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Crafty Pint

Your Guide to Australian Craft Beer / Thursday 17 April 2014

Here Come The Nomads

Nick O / 14.02.14

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Over the past few years, Australia has welcomed an increasing number of guests from the international beer community. Whether it’s for celebrations like Good Beer Week or to judge in competitions like the Australian International Beer Awards, they’re also often coming down here just to see firsthand the change sweeping the nation. And more often than not, they like what they see.

So much so, in fact, that ideas are being hatched as to how they can be more involved. Danish gypsy brewer Christian Skovdal Andersen last year formed a collaborative brewing company, Edge Brewing Projects, with local brewer/importer Northdown and now another enamoured visitor is taking things a step further. In what must be one of the more striking examples of a visitor falling for the Aussie beer world’s charms in recent times is the news that Leonardo di Vicenzo, founder of Italy’s Birra del Borgo, is about to open a brewery in Sydney alongside the team behind Experience It Beverages.

Called Nomad (Please Note: the original article stated that the brewery was to be called Nomads, but it has now been changed to Nomad – apparently, they were told the original name sounded a little too much like a bikie gang…), it’s an appropriate moniker for a company whose owners all live in Italy but spend much of their time travelling the world, working with a lot of big name breweries in a variety of ways. But despite this, Nomad will be locally focused, with the decision to set up in Brookvale not as unusual as it might at first seem.

Kerrie and Johnny Latta, the husband and wife team behind Experience It, are Aussies and former residents of the Northern Beaches. That was before they moved to Italy and started sending containers of international craft beer back to Australia. You’ll have been a beneficiary of their work if you’ve recently drunk the likes of Deschutes, Sixpoint, Magic Rock, To Øl and a swath of Italian micros – including Birra del Borgo, with whom they’ve formed a great friendship.

Leo is no stranger to these shores either. He’s been at past beer weeks, hosted dozens of events in several states, brewed the gloriously named Myrtle’s Bunga Bunga Party for GABS and collaborated on My Anchovia with The Wheaty. And, just last week, while on reconnaissance for the impending brewery, he helped take beer into the wine world for the second year at Sydney’s Rootstock festival. He’s clearly into what’s happening Down Under.

In many ways, that makes Nomad an ideal partnership. Leo holds the requisite brewing knowledge, including how to build a brewery, while Kerrie and Johnny know the local market and have the distribution covered. Between them, they can brew good beer then get it to you in good condition. And it shouldn’t be too long until that starts to happen, with the new brewhouse due to arrive in March.

Leo will be coming along with it then staying for three months to help get it up and running.

“And then,” he says, “I plan to be back here at least every 45 days.” Which begs the question: who’ll be running things in the meantime?

The brewer tasked with keeping the Nomads on track day to day will be Brooks Caretta. He’ll also be arriving in March, but on a permanent basis, and will be bringing with him some enviable brewing credentials, having been the first head brewer at New York’s Eataly Birreria and more recently brewing at Birra del Borgo. With the Eately project being a joint venture between Leo, Teo Musso of Italy’s Baladin Brewery and Sam Calagione of DogFish Head, it’s not a bad set of tutors from which to garner some hands-on experience. All things going to plan, he’ll be putting his skills to the test in Brookvale by April.

At this stage the core range is likely to consist of three beers, and although they’ve mocked up some initial labels they’re keeping coy about whether those will be the first beers to roll off the line.

“We have too many ideas!” says Leo. “The beers will probably have more of a European influence, but we’ll use more Australian ingredients.”

Adds Kerrie: “We’ll also follow the bottle conditioning Leo uses on all his beers.”

A step up from that, Leo was positively radiant about the prospect of getting a barrel conditioning project underway. He says: “We’ll look at doing barrels in the old way … blending like you do with vinegar.” Fans of del Borgo’s Equilibrista should rejoice, with Kerrie prodding Leo with the words, “we should definitely do something with wine!”

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Leo at work back in Italy

The other thing that seems a definite on the ‘to do’ list is exporting – and not just their own product. With both sides of the partnership having connections all over the beer world and a handy grasp on supply chain management, it’s hoped that, in time, Nomad will become a vehicle to help spread the word about Australian beer – and the beer itself – far and wide.

With those sorts of ideas on the horizon, it’s probably for the best that this Nomad has decided to call Australia home.

As a side note to this, when The Crafty Pint first heard about Leo and the Experience It team’s plans, we were quite amazed. Just weeks earlier, we had been out for dinner with another international brewer who first visited Australia last year who was telling us of his plans to move here, build a brewery, and help Australian brewers with distribution. Two days ago, he called to announce he was back in the country and that the process is well underway. So look out for news of a second international about to make Australia home sooner rather than later…


The Saint Comes Riding In

Crafty Pint / 13.02.14

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Anyone that has visited Hobart in the past year or two will be aware that the craft beer scene in the city has really come alive. Its annual Tasmanian International Beer Fest is one of the largest and most successful in Australia and in 2013 was augmented by the inaugural Beer Lovers Week, which saw a number of events take place at venues throughout the capital.

The Tasmanian microbrewing scene is also well established, with a number of brewers each with their own unique style and character. Yet, when you step outside of Hobart, it hasn’t been as easy to find places selling craft beer other than the breweries themselves. There are oases, such as the idyllic Weldborough Hotel in the northeast, which stocks beers and ciders from every local producer, and Crown Cellars in Launceston, plus some taps and decent bottle lists at the likes of Launceston’s Pizza Pub, Newstead Hotel, The Cock n Bull, Alchemy, Dickens Cider House, Mud Bar, Black Cow and Stillwater.

And now the city has a new dedicated craft beer venue. Former Crown Cellars head honcho Luke Dempsey opened Saint John Craft Beer on January 17 and already it’s going great guns.

“We offer six rotating taps: five beer and one cider,” says Luke, who is also the Northdown Craft Beer rep for the state. “We try to have a balance of styles and regions on at any one time. We also have a selection of approximately 100 bottled beers and ciders available to drink in or takeaway plus growler fills and a BYO food policy.

“We try to support as many local producers as possible. We make sure a third of our taps are local and always have a big range of local stuff in bottles.”

He reckons an uncertain local economy and the domination of Boags may have played a role in craft beer’s slow take up in Launceston but sees that changing.

“Launceston is a big country town at the end of the day, so things happen at a different pace around here,” he says. “Small businesses and licensed venues have been in decline so it’s probably not the best environment to want to start up as new business, especially in Boags heartland! A few local venues have dabbled in craft over the years but no one has really done it with enough gusto to change their offering completely.”

The city is home to Morrison Brewery, with Van Dieman just a few kilometres away in Evandale and Seven Sheds a slightly longer drive west towards Devonport in Railton. Dickens Cider, which produces some of the most unique craft ciders in the country, is also based there and has one of its two Cider Houses in Launceston too. What’s more, another new microbrewery is launching. Little Rivers from Scottsdale will be pouring its first beer at Saint John’s Craft Beer Rising event on February 22.

“The Tassie scene is buzzing along at the moment,” says Luke. “For such a small population we have so much great beer to choose from, and more on the way. I’m really looking forward to being one of the first to showcase the beers from our newest producer Little Rivers.

“It was a little disappointing to not have any [Tasmanian] beers in the Hottest 100 beers of 2013. Maybe our guys need to start knocking out some more IPAs. Hint hint!”

With most Tasmanian brewers selling almost all of their product within their home state it is perhaps unsurprising that the impact on the national poll was small, yet, as with many brewers in South Australia, if there is a voracious appetite for your beers close to home then why go to the trouble of seeking markets further afield? Certainly, Luke says the early enthusiasm for his new bar suggests there are plenty of locals eager to get their hands on as much good beer as possible.

“[It’s been going] really well. Very encouraging stuff,” he says. “The locals are really getting into it. It’s just what Launceston needed! So everyone keeps telling me…”

Saint John Craft Beer is at 133 St John Street, Launceston.


Boomtime In Brewsvegas

Crafty Pint / 11.02.14

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The beer scene in Brisbane is unrecognisable from just a couple of years ago. First, a wave of new craft beer-supporting venues opened up to give locals an alternative, and more recently they have been followed by a spate of brand new breweries: Green Beacon, All Inn, Newstead, Fortitude/Noisy Minor, for example.

The city’s rising tide of craft beer awesomeness is set to peak next month with the arrival of the first Brewsvegas festival. A week-long cavalcade of events taking place at breweries and venues all across the city, it has been put together over the past few months by a committee drawn from a number of the city’s bars and breweries with the aim “to promote innovation, creativity and collaboration to help nurture and grow a local beer scene already replete with passionate contributors.”

Remarkably, for a festival in its first year, there will be 80 events taking place across 35 venues, a tally that exceeded all expectations. The program is now available online here; you can browse events and buy tickets for those events that require them too. Expect more events to be added between now and the festival kicking off on March 23.

In anticipation of the biggest week for craft beer in Brisbane, we posed a few questions to one of the festival’s founders, Andrew Sydes of Green Beacon Brewery.

Why did you create the festival?
We felt that Brisbane deserved a celebration of craft beer all to itself. I guess there are two reasons for that: firstly, the scene up here has really come of age in recent years and, secondly, as a result of that we are able to band together and create something like Brewsvegas as a grass roots movement. Exciting times we live in!

Who’s behind it?
The committee members hail from Archive, Bitter Suite, Green Beacon, Scratch Bar and Tipplers Tap.

What’s the goal?
We aim to raise the profile of good beer in Brisbane, to show off our unique culture and to celebrate our city’s best and brightest. We also all genuinely love seeing people fall in love with good beer.

Are you happy with the response for year one?
Very happy, with the number of venues keen to be involved, the different types of businesses taking part and the variety and creativity of the events in the lineup, Brisbane really has stepped up!

Why should people check it out?
This is an opportunity to see Brisbane’s bars, bottleshops and restaurants at their best, and a chance to see each venue’s take on their part in Brisbane’s craft beer culture. It’s not every week that you have such a bewildering array of beery delights to choose from.

What are you most excited about?
I’m pretty keen to get out to some venues I’ve never been to before, I guess we all are at Brewsvegas. Special mentions also go to Broga (bro yoga) with bacon sandwiches at The Mill and the braised camel shank burgers being offered up at Hoo Ha bar’s Aussie Hoo-ha-beque.

How would you describe the past two years for beer in Brisbane?
It’s been an explosion of sorts. A couple of years ago there were a handful of venues flying the craft banner in Brisbane, a couple of years before that the scene was far, far smaller again.

What we’ve seen is something of a snowball effect. Queensland has been slowest state on the Eastern seaboard to accept and embrace good beer; I guess that goes some way to explaining the flurry of openings and refocussing we’ve seen in the last two years.

Check out the Brewsvegas website for more. Then book your flights, of course.


From NZ to WA to Chico

Crafty Pint / 07.02.14

Carrie-scholarship

Way back in the depths of time (okay, 2012) the launch of the People’s Pint – a beer that we had invited the country to invent – was used to announce the Temple Brewing / Good Beer Week Scholarship. It invited young brewers from across Australia to apply for the chance to work at Sierra Nevada in California for two weeks, with the trip funded by East Brunswick’s Temple.

The winner was originally to have been announced some time ago but, due to the trials and tribulations experienced by Temple Brewing in the meantime, this was delayed. However, with Temple now up and running again, the selection process has been finalised and Carrie McLachlan has been chosen. More than 30 entries were received, with a panel from Good Beer Week, The Crafty Pint and Temple drawing up a shortlist from which Sierra Nevada Brewery Ambassador Steve Grossman selected the winner.

For Carrie, it continues a rather rapid ascent through the brewing world. It’s not that long ago that she was with friends in Oregon, working the ski fields, when she first fell for craft beer; soon afterwards, back in New Zealand, she saw a job going at Creatures' HQ in Fremantle and impressed head brewer Russell Gosling so much with her application that they flew her across the Tasman and began training her as a brewer.

Today she works at Little Creatures’ new brewery in Geelong, where she helped set up the packaging line. Prior to becoming a brewer, Carrie worked as a bike mechanic and ski field lift operator. And it was in part her outdoor lifestyle as well as her focus on environmentally conscious brewing that appealed to Sierra Nevada.

“Even though Carrie is relatively new to the craft brewing world she has a strong quest for knowledge, and exhibits great passion for both the art and science of craft,” says Steve Grossman.

“Her interest in sustainability and the desire to learn about Sierra Nevada’s practices in this arena, and her goal to adapt protocol and methodologies to her own brewery work was a strong factor in our decision to select Carrie for the Young Brewer’s program. We have all confidence that Carrie will continue her rapid development in her career as a Brewer and are very pleased that she will be joining us for this program.”

“I’m so excited,” she says of the impending trip to the US. “It’s one of the breweries that I’ve always wanted to see. They’re doing things that no one else is doing.

“I just want to get behind the scenes and see what they do on a day-to-day basis.”

Good Beer Week festival director James Smith added: “There was a fantastic field of applicants, of which a handful really stood out. In the end, we whittled the list down to three, with Carrie securing the deciding vote from Sierra Nevada. Now we look forward to her reporting back later in the year.”

The Good Beer Week 2014 festival programme will be launched on March 12. Look out for details of the second Good Beer Showcase in Melbourne that will act as the program launch – coming soon.


Will Shoot For Beer

Crafty Pint / 06.02.14

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There’s little more than two weeks now until the inaugural Craft Beer Rising. Already, more than 70 events have been registered by breweries and venues across the country, with each of the six states now represented. They range from simple offers to tap takeovers featuring a venue’s nearest and dearest breweries, from new beer launches two new brewery launches, and from citywide treasure hunts to the first ever Big Beer Bashes cricket match in St Kilda.

If tucking into delicious, locally brewed craft beer wasn’t enough incentive to take part in Craft Beer Rising, we thought we’d give you a little more encouragement. From today, if you’re out and about with your mates enjoying some quality local tipples – or doing something related to Aussie craft beer – then take a photo, post it on Instagram with the tag #CBR14 and it will appear here on the Craft Beer Rising website. The latest four photos will also appear on the homepage.

Come February 23, when the party is over for 2014, we will select the best and send prizes whizzing to the star photographer’s door. The usual Crafty Pint competition rules apply, which you can find elsewhere on this site. So get creative, get snapping and let’s see what you’ve got.

Also, if anyone is planning to celebrate the day by purchasing a Craft Beer Rising T-shirt, then you had best get a move on. They are available via Red Bubble here, and there is a manufacturing and delivery period of a few business days so if you want yours ready for February 22, time is ticking.

As for any venues or breweries that plan to take part but are yet to register their event, please do so as soon as possible. We have set no deadline on submissions, but we are keen to hit up the media across the country armed with the events ASAP, so the quicker you get yours up on the site the better. We have a few enquiries already, so wish to get another media release out at the very start of next week. Register here.

THE CRAFT BEER RISING MANIFESTO

Here are some ideas on how you could spend the day…

1. Head to your nearest brewery and share a beer with the brewer.

2. Go to your nearest participating venue pouring all Aussie beer for the day and join in the fun.

3. Take a trip down Memory Lane with the first Australian craft beer you ever enjoyed.

4. Gift a bottle or glass of your favourite Aussie craft beer to a mate who claims they don’t like beer.

5. If all your local venues sell crap beer, gift the landlord a bottle of your favourite Aussie craft beer and suggest they get with the program.

If you can do the above with a mate (or loads of mates) who are yet to be converted all the better – let’s spread the love!


Brewing Shenanigans

Nick O / 04.02.14

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In the past few years, as the Australian craft beer movement has grown upward, outward and onward in every direction, one of the significant contributors to that growth has been the opening of more craft breweries. As each one begins production it not only helps increase the crafty segment of the market share pie, but also helps to put good beer in places it’s seldom been: in front of people that haven’t experienced anything like it, thereby adding a bit more chitter to the beer chatter.

There’s another bonus side-effect of a new brewery too: it can also provide opportunities for more brewing companies to get off the ground. It’s all quite practical really; you’re just starting out, production might not be at its full capacity, so instead of having an empty tank why not let some eager brewer come in and utilise that tank space?

This type of relationship is great news for the beer drinker – a sort of symbiotic double-up bonus; one brewery, two (sometimes more) brewers and an increased diversity of beers being produced. Of late, New South Wales seems to be doing particularly well in this regard with brewing companies like The Grifter Brewing Co, Doctor’s Orders, Wayward, Dennis Beer Co and Grainfed flying the flag with some well made, interesting and increasingly popular brews. In Victoria, you’ll find a similar setup at Cavalier, where the likes of BrewCult, Monster Mash, Dainton Family Brewery and Killer Sprocket have been making beer.

The latest local to join this rank of brewers without breweries is Shenanigans Brewing, a project by Dan Beers and Sam Haldane. This weekend just gone, the duo sweated through Sydney’s heat and humidity to brew their first commercial batch. And quite appropriately they did it at the also very new Batch Brewing Co in Marrickville.

Brewing commercially isn’t something Dan and Sam have suddenly jumped into in order to catch the rising wave of interest in craft beer. They’ve had the idea in place for some time and all they really needed was the right luck and timing in finding a place to brew.

Says Sam: “We’ve actually had a license to brew for about a year, and I checked back and we’d filed the original tax application about two years ago.”

So while this is clearly still a good time in terms of them getting a beer out into the world, you could also say it’s not before time.

What does seem superbly well-timed is the beer they’ve brewed first up. Named ‘Griz’, it’s described as “a pale, sessionable [circa 4.5 per cent] farmhouse ale with a splash of new world hops and a hint of rye” and it’ll be out before the end of summer.

It’s a recipe they’ve developed together at home, back and forth over something approaching 20 different brews and over several years – even predating the idea to brew commercially. But however much you’re comfortable with brewing the recipe on your own kit – and they are indeed homebrewers of some local repute – it’s quite something else to scale it up to 1200 litres on a brewery you’re unfamiliar with.

The benefit of being in someone else’s brewery is that help is usually at hand, with Chris [Sidwa, Batch brewer] ensuring they hit all the right buttons and valves at the right time. It also no doubt helps that Sam is fresh off a brewing course undertaken in Davis, California – although he did point out that the Batch system is rather different and simpler (in a good way) than the one he spent time learning on.

So aside from taking time to become more familiar with the intricacies of full-scale brewing, what of future Shenanigans? Is the idea to produce more of the same beer, or is there a desire to try something else?

“It’s a bit of both,” says Sam (pictured in white top above; Dan in blue). “If people like this [Griz] we’ll probably keep brewing it, if not we’ll try something else. I’d like to brew an Imperial Black IPA and Dan’s been playing with a sour recipe.”

But that can wait. With brew number one now happily fermenting in the tank, the only thing they really need to focus on is celebrating.

To be amongst the first to try Shenanigans’ ‘Griz’, the official launch is on February 22nd at Spooning Goats as part of Craft Beer Rising.

To keep up-to-date with all the latest goings-on in the New South Wales beer and brewing world, follow Nick on Twitter.


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