In 1891, at a town meeting in Ipswich, the citizens made a resolution: “The time has come for a Technical College to be formed in Ipswich.” More than a century later, the grand brick buildings of the Technical College still tower over Limestone St… but now they house something more important than “education” and “advancements in industry and technology”. Today, it’s the home of 4 Hearts Brewing.
When it launched, 4 Hearts became the first working brewery in Ipswich since the demise of the Booval Brewery in the early 1900s. While there was no town meeting to announce: “The time has come for a craft brewery to be formed in Ipswich” that was certainly the decision taken in 2011 when the first 4 Hearts beers appeared. The original owner and head brewer, Wade Curtis, saw that the region was ripe for good, locally brewed beer and, after a few years of growth, he moved 4 Hearts into its current home in the heritage listed former college in 2015.
The old brick building that contains the brewery was once the plumbing and metal shop for the TAFE and, when you step inside, you get a clear sense of both past and present. The artful restoration and redesign includes light shades made of beaten metal, lamps made of iron pipework and gauges, and rusted stencil-cut signs. But the stainless steel brewing tanks boast newness and freshness, with the shiny kit standing in stark contrast to the redbrick and iron decor. The 12hL brewhouse and fermentation tanks (4 x 24hL, 1 x 12hL) are on full display in the main area, with the bright beer tanks tucked away in a side room that’s available for private functions.
While the building is an enjoyable glimpse into the days of old, don’t just visit 4 Hearts Brewing for a taste of the past. The Pumpyard Bar shares the same space and old world feel of 4 Hearts Brewing, and is the perfect place to taste your way through 4 Hearts’ beers. Their 12 taps always include the 4 Hearts core range – Ipswich Challenger Light Ale, Sunshine Rice Lager, New World Pilsner, Pale Ale, Red IPA, and Coal Miners Stout – plus a few 4 Hearts small batch and seasonal brews.
The brew team has changed since 4 Hearts opened, but the current crew possesses the same love of beer and standards of excellence that have been central to 4 Hearts from the beginning. In 2017, Curtis passed the baton of head brewer to Ken Friend, who has done a stellar job of retaining the essence of the brewery while bringing a fresh vision. He brings precision and discipline from his time in the RAAF, experience of well made, approachable beers from his time at Stone & Wood and brewing knowledge direct from German brewmasters from his time at VLB in Berlin. He’s also a longtime resident of Ipswich, keen to provide good beer for the locals and see the community gather around 4 Hearts Brewing.
Ipswich has a few different aspects to its identity: it’s almost part of outer Brisbane, and almost part of regional Queensland. It’s both, and it’s neither. 4 Hearts adopts this dual identity too, taking part in Brisbane beer events such as BrewsVegas and Weekend of Darkness, and collaborating with Brisbane breweries, but also reaching out to Toowoomba and other regional areas.
In the end, though, 4 Hearts doesn’t belong to Brisbane or to the further regional areas. It belongs to Ipswich. 4 Hearts is embedded in the Ipswich community and anchored in its history, and is the beating heart of the city’s good beer scene.