Crafty Pint /
One of the most popular brewing teams in Australia is bringing brewing to Melbourne’s Inner West. Two Birds Brewing, which was formed by former Mountain Goat head brewer Jayne Lewis (above right) and longstanding friend Danielle Allen (above left) in 2011, is set to open its own facility in Spotswood and hopes to put a first beer through its brand new setup later this year.
It is the latest step in what has been a phenomenally successful first 28 months since the pair decided to go it alone, a period in which they have succeeded in getting their Golden Ale, Sunset Ale and, more recently, Taco beer into venues across the country both within and, especially, outside the craft beer world. Opening their own brewery was always their stated goal from the moment Jayne announced she was moving on from Mountain Goat, with the search for a suitable site near her Seddon home stepped up significantly in the past eight months.
“We started looking when we got back from [the Craft Brewers Conference in] America,” says Jayne. “Louis [her husband] actually found it while we were in LA airport on the way home from that trip. There’s been a bit of work to get it where it is now and there’s still a lot more to go.”
As for the choice of location, she says: “We believe very strongly in the western suburbs. That part of the world is really ready for something like this. There’s so many great restaurants and bars and pubs there, it feels like it’s ready to have a brewery too.”
Their 18 hectolitre brewery system is set to ship from DME in Canada next week, with tanks to follow from China shortly afterwards. Wisely, given how no brewery ever seems to open on time, Jayne is keeping the expected first brew date as vague as possible, but “sometime in 2014” is the hope.
With demand for Two Bird’s beers having grown rapidly since launch, production has taken place at breweries in Victoria (Southern Bay) and Western Australia (Gage Roads). The plan, once the Spotswood brewery is open, is to start by bringing keg production in house; then, over time, they may add a bottling facility. In the meantime, Jayne says hasn’t been short of quality advice when designing her brewery, with Feral head brewer Brendan Varis proving an excellent sounding board.
“He’s been so generous with his time,” says Jayne. “I was flicking him stuff left, right and sideways and he was telling me what I didn’t need, to make sure this bit is turned around in this direction – things I wouldn’t have thought of. He actually bothers to put in time and offer his thoughts, sits down and goes through everything.”
“It was always the intention [to have our own brewery],” she adds. “We said that from the very beginning and they weren’t empty words.
“I feel like I’ve been a brewer without a brewery for years now. The business is quite strong, we’ve got to the stage where the brand is starting to take off, so it feels right; I think it’s time.”
The hope is that having their own facility will allow for more experimentation too – something that fans of their Taco beer will be pleased to hear. As for the emotions that go with securing their own brewery, it seems fair to say that Jayne is reasonably happy.
“It feels #$%^ing amazing, frankly!” she says, laughing. “It sounds totally cliched but it’s the dream come true for us; it’s everything we’ve been working towards – and we’ve been working our arses off.
“This is the realisation, which is scary as hell as well, but once I’m up and brewing it will feel pretty amazing.
“Drinking that first pot of whatever it is that we have made in our own brewery after we’ve opened – I’ll be shedding a few tears. But they’ll be happy tears.”
Crafty Pint /
There are many ways of starting a new business. You can spend years carefully plotting every step, drawing up reams of business plans, running projections through computers, seeking advice from far and wide. Or you can decide that it’s time to let the head rule the heart and, to quote The Crafty Pint’s Aunty Valerie: “Follow your dream!”
Now, we’re not saying that no planning went into Simon Dunstone and wife Kate Henning’s decision to quit their well paying jobs and buy a brewery in a large shed in the 500 person town of Myponga. But listening to their tale, there’s a refreshing innocence to the adventure they’ve embarked on in the company of the three dogs after whom the Smiling Samoyed Brewery is named – especially in the very early days after they took over the reins of the former Myponga Brewery in November 2012.
“We didn’t even know where to buy a keg of craft beer,” admits Simon. “So we rang up breweries that we’d been to and asked if we could have some.”
This being the craft beer world, the answer was, of course. “Yes.” And soon beers from Lobethal Bierhaus, the Steam Exchange in nearby Goolwa, and Brewboys were pouring alongside what little beer from the former brewery was deemed good enough to avoid the drain. Lobethal was the first beer to pour, which seems only right and proper as it was a visit to that brewery in the Adelaide Hills that set Simon on the path to becoming a brewer.
“We both developed a passion for craft beer since getting together,” says Simon. “I used to drink Coopers or James Squire Golden Ale then discovered this world of craft beer. Lobethal was a big moment for me. I thought, “This is cool, I’d like to do this one day.‘”
Now that they are doing it, working together on everything from brewing and packaging to running the bar and cooking pizzas (while studying brewing at Ballarat), the support from the SA beer community has remained strong. Simon was invited to showcase his beers and be part of the panel at our recent IPA Blind Tasting at The Wheaty (where his IPA polled fourth in the public vote ahead of big hitters like Feral and Little Creatures) while the brewer at McLaren Vale, just up the road in Willunga, has offered to store their grain if space becomes an issue.
There’s been family support too. Kate’s parents took over the freehold and lease the property to the couple, while Simon’s dad has used his carpentry skills to help them open up more of the former dairy farming warehouse, build new furniture and add seating to a deck overlooking the neighbouring reservoir.
The former Myponga Brewery site an hour south of Adelaide
Gaining family support was essential to their plans, with their wedding in 2012 proving a useful persuader. Although it took place at a winery, they asked the chefs if they could replace wines on the degustation menu with their beers and invited their parents along to assist with matching them with food.
“For me, the proudest moment of the day involved the mums,” says Kate. “They were both non-beer drinkers, but they came down and had the three beers with each course as we decided which to choose. They were commenting on what worked and what didn’t.
“On the wedding day, they had something invested in these beers we were serving so were going around talking to people about the matching of the beers' characteristics with the dishes.”
Today, along with the three Samoyeds that are an ever-present at the brewery, it’s all about winning over the locals and tourists coming through. And they seem to be doing a good job of it, with a fine range of beers that includes a fruity, unfiltered Kolsch, a full-flavoured Galaxy and Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale called 12 Paws, a sessionable Dark Ale, an IPA and a Chilli Beer – the one concession to the lineup of their predecessors. Having initially expected that one of them could handle bar and kitchen duties on the days they’re open, they now employ up to seven casual staff at weekends; having added pizzas to the offering so that it’s more family-friendly and bargained on selling six or seven a day, last Sunday they sold 67.
Thus far, it seems there’s no danger of them having to return to their former careers as a software developer (Simon) and litigation lawyer.
“Being a lawyer just isn’t much fun,” says Kate. “We figured that worst case scenario was we go bankrupt and go back to our old jobs.”
“We’ve sacrificed a huge amount,” adds Simon. “You change your whole lives for this. You don’t have weekends any more.”
“All of our friends work Friday 9 to 5,“ says Kate. "We work seven days a week and Friday to Sunday is off-limits. People come to see us and to have a meal on weekends and we don’t get to talk to them at all – but we love it.”
The coolest tasting paddles in Australia?
They love it. Their dogs love it. The people passing through, where they can check out the artisan markets across the other side of the brewery’s car park on weekends, love it. In fact, there’s so much love that they’re already working on expansion plans. Not that they’re alone in this.
As we’ve covered on The Crafty Pint recently, Big Shed Brewing has just opened in Adelaide, Brewboys are putting in their own brewery so they no longer have to travel to Woolshed in Renmark and The Wheaty will soon start brewing too. Meanwhile Lobethal has just added an impressive new bottling line and expanded from three to 13 tanks, Prancing Pony is going great guns in Mt Barker, Clare Valley Brewing Co and Mismatch Brewing came into being last year and… well, you get the message.
“It certainly feels like 2014 is going to see a lot more interest in craft beer,” says Simon. “It really feels that things are changing in SA; for a long time it was the Lobethal Bierhaus, Steam Exchange, and a little bit of Brewboys.”
Who knows, he and Kate might even find time to take down the Myponga Brewery signs and put some Smiling Samoyed ones in their place…
Smiling Samoyed is at 46 Main South Road, Myponga (Enter off Hansen St). Keep tabs via their Facebook page.
Crafty Pint /
Here at Crafty Towers, we love a good pun. Or a bad pun, if we’re perfectly honest. We love real ales too, what with the site’s founder being born in Burton-upon-Trent, home of the pale ale, and being weened on cask beer. It’s something you don’t see a great deal of in Australia – in fact, you don’t see it much anywhere outside the UK – but the popularity of genuine cask ales on the rare occasions they are poured here, such as the much-loved Cask Off events at Good Beer Week, shows there is a demand.
It’s one that The Local Taphouse crew has been keen to supply for some time. Almost two years ago, they bought 20 casks and announced plans for cask rooms and hand pumps at their venues and, while not all of their plans have yet been realised, they are making use of their casks at an event next month called Rock The Cask Bar. Ten Aussie breweries have brewed an existing or new beer as a traditional real ale and all will be poured at the venues on February 8. Later in the year, there are plans for a Cask Bar at the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular too.
“We are using the casks we purchased a couple of years ago,” says Taphouse co-owner Steve Jeffares. “Plus NNL Brewery Services are providing assistance and advice for the event.
“We have put real ales on at the bars before [although there are no plans for anything] permanent as we think that – for now – they are best suited for occasional events such as Rock the Cask Bar.
“I think there is definitely a niche of Australian craft beer fans and British expats who will drink proper cask conditioned cask ales from time to time. Sourcing great Australian examples of real ale, looking after the beer and dispensing it correctly is critical to ensuring their experience is a positive one.”
Steve recently returned from a year living in New York, during which he toured many breweries and beer venues while conjuring up more grand beery plans for the future. And, while he says his experience of cask ales in the States, where it is an increasingly popular niche too, was hit and miss, he cites sampling Left Hand Milk Stout on cask at Blind Tiger in Manhattan as “Sublime.”
In terms of picking the representatives for Rock The Cask Bar, he says: “It’s always hard choosing breweries when you have a finite number of tap positions. With this event, we are setting up a separate bar and the logistics are challenging so we limited it to just ten breweries.
“We wanted breweries from around the country represented and then decided on breweries who had talked with us about casks before. We hope to make this an annual event which can accommodate more breweries in the future.”
For the first one, the beers that will be pouring are:
- Amber 2.0 (Riverside, NSW)
- Scotch Ale (Red Hill, VIC)
- Dry hopped Hightail (Mountain Goat, VIC)
- Apocalypso IPA (Illawarra, NSW)
- Barrel Fermented Hop Hog (Feral, WA)
- Dry hopped Bling IPA (Bridge Road, VIC)
- Angry Man Pale Ale (Murray’s, NSW)
- English Pale Ale (Bright, VIC)
- ESB (Hargreaves Hill, VIC)
- Commonfolk Brown Ale (Mornington Peninsula, VIC)
The event kicks off at noon at both Taphouses in St Kilda and Darlinghurst. Samples and tasting notes will be supplied for all beers and there will also be live entertainment.
Crafty Pint /
Time for a shout out. As readers of our weekly newsletter will be aware, The Crafty Pint’s founder has been commissioned to write a book on Aussie beer for the publishers of James Halliday’s wine writing. The process is already well underway with deadlines rather tight.
Much of the book will be focused on the best beers available in Australia today. For this, we have taken the decision – both for availability and photography purposes – to concentrate this on beers available, either regularly or seasonally, in packaged form. There will be parts of the book that look at beers not available in bottle and breweries that don’t package their product, but for now the focus is on those that need to be photographed by the publishers.
The vast majority of the lineup is locked down, but there is still a handful of guernseys up for grabs. And this is where you come in. Although we spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week immersed in the Aussie beer world, there’s still a few breweries we haven’t made it to and there will be beers that haven’t come our way, so if you brew one of these and reckon it’s a chance of making a list of great Aussie beers, then we need to get our hands (and mouth) onto it. So…
- If you’re a brewer with packaged beer you don’t think The Crafty Pint has sampled and would like us to do so, please email firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP so we can arrange getting hold of some.
- If you’re a beer drinker and have a local Aussie brewers whose beers you love that you’ve never seen mentions on this site, then please ask the brewer to get in touch via the above email (or forward them this story.
Those brewers who have beers on the list will hear from us in the coming days with instructions on where the bottles need to be sent.
Crafty Pint /
As the Alabama 3 made abundantly clear in the world’s finest ever Country ‘n’ Western, pro-Communism, techno banger, Mao Tse Tung Said: “Change must come through the barrel of a gun.” And so it is for Melbourne icon, the GB (or Great Britain Hotel if we’re being formal)*. The Church Street pub will cease to be – at least in its current – when its current owners hand over the keys to the venue they’ve run for 18 years.
There’s no gun involved, of course. And people who know, love and frequent the venue have been aware that this day has been on the cards for some time, with various rumours spreading at different times that the lease was about to end, the GB was to be flattened for flats, and much else, only for news to come out that an extension had been won and all was well with the world.
In fact, late last year, GB lovers rejoiced at word that it would continue under Chris and Penny Hodges' team for another three years. This time, however, it is the rumour of good news that has proved false, with the barrel of the gun taking the shape of a steep hike in rent that has forced Chris to accept that their time is up. In the middle of the year, new owners The Open Pub Company, which runs a number of venues around Melbourne including the Portland Hotel, will take over.
“It is what it is,” says Chris. “I’ve had 18 amazing years so I’d be a pretty mean old man if I was bitter.”
Instead, there are plans for many celebrations, which are certain to be supported by the local craft beer community, not least Mountain Goat and Little Creatures. The GB was the first place a Goat beer – Hightail – ever poured on tap and the first place a Little Creatures beer poured on the East Coast too. Both the taps in question have never poured anything else since. Little surprise, then, that one of the first people to contact The Crafty Pint about the impending closure was Creatures' Victorian rep or that Goat co-founder Dave Bonighton posted a lengthy and fond message on Facebook when news broke last week, telling us how thankful he and co-founder Cam Hines were at how supportive Chris was “way back in 1997, and how open he was to something different – craft beer.”
Watch a short film about Mountain Goat shot at the GB and reflecting on their relationship with the venue here.
The GB was a venue that was supporting craft beer before it was even really a thing. Yet it was never one to make a song and dance about being a craft beer bar, mainly because it was more than that: a locals-and-live-music-supporting pub that has grown organically over the past 18 years for which the quality of the beer on tap was just a small part of a greater whole. To The Crafty Pint, it always felt as though it was more a living, breathing entity than a venue, one whose appearance and atmosphere had evolved naturally, free of any great grand design, and in which everything attached to a wall, sat on a shelf or tucked in a cranny, every scuff on a wall or tear in a seat had a story to tell, even if you might not be able to find anyone who could remember the story – or at least its origin and whether it was actually being told exactly as it transpired.
There are fewer and fewer such places left these days and it can only be hoped – as Chris does – that the new owners will recognise why and for what the GB is loved, and that little changes when the ownership does.
“It’s been inevitable,” he says. “The freehold changed a couple of years ago so I knew it was going to come.”
Looking back to the start, he says the pub had formerly been a famous live music venue that, when he and his business partner moved in 18 years ago, had become rundown. They fitted it out with its “outlandish” decor and furniture, a move that turned out to be “the right thing at the right time”. Since then, the approach has been to let it evolve and only “make changes to stay the same”.
For now, Chris and Penny are focusing on their other venue, Eydie’s, and have started the hunt for a new venue, maybe in Richmond, maybe elsewhere, while bar manager Steven Gill (above) lines up the farewell celebrations. For everyone else, you’ve got around 170 days and counting to call in for a final drink or three or, if you’ve never called in before, to see why the GB matters to so many people.
The GB is at 447 Church Street, Richmond.
*There was a rather tenuous intro linking the Alabama 3 track to what we’d always casually (lazily?) assumed was Chairman Mao on the wall of the GB. It’s been brought to our notice that it’s actually this Indian chap, which kind of makes the intro a bit weird – and much that follows – but it’s a cool track so, um, sorry and we stand corrected.
Crafty Pint /
“We’ve talked the talk. Now it’s time to walk the walk,” says Jade Flavell as we discuss plans for her forthcoming brewery. It’s a fair point. When any brewery opens people will have high hopes and expectations for its beers. But when the brewery in question is being opened by the owners of what is regarded by many of the best-travelled beer people in (and outside) Australia as the best beer bar in the country, there’s an added pressure.
Happily, when the team at The Wheaty finally puts the first brew through its 600 litre system later this year, they’re not going to be short on mentors. Within days, the Adelaide pub will welcome a host of guest brewers for Good Beer Wheaty, their spin-off from Melbourne’s Good Beer Week. That means some of the very first brews through the system will be created by the likes of the Yeastie Boys (“our house brewers”), Magic Rock (UK), Sixpoint (NYC), Birra del Borgo (Italy) and To-Øl (Denmark) and a host of locals, often in collaboration with each other. Given past collaborations on their pilot brew have included My Anchovia (featuring first wort anchovy-ing and dry anchovy-ing) with Birra del Borgo – a beer that may see the light of day as a full scale brew between the Italians and Dogfish Head – expect the unexpected.
“I aged about ten years in ten days,” recalls Jade (pictured above with her new hopback). “We only had time to put a couple of trial batches through our pilot brewery before Leo [di Vicenzo of Birra del Borgo] arrived to brew My Anchovia. "I had to learn how to brew on a system I’d had for ten days for a live brew in the Tin Shed [their gig venue], but the beer was really well received.”
The new brewery from Premier Stainless Systems is being built on a small plot next to the Tin Shed, where there is just enough room for the brewhouse, three fermenters and the aforementioned hopback – unsurprisingly not that much smaller than the kettle given the owners' love of hops. All beers will be kegged for sale over the bar at the same price as other local brews, while there are also plans for lots of ageing, three-way pours over the bar featuring their handpump and Glasshopper, and even a separate room in their storage warehouse across the road for the development of sours.
When the brewery produces its first beer, The Wheaty will be turning 11. Yet even when it was first opened in its current guise in 2003, the intention always was to add a brewery. That said, there was always talk of a kitchen too, but now food trucks have put paid to that.
“I used to home brew before we took over here,” says Jade, who will head up the Wheaty Brew Corp. She says she’s comfortable with recipe formulation and will be seeking expert guidance mostly on the process side, where everyone from Al at Lobethal Bierhaus to Jayne from Two Birds, Dave from Mountain Goat and OJ from Hop Products Australia (former head brewer at Moo Brew) has offered their services.
“Ever since the trip to the US 15 years ago when the beer lightbulb switched on, I’ve not only wanted to be serving the best beer but brewing too. It was on the backburner as we established the pub, but we’ve been serious about it for the past five years and planning for 18 months in earnest.”
The core Wheaty beers will all feature her favourite ingredient – not anchovies, but rye. There will be the Ryewaka, brewed with Lobethal, a light rye ale brewed with Europe noble hops called the Noble Ryelet, and a Black Rye IPA. Aside from that, there are 35 more recipes floating around – not to mention the ideas that collaborators will bring.
“The end game was always to produce our own beers and not depend on being able to source other people’s kegs,” says Jade. “Fast and light and nimble brewing: talk about a beer, then brew and drink it within three or four weeks rather than waiting for something to be imported.”
It opens up the opportunity to brew for community events too, such as the roller derby league that they sponsor. And for brewers to come to The Wheaty and try “retro-fitting” Wheaty beers just as The Wheaty has done to those of brewers via their Glasshopper.
For now, the ground has been prepared for the brewing shed to be erected and the stainless steel has been delivered. All that remains is for the Wheaty Brew Corp to ensure their brewing skills are up to the exacting standards they’ve set for others.
“I’m still taken aback when these brewers come here to do masterclasses as they are some of my brewing heroes,” she says. “The concept of brewing with them on our kit is phenomenal.
“We’ll be getting an education that money can’t buy. It’s exciting, to put it mildly.”