Pia Poynton / 07.12.12
There are quite a few breweries in the South West with trophy cabinets that have recently become a lot more crowded. Collectively, South West breweries took a total of 29 medals at this year’s Perth Royal Beer Show and earlier this month Colonial Brewing and Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery, both located in Margaret River, were joint winners in the Boutique Brewery category at the AHA-Aon Hotel and Hospitality Awards for Excellence.
What’s more, Cowaramup, just outside of Margaret River, can now lay claim to being the home to the country’s best “beertender” after bar manager Ross Terlick picked up the title at this year’s Beer and Brewer awards. He beat more than 40 nominations for beer loving bartenders from around Australia, accepting his award at the magazine’s fifth birthday dinner at the Sail & Anchor.
It turns out that Ross’s nomination for Beertender of the Year came as something of a surprise, only discovered when stumbled across a list of nominees on Beer and Brewer’s Facebook page.
“I was talking to one of the regulars here [about the nomination],“ says Ross. "And she said, ‘Oh yeah, it was me, I’d had a few glasses of wine and went through and nominated everyone I knew!’ Didn’t I feel special…!”
He laughs about it now, but the nomination got the ball rolling and within days he had completed the requisite theory questions, progressed to a phone interview and then was told he had won.
Ross started bartending while living in the UK but then swapped aprons for overalls to become a plumber for six years. He returned to bartending when he arrived at Cowaramup two and a half years ago. “I was a good plumber but I’m a better bartender,” he happily concedes.
While he enjoyed real ales during his time in the UK, it wasn’t until he arrived at Cowaramup Brewing that he delved deeply into the world of craft beer.
“I’ve got so much more to learn and I’m actually excited about that, I enjoy it”, he says, and it’s his thirst for beer knowledge and for craft beer in general that makes it easy to see how Ross was awarded his title. His passion is infectious too, evident by the way the guys at the brewery greet and engage everyone who walks through the door. Ross strongly believes it should be the sort of place where you can have your beer questions answered by someone who is genuinely passionate about craft beer. By no means is he saying they have all the answers, however. If he doesn’t know, he’ll ask head brewer, Jeremy Good, and failing that…
“If Jeremy doesn’t know it then we’ll go to Google,” he says.
One of the most frequently asked questions is whether Cowaramup Brewing make a cider, to which Ross has developed his stock response: “No, it rots your guts and makes you talk like a Welshman.” Another popular question is which of their beers is closest to Corona or VB, to which he directs people to the brewery dam before endeavouring to match the customer to the beer they will enjoy the most.
The two most popular beers are the Cowaramup Pilsener and Hefeweizen but sometimes he will get a customer who says they don’t drink beer (fellow beertenders will know this just means they don’t drink beer yet) and walks away with a pint of Cowaramup Porter and a big smile on their face.
“It now happens so often that it surprises the customer more than it surprises us,” he says. As for his own end of day drop, it’s “whatever is fresh”, although he admits it’s not too long since he “used to be the guy drinking Export and VB”. Now, however, he’s a self proclaimed hop head, albeit once who’s drinking more porters, stouts and ESBs, understandable for someone working with such an enthusiastic and persuasive head brewer.
Stouts have also made their way into Ross’ lineup of home brews, something he began doing just three weeks after starting work at Cowaramup Brewing; clearly, when he fell in love with craft beer, he fell hard
So does he want to become a brewer?
“That’s the dream – to get into the brewhouse and become a brewer,“ he says, professing a desire to see Jeremy brew a Double IPA. In the meantime, Ross is focused on expanding his beer knowledge and ensuring Cowaramup Brewing is filled with happy customers. At those moments when a customer tastes craft beer for the first time and discovers a world of flavours they really like, Ross smiles to himself for bring "another person into the fold”.
And he’s in good company with so many other craft breweries and bars in the South West where everyone is passionate about getting more people into full flavoured craft beer.
“We all complement each other,” he says, “and the breweries all recommend one another. [It’s important that craft beer can] keep challenging people and keep exciting people.“ After all, he says, he needs more people to drink craft beer and grow the market so he can ask for a payrise…
The Beertender of the Year’s tip for any visitors to the brewery? The award winning Pilsener matched with their house Fish and Chips, followed up by Porter and Beeramisu.
Thanks to Pia from the Girl+Beer blog for this interview.