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Crafty Pint

Your Guide to Australian Craft Beer / Thursday 24 July 2014

Moving Home

Crafty Pint / 01.07.14

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The Australian National Homebrewing Conference is on the move. As the fourth conference approaches, the baton has been passed from the organising team in Melbourne to a crew in Canberra, who will take ANHC outside Victoria for the first time. Australia’s biggest gathering of home brewers and brewing experts will come together in the capital from October 16 to 19, with the main days of the conference on October 17 and 18. Tickets are on sale from today.

Past favourites return, such as the popular Club Night, the Gala Awards and Pairing Dinner (featuring more beers than ever before) and heaps of talks and seminars. There will also be a “Magical Mystery Tour” of Canberra beer venues on the Thursday before the festival kicks off, with judging for the Australian Amateur Brewing Championships also taking place on October 16.

Once again, the organisers have attracted some big names from the world of brewing, not least in securing Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River, creator of some of the best, most sought after and genuinely innovative beers in the world. John Keeling from London’s Fullers is also flying in, while mead makes a first appearance on the program with Michael Fairbrother of Moonlight Meadery (USA) coming to Canberra. The world’s most popular beer podcast, Brewing Network, is sending one of its hosts, Nathan Smith, over, while master of yeast, Chris White of White Labs, will be presenting too.

The international guests are joined by homegrown talent, including Hendo from BrewCult and Brendan Varis from Feral, with CUB’s Tina Panoutsos bringing her sensory masterclass back to the conference.

“It is extremely rewarding to see the baby we brought to life continue on in its fourth incarnation,” says ANHC co-founder Andy Davison. “At the end of the day we work hard for 18 months to deliver a great experience to brewers across the country, and seeing everyone having a great time and learning at he same time is the reward we cherish.

“The conference was born when John Preston, owner of Grain & Grape, brought four of us together at a VicBrew meeting in Melbourne in 2007. Back then we knew that we wanted to bring together brewers across the nation, not just in Victoria. So the idea of moving around the country was initially floated, but put on the back burner because we were struggling just to keep our heads afloat running the 2008 event.

“We started thinking about how to move it in 2010, but is took us a couple of years to get to the point where we felt the conference was mature enough to let it loose on the rest of the county. So now in 2014 we’re really happy to see the conference take its first steps outside of Victoria, into the very capable hands of the enthusiastic committee in Canberra.”

One member of that enthusiastic committee is Kevin Hingston, who told us: “[Fellow organisers] Billy, Charles, and I attended ANHC Three in 2012 and had an absolute ball. We learnt a bunch, drunk a bunch, and made a heap of friends.”

As such, when they caught wind that there was a chance the conference could hit the road and the preference was to keep it on the East Coast, they grabbed it with both hands.

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Some of the stars of ANHC 4. From top left clockwise – Peter Aldred of Ballarat University, Hendo, Caleb Defrees of Gladfield Malt, Brendan Varis

“The move has been a baptism of fire for the Canberra team. We started work about 12 months ago and really ramped up after the Nationals last October. Getting the program down pat and tickets on sale has been a big milestone for us, but things are just hotting up for getting the conference off the ground.

“ANHC is an amazingly fun event, but it’s also hugely educational. The exposure to styles, techniques, and ideas is second to none in this country. Whether you’re a serious all grainer, or a K&K [kit and kilo] brewer just starting out, you will learn more in the two days of ANHC than you will in the two years you spend waiting for the next one.”

They are introducing a few ANHC firsts that include broadening the invite to the worlds of mead and cider, with local cidermakers David Pickering and Garry Watkins-Sully appearing. At the Gala Dinner, they will be pairing two different beers with both the main and dessert courses, taking the total beer list for the dinner up to six.

“We’re working with one of Canberra’s key cultural institutions to provide a completely new take on the Gala Dinner entertainment – details are still under wraps,” he says.

The conference is being held at University House, a classic building on the grounds of the ANU. Tickets are available in a number of formats, from the full package that includes conference, Gala Dinner and Club Night, for $390 to tickets that allow guests to choose which elements they would like to attend.

As for the elements he is most looking forward to, Kevin says: “Vinnie Cilurzo is definitely a huge drawcard. He’s an expert on renaissance brewing techniques like sours and barrels, as well as the classic holy grail of the perfect IPA. He’s also bringing some amazing beers with him that you just cant get in this country.

“We’ve also got the Brewing Network coming out. They have a huge following here in Australia – our Facebook page went off the charts when we announced their involvement.

“In terms of education, Tina Panoutsos' sensory session is sure to be a hit again, giving people a scientific understanding of their flavour and aroma thresholds to help improve their judging.”

Anyone interested in attending can find everything they need to know on the ANHC 4 website, including speaker profiles, the full conference program, details on accommodation partners and, of course, ticket sales. You can also sign up to the festival’s mailing list, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

As for what the future might hold, Andy says: “We certainly hope to continue moving the conference around the country, but only where and when it makes sense. At the end of the day, although no one wants to, you need to look at the conference as a business to make sure it keeps running. So if we had someone approach us with a plan that shows that people will come and the event can be run successfully we will definitely consider it.

“I’d personally love to see it head over west to Perth, or perhaps even find its way over to our cousins in New Zealand.”

Photo at top shows Chris Badenoch presenting at ANHC Three in Melbourne in 2012. Photo by Joel Larson.


Stone Cold Certainties

Crafty Pint / 30.06.14

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As an independent craft brewer, it’s fair to say that when you own a grain silo you’ve made it. So, when you’ve got two grain silos, well… Such is the situation these days for Stone & Wood, the New South Wales brewery that has been playing a game of catch up with demand since putting the first beer through its new facility in Murwillumbah a few weeks ago. That first beer was Pacific Ale, the most stunning success story of the last decade in the Australian beer world and, for the foreseeable future at least, the only beer that will be filling the 250,000 litres worth of tank space at the $4m facility.

It’s not just a case of two grain silos, either, as they now have two breweries. Their original site in Byron Bay is still operational – and looking rather more like it used to before Australian’s insatiable desire for their beer forced founders Brad Rogers, Jamie Cook and Ross Jurisich into a state of almost constant expansion. The old haunt is now responsible for producing Lager, Jasper, Stone Beer, Garden Ale and any other limited release beers they choose to brew, such as those from side project The Mash Collective, which drinkers are likely to see more of now that the new facility is online. It will also remain the venue for semi-regular events.

“It’s a nirvana site,” says head brewer Brad of their new home in Murwillumbah. They had first laid eyes on – and fallen in love with – it in 2011 but dismissed it as beyond their wildest dreams. When it became blatantly apparent that they would never cope at Byron Bay, they returned and took possession last year. “It’s a perfect building for us,” he says.

According to Jamie, with tongue somewhat in cheek, when it came to filling the space it was simply a case of taking the scrap of paper they’d drawn the original brewery on and making it bigger. And while that is true to an extent, in that there is the same physical flow from utilities through brewhouse (the same make as before but twice the size), tanks and packaging, it’s also a considerable step up. The extra space has allowed them to plan wisely, with plenty of room to manoeuvre around the steel towers that rise like a mini-CBD between brewhouse, complete with steepling hot and cold liquor tanks (“A giant phallic symbol,” jokes Ross), and a packaging line that can push through 10,000 bottles an hour and features a high end German filler that has been attracting inquisitive owners from other larger craft brewers like moths to a bulb.

It’s an impressive setup because it has to be. Despite huge shortages of Pacific Ale across the country, Brad, Jamie and Ross chose not to bridge the gap via contract brewing. While many other Australian breweries have managed their growing pains by paying others to brew their beer, it was never a consideration for Stone & Wood. Instead it was a case of keeping their independent customers as happy as possible and cranking out as much beer as possible, 24 hours a day, through Byron Bay; then, once the new place was ready, the fermenters were transported the short drive to Murwillumbah and were being filled within 24 hours.

“It’s been very difficult,” admits Brad of the time spent repeatedly telling retailers and in turn drinkers that, sorry, we got no beer. “It’s been difficult across the business, not just the brewers but the guys on the road and in the office. We don’t want to go through that again.”

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Their celebratory beer: Cloud Catcher

With the Murwillumbah brewery fully operational, The Crafty Pint was invited on a whistle-stop tour alongside a handful of other drinks journos. A former Bunnings trade warehouse site, it sits under the gaze of Mt Warning, which lends its name to the beer they’re releasing to commemorate its opening. Cloud Catcher is a single batch (unless it proves hugely popular), all-Aussie affair brewed in Byron Bay with Galaxy and Ella hops and rather delicious to boot.

“It’s a celebration of where the business is – not just opening the brewery,” says Brad.

Where the business is, especially with Pacific Ale tasting great at the new site, is at the start of a new era, ready to take another leap forward, to put craft beer into more new hands, and possessed of a seemingly irresistible force. In fact, such has been its incredible growth despite the owners frequently taking tough decisions, such as buying back the 20 per cent share that had been owned by Little World Beverages (owners of Little Creatures and White Rabbit) once that was taken over by Lion, it’s easy to forget how young the business is.

It feels like Stone & Wood has always been there, that its rise was inevitable, what with its founders' skills and past experience – including many years spent within the craft arm of CUB – combined with an easy charm, a sense of community and, not least, a beer that has made incredible inroads into the mainstream while remaining loved and respected by beer geeks. Yet it wasn’t always thus.

During the tour, the three reminisce over the early days, when they would share tiny digs and pound the streets trying to sell beer. Brad would have a batch of kegs ready to go and would call Ross to see how the sales were going.

“I only sold one keg,” Ross would tell him.

“Just one today?”

“No. One all week.”

2008: one keg. 2014: two silos. Little wonder they’re celebrating.


Mismatch Makers

Crafty Pint / 25.06.14

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At the start of last summer, the first beers went through the system at Big Shed Brewing. But not all of them were brewed by Big Shed’s founders Jason Harris and Craig Basford. The pair had always planned to set up their Adelaide venture as something of a communal brewery, one where use of the brewhouse and fermenter space was available for other brewers to hire. The idea was to offer startup brewing companies the chance to brew their own beer on a commercial scale without having to invest in their own brewery, while also helping them cover their own setup costs.

It’s an approach that is growing in popularity in Australia – just look at how many brewing companies are taking up residence and brewing at all times of the day and night at Melbourne’s Cavalier, for example. At Big Shed, the first to step up and take advantage of the opportunity was the team behind Mismatch Brewing, a group of experienced hospitality and drinks industry mates who have now knocked out close to a dozen brews on Jason and Craig’s system.

Their brewer, Ewan Brewerton (pictured above), who arrived at Mismatch Brewing via McLaren Vale, Little Creatures and a stint studying brewing in Edinburgh, got chatting to the pair before Big Shed was even a reality and saw in it a chance to make his desire to form a beer brand a reality. Thus, after having a first batch of his first release, Archie’s Red Ale, brewed and packaged at BrewPack in NSW, he has taken control of all subsequent (and, to date, draught only) brews himself.

“It’s working really well,“ says fellow Mismatcher Toby Kline, who runs Adelaide’s Lion Hotel and is part of the team behind the Hills Cider Company, based in the Adelaide Hills. "The Big Shed Brewing guys have been very good with us and we’ve been very good with them.

“It’s still early days and we’re still learning about each other; still learning how to maximise efficiency in the brewery, how to make better day every time we brew.”

Alongside Toby and Ewan are three others from the beverage and hospitality industry. Or, as Toby puts it: “Everyone that works with us knows and loves food and booze.

“Some of us run other beverage companies and have always been beer lovers. An opportunity came up when discussing with Ewan his desire to branch out and build a beer brand. A few of us decided that would be a great idea – as happens when beers are involved. Some of the beers that he showed us with some of the most balanced beers that we had seen in a long time, so the whole thing really started from those conversations.

“We got really excited with his trial batches to not just have a craft offering but one that exhibits real balance and something a little different. You can get products – wine, beer, cider – that lack fundamental balance between hops and malt or acid and sugar.

“I’d always investigated the opportunity to branch out into the beer industry. I’m not a brewer so I can talk about beer or drink it till I’m blue in the face but I can’t make it. When Ewan started talking it just made sense."

For now, pretty much every drop of Mismatch beer has been sold and consumed in SA. They’re on to their fifth batches of both Archie’s Red Ale and a golden Session Ale at Big Shed, both of which are being increasingly dry-hopped over time, and are about to release the first a Dark Ale.

As for why they chose to “buy into” Big Shed rather than continue having their beer brewed under contract, there were no political considerations, no thoughts of “Contract brewing isn’t the way to go”.

“One of the things that we have always been about is being open and honest,“ says Toby. “We are not people that see contract brewing as the devil. Contract brewing is fine as long as you’re honest. Communal [brewing] is fine as long as you’re honest. Having your own brewery is fine as long as you are honest about it. It’s about the quality of the beer and being totally transparent.”

His words are refreshing and hint at the case of the misleading packaging for Byron Bay Pale Lager last year, which led to fines and reprimands for CUB earlier this year. While many were quick to jump on the Byron Bay case as an example of bad practice by one of the major brewing companies, there are smaller businesses making false claims about their beers' provenance on packaging too.

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The Big Shed setup

“People get their noses out of joint,” says Toby of misleading labelling. “There will be resentment if people don’t get all the facts.

“We’re just straight up front as consumers deserve that. We put on every keg tag and every bottle label what ingredients, IBUs, the EBC [colour of the beer] and so on are, just to be exactly clear. It’s something with Australian labelling laws that has been lost.”

While he and his partners take their first steps in the craft beer world as Mismatch, Toby will be hoping for similar success to that enjoyed by his cider business. Formed in 2010, it continues to grow as, he reckons, does the interest in and knowledge of craft ciders.

“Everything [for Hills Cider] is sourced from the Adelaide Hills. We get fresh apples and have full control from paddock to pint – one of the few cider companies in Australia who can decide if our fruit is good enough to go into our cider; the majority are using Chinese concentrate. It’s just been another fun odyssey, making well-balanced booze with soul.

“The cider boom has been going for three years and we’ve been going four so are one of the old people on the block. The growth in the market compared to craft beer or wine is much quicker. It’s happening more rapidly than in other drink sections before. Everyone has an iPhone or an iPad so can find out about what they’re drinking. "

Expansion for Mismatch is on the cards too. For now, all of the beer is sold around Adelaide but there are plans to head into Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and WA in the coming months. Beyond that, all being well, a time will come when it will be time to bid their hosts farewell and set up a brewery of their own.

For more on Mismatch and their beers, check out their website.


Crafting A Win

Nick O / 24.06.14

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Several of Sydney’s craftiest venues were among the big winners at last night’s Time Out Sydney Pub Awards. It wasn’t too long ago that beer lovers were bemoaning the lack of quality beer outlets in the city but how fast the tide is turning. And proving just how fast the tide can turn, a couple of the big winners at the awards night at The Glenmore in The Rocks have been serving craft beer for little more than a year – if that.

The main award on the night – Pub of the Year – went to The Welcome Hotel in Rozelle (pictured above), which up until the middle of last year was just another run-of-the-mill pub but today has 14 taps serving craft beer and a kitchen creating such good food that its owners also went home with the coveted Best Pub Food title. (You’ll be able to read all about the venue when a listing for the pub is added to the site this week)

Best Beer List went to another newcomer to the world of craft. The Quarryman’s Hotel in Pyrmont took the title just a few months after opening its doors following a major renovation of the old venue. That the venue has been transformed by one of the city’s major pub groups – The Laundy Group – not previously known for craft beer but which has not so much dipped its toes into craftier waters at the Quarryman’s but dived in headfirst is a great sign for things to come. Runner up in that category was the Royal Albert Hotel, which has recently expanded its tap lineup too.

It was a pub awards that was as much about the publicans as it was the pubs: the people that become so synonymous with a venue that it’s a bit of a disappointment when you turn up on their day off. Publican of the Year went to Ray Reilly of The Henson, with Dan Ryan of the Dove & Olive runner up.

The Henson also picked up the Family-Friendly Award. As well as being a great supporter of the local community and local breweries since coming under new ownership, the Marrickville venue has replaced its pokies with a video arcade, converted an old garage into a kids play area and now hums to the sound of young families.

Meanwhile, the Revival Award went to Minskys Hotel, the Legend Award to Green Park Hotel and People’s Choice to Balmain Hotel. The Vic on the Park took out the Best Entertainment category and continues to dabble in craft beer with increasing frequency. Their events range in diversity from craft beer festivals (including hosting the opening party of Sydney Craft Beer Week), to roller hockey and a raucous New Year’s concert from You Am I.

It’s worth noting that these aren’t craft beer awards, however, so the choices of the judges make it an interesting measure of how some of the city’s specialist venues are stacking up against the rest. Pleasingly, they’re doing rather well. It seems to be in keeping with a growing trend; the most recent list of Melbourne’s 25 Best Pubs in the Herald Sun had Good Beer Week Festival Hub The Terminus in the top spot with many other craft beer specialist venues also in the list. In fact, one of the most notable things about that list was that it is practically impossible – in Melbourne at least – to be regarded as a decent pub without having at least a smattering of quality beer on your tap list.

The inaugural Time Out Melbourne Pub Awards take place next month, with a venue to be confirmed soon. Again the odds look good for some crafty winners. But for now, congratulations to all of the Sydney winners – here’s hoping the success enjoyed by those who took the gamble of switching to craft encourages many more to follow suit.

Vive la Revolution!

You can vote for the People’s Choice Award for the Melbourne Awards here.


Feathering Their Nest

Crafty Pint / 20.06.14

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The departure lounge at LAX airport in Los Angeles may not seem the most likely setting for the birthplace of an Australian brewery, but it was while awaiting a flight back from last year’s Craft Brewers Conference in the US that the seeds were sown for Two Birds Brewing’s “Nest”. Brewery co-founder Jayne Lewis' husband was filling his time scanning property websites in Australia when an industrial unit in Melbourne’s west caught his eye. A little over 12 months later and that unit is now home to one of Australia’s newest and shiniest breweries and will soon open the doors of its brewery bar to the public.

They were opened temporarily during Good Beer Week for Two Birds' Brewer’s Blend, at which point it was very much a work in progress. Today, the six taps are in place and pouring, all the walls that had to be removed have been removed and those that needed to be erected have been erected, the kitchen is almost ready to go and the fermenters are full of beer. Much of the work has been done by Jayne’s husband, Dr Louis Bucci, who has quit his career as a geologist to become the latest male bird in the team – and even has a part of the brewery named in his honour; as you enter the brewery itself, you cross Bucci’s Landing, so called as as it took him so long to build…

“The area is so ready,” says Jayne of Melbourne’s west. The brewery is located in Spotswood, close to the West Gate Bridge and only a few hundred metres from the excellent Junction Beer Hall that has been bringing great beer to the area for a couple of years now. “We are getting a lot of people coming through the door asking if we’re open yet.”

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The Nest

As a local – Lewis and Louis live just a few kilometres away – the intention from the earliest days of Two Birds, when it started out with beers brewed under contract (bottles and WA kegs will still come out of Gage Roads for now), was always to open a brewery in the area if possible.

“The brewery has become a pretty big focus for us, and the local area always was,” says Jayne.

The building that houses the brewery used to be home to Goetz & Sons, a toolmaker that, amongst its range, built tools for the manufacture of steel beer cans. Today, that business may have departed but one of the other new tenants is a business selling barbecues, suggesting that Two Birds have found a suitable spot to be brewing and selling beer.

The first brews went through the 18 hectolitre system last week, under the guidance of brewing legend Brian Watson, who has set up many breweries across Australia and New Zealand and today is part of Good George in Hamilton. He oversaw three brews on consecutive days and, according to Jayne, “it was, touch wood, so fuckin' easy!

“Even Brian was pretty chuffed with it all.”

The final piece in the jigsaw – other than the outstanding building work – is their licence to open as a venue. It’s imminent, with a date of July 3 pencilled in for the first public opening. When the opening does take place, not only will there be several of Jayne’s beers pouring (Golden, Sunset, Taco, Sesame Snap Chat and “one other special”) plus a guest tap, but there will be food designed by the chefs at Rockwell & Sons.

“There will be no fried chicken and no double patty smash. We’ve got a whole new lineup of things that [Rockwell head chef] Casey is doing here,” says Jayne, before adding while swooning: “The chilli dogs are sooooo good.”

“Given that we are in the western suburbs, it will be wonderful with the demographic here to show them that food with beer doesn’t have to just be a Parma,” says Louis.

As for future beer releases, the Two Birds mantra of “drinkable and balanced” will remain central to their ethos but there is also talk of some more “crazy and out there stuff”. The new beers will be concocted in partnership with Wilson Hede, who was snapped up to be Jayne’s assistant brewer from 3 Ravens, where he played a role in developing and tweaking some of the beers that helped the Thornbury brewery collect the Champion Small Australian Brewery title last month.

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Jayne and “rock star” assistant Wilson

“We have been chatting for ages,” says Jayne. “When he was still at Beer DeLuxe he wanted to get into brewing. We had a chat then about how he might get into the industry and then he went and did the things I suggested. It meant he was a natural choice when I was looking for a brewer.”

As for the emotions surrounding finally taking control of her own brewery after a career that has taken in the likes of Little Creatures, Mountain Goat and Matilda Bay, they are understandably high. Louis couldn’t be prouder, while it could be some months before the smile leaves Jayne’s face.

“It’s so, so good. Last week I couldn’t punch the smile off my face,” she says.

“I find myself walking around going, ‘I’m here, just making beer in my own brewery…’

“Tuesday was pretty great. Wednesday was pretty great. Thursday was pretty great,” she adds. “Then Friday was our third birthday.”

What’s not to like?

Two Birds' Nest is at 136 Hall Street, Spotswood. It opens to the public for the first time at 4pm on July 10.


Man About Town

Darren Magin / 18.06.14

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Like many beer enthusiasts before him, Gavin Croft’s appreciation for fine beer began with a familiar route: via cartons of Tooheys and Carlton. For Gavin, beer was and still is a fantastic reason to bring people together. He describes beer as an “equaliser” – a simple liquid that when shared and enjoyed “eliminates any pretentiousness”. Share a beer in Gavin’s company and you’re on level ground. It’s a sensible approach and one that has enabled him to keep his feet firmly on the ground since his rise from cracking open cold Carlton cans to launching Croft Brewing Co later this month in Brisbane.

Gavin describes his yearning to brew beer as akin to a small, inextinguishable fire burning deep inside from a young (but legal) age. He found himself continually trying different beers and recalls three notable instances.

“I remember when the James Squire range of beers was first released and thinking how novel it was to have easy access to beer with more flavour,” he says.

A chance meeting with Ian Watson (now Fortitude Brewing Co.) around the same time at Toowoomba’s Spotted Cow Cellars was a huge eye-opener. Ian introduced him to a wider spectrum of choice.

However, it was a European vacation circa 2007 that fuelled and eventually solidified Gavin’s flames of desire.

“Travelling around Europe trying beers that I’ve never seen or tasted before gave me more of a hunger to do things for myself,” he recalls. “Being part of beer festivals, drinking in large, historic beer halls and spending time in Abbeys was almost overwhelming.”

The inevitable foray into home brewing occurred a year later with a partial mash. Being ‘promoted’ to Assistant Home Brewer to Andrew Sydes (now Green Beacon Brewing Co) was another turning point. He reminisces about those early days sharing a house with Andrew and brewing all-grain beers.

“I learned a lot with Andrew. He taught me so much about all-grain that my own recipes started turning out really well.”

Yet another familiar face from Brisbane’s craft beer industry appears in Gavin’s past too.

“Johann Ulrich Van der Walt (now Green Beacon Brewing Co) helped me construct my kettle. He even loaned me a mash tun!”

After perfecting his home brews, Gavin studied for the Graduate Certificate of Brewing and notes that he never completed his undergraduate, with his application to the course initially rejected. Some begging, pleading and proving his worth to course director Peter Aldred followed and eventually he overturned the original decision.

Between the beginning of 2012 and the end of 2013 things escalated. Not only did he commence growing and cultivating his own hops but triumph in a home brew competition saw Gavin’s winning beer tapped at The Scratch Bar. The encouragement gained from watching patrons part with their cash to drink his beer was enough to provoke a job application to Bacchus Brewing, which proved successful. During his tenure at Bacchus Brewing, Gavin was exposed to an intimate education with a fun-loving team and almost every hop variety and malt type under the sun at his fingertips.

Two work experience trips were also tucked under his belt during this busy two-year period. Another visit to Germany enabled Gavin to spend some time with his beloved smoked beers at the famous Schlenkerla brewpub in Bamberg. However, an entire week spent at 4 Pines excited him immensely.

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Gavin in action

“Those guys were great. I got involved in every single aspect of production from opening sacks of grain to seeing bottles of beer leave on a truck. It was eye opening to say the least.”

Eight months then spent working behind the bar at The Scratch with “a collective of weirdly wonderful, expressive people” saw Gavin gain an insight into how an excellent bar operates as well as an appreciation for what customers really want. Since the inception of The Scratch’s weekend Alementary classes, Gavin has appeared on a number of occasions as a guest speaker as well as attributing his voice and knowledge to speaking arrangements with the Ministry of Handmade – a local group dedicated to all things craft… not just beer.

With such an illustrious recent past, Gavin Croft is cherishing the present, as he explains: “I’ve been working with and for Mark Howes at Newstead Brewing for three months now and it’s great – especially with his shiny new brewery! My employment came about by simply being in the right place at the right time. I was enjoying a meal with my wife at Newstead one evening when Mark and I got chatting. One thing lead to another and the rest is history…”

With jobs brewing beer at working breweries few and far between, he counts himself as being very lucky, adding: “I’m also learning to do more concise analysis due to Mark’s laboratory experience and science background. It’s very rewarding. I’m planning to continue at Newstead part time.”

But, more crucially to the Croft story: the imminent future.

After registering the business name Croft Brewing Company back in 2012, Gavin has commenced brewing for himself on a contract arrangement at All Inn Brewing at Banyo.

“A croft is a lawn, a paddock, a farm, a green space and a crofter is a farmer,” he says. “My father, grandfather and great grandfather were all farmers and I’m proud of this heritage. I’m using our family name because I want to create beers that are synonymous with hard work, honesty, good company and green spaces. It will be a family owned business not subject to shareholders and quality will come before everything.”

These are respectable words from an engaging man with a promising future ahead of him. Furthermore, it is utter proof that the burning sensation deep inside wasn’t due to any ill effects sustained by drinking Tooheys.

Details of the official launch will be available soon. There will be four beers in Croft Brewing Co’s stable, released in clutches of two at a time.

First up is Saison Grenade (pronounced in French as “say-zon gre-nard”) which is a pomegranate saison. Gavin lists saisons as one of his favourite styles and his first commercial beer promises to be dry and spicy yet bitter with tart characteristics – one for the sour fans. The grenade is in reference to the explosion of flavour being generated by the inclusion of pomegranate.

The second beer is a sessionable, hoppy American pale ale called Wolf Scratch, named not after the bar where Gavin worked but instead in reference to the hop plant itself and its aggressive nature. Gavin has personally endured countless scratches whilst tending to his own hops. Plus, of course Lupulus – as in Humulus Lupulus – is Latin for wolf.

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The third and fourth in the lineup will be a 3.0 percent brown ale (Southern English Brown) – a super malty and chewy mid-strength, and a 4.7 percent smoked German pale beer called Smoked Helles which has been designed as an easy drinking lager with a hint of Beechwood smoke.

Keep an eye on Croft Brewing’s Facebook page for news of the launch that is likely to occur either late June or early July.

You can keep tabs on the Queensland beer scene via Darren’s blog 250 Beers.


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