The Stone & Wood story is the closest you'll come to a fairy tale in the world of Australian brewing. It's the story of three friends who'd done rather well for themselves in the world of big league brewing and decided to head off and do it for themselves in one of the country's most beautiful spots. And do it rather well, as it turns out.
The three friends are Brad Rogers, Jamie Cook and Ross Jurisich, who worked together at Matilda Bay, CUB's craft beer arm, having come through the ranks at Foster's. During that time, Brad tweaked old recipes and introduced a number of impressive limited release beers at the Garage brewery before the trio decided to up sticks to Byron Bay and start their own brewery in 2008. As they stated on their website back then: "Our dream was to quit 'working for the man', shed the corporate garbage and get back to basics."
They kicked off with two core beers, a Pale Lager created in a subtle Germanic style, and a Draught Ale inspired by the beers made by European microbreweries that were designed to be drunk fresh within a few kilometres of the brewery. The latter – which was the best example of the qualities of the Galaxy hop – proved so popular when a few kegs were sent further afield that it had to be packaged to meet drinkers' demands. As a result, at the end of 2010 it was renamed Pacific Ale given it had left its draught roots well behind. Given it's inspired scores of imitators since and sells well over ten million litres a year, you've likely heard of it...
The range has evolved over times, with the likes of Cloud Catcher becoming a permanent release and many others – often created in collaboration with people from far outside the beer world – have followed, helping Stone & Wood pick up some major trophies along the way.
Such has been the phenomenal success of the Pacific Ale that they reached a point where it was physically impossible to fit any more fermenters into their Byron Bay home – or work any more hours in the day. So, in the first half of 2014 a second, larger site was opened in Murwillumbah to help meet the insatiable demand for Pacific Ale at which they keep adding more breweries and tanks.
With the opening of the new brewery, the original site in Byron became more of a hub for the public to come and experience what Stone & Wood is about, as well as the place they brew their limited run beers. And now that's been usurped too, with the brewery moving to a custom-built new site – complete with colourful venue – just around the corner.
Look out for the occasional special events there featuring new beer releases, local artists and the best of local produce, or join one of the brewery tours and enjoy samples at the tasting bar in front of the tanks. Brisbane's beer lovers can enjoy the Stone & Wood experience at source these days too, following the opening of a brewpub in Fortitude Valley.
Having blazed a remarkable trail for craft beer in Australia, in August 2021 the brewing company's founders agreed to sell the Fermentum Group, which includes other drinks brands such as Fixation, Two Birds and Forest For The Trees, to Lion/Kirin in a deal that sent shockwaves through the local beer industry.
Read our retrospective on ten years of Pacific Ale here