarked on the challenging journey of starting their own ventures.

  • Quiet Achiever New

    Applauds the unsung heroes whose behind-the-scenes efforts have led to flawless project executions and exceeded expectations.

  • Splash Down Under New

    Acknowledges international companies making a noteworthy entrance into the Australian market, enriching the local business ecosystem.

  • TopCoder

    Recognises developers for their outstanding technical skills, clean code, and collaborative spirit.

  • Venture Cap

    Salutes venture capital firms with a track record of backing transformative businesses, contributing significantly to Australia's economic growth.

  • Visionary New

    Recognises effective leadership by setting a clear vision, motivating the team, and making strategic decisions that guide their business towards its goals.

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