Pirate Life Brewing’s story is one of the most remarkable in the contemporary Australian beer scene. It's a tale that began in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where two young brewers, Jack Cameron and Jared "Red" Proudfoot, met and honed their brewing skills through apprenticeships for BrewDog.
Here, in the bitter cold of Scotland’s icy winters, the idea of one day running a successful craft brewery in Australia was spawned. Jack and Red worked together, studied together, lived together and drank together, always dreaming of the light at the end of the tunnel (or, perhaps, just for the sun to come out). It seemed that craft beer ran in the family’s blood as Michael Cameron, Jack’s father, and later CEO of the company, was also an employee at BrewDog, building their first bar in Aberdeen at one point in a career that has taken in running venues, repping and bringing Coopers and BrewDog to the US.
With an increased knowledge of brewing in their heads and a drive to create their own craft beer brewery, they jumped on a plane back to Western Australia to make it all happen. As the planned out their quest, Jack accepted a job at Little Creatures in Fremantle, where he continued to learn new brewing techniques and methods. Red followed a similar pathway, helping establish the Cheeky Monkey Brewery in the Margaret River region.
Meanwhile, in the background, Michael began accumulating funds to make the dream come true. An opportunity at an already established brewery arose in the Barossa Valley but, after deciding this wasn't for them, the Pirate Life folk explored Adelaide and fell in love: with the culture, the bar life, the festivals and the city itself.
After visiting multiple properties, the right building was finally found in December 2014 in the bustling suburb of Hindmarsh, the place that Pirate Life Brewing now call home. All that remained was the drive from WA, across the Nullarbor Plain, and into their new home.
The original brewery in Hindmarsh was set in a giant tin shed, custom designed to suit all things beer. With a 2,500 litre brewhouse at one end plus what soon became a veritable forest of tanks and, ultimately, twin canning lines, they set about exploding onto the local beer scene like few others via award-winning, hop forward beers in cans that displayed their entire brewing process around the rim, complete with the malts and hops that are used, all the way through to the recycling process.
The core range of beers launched in March 2015: the Throwback Session IPA; a Pale Ale at 5.4 percent; and an IIPA at 8.8 percent. The first two come in 355ml cans and the latter in a giant 500ml tin: a big vessel for a big beer. It's a range that initially expanded steadily, most notably to include the serial trophy-winning Mosaic IPA, before exploding into life with dozens of beers of all shapes and sizes hitting taps and fridges, not least once they'd moved to their current home in Port Adelaide, of which more later.
But what of the name Pirate Life?
"We believe we live our life just like a pirate would, we are carefree, relaxed and brew what we want to,” says Jack.
After enjoying phenomenal success in their first two years – sending beers across Australia and far further afield, while hosting hundreds of events each year – and adding public acclaim via the GABS Hottest 100 to their awards trophies, they were bought by the world's biggest brewing company, AB InBev, meaning they now sit within the CUB stable of craft brands owned by Asahi. It was a move that allowed them to put the pedal to the metal on their long-mooted Port Adelaide brewery and venue.
The vast site opened in March 2019 – a mere four years after the launch of their first trio of beers – and allows for increased production as well as greater freedom to experiment on the original kit, which has been moved to Port Adelaide too, following the decision to close Hindmarsh.
It's a brewery venue of staggering proportions, certainly within the Australian landscape, capable of hosting thousands inside and out for special events, serving up their core beers plus a rotating list of 50-plus new beers a year, and home to shuffleboard tables and a merch stand that sells skateboards and bikes as well as more typical brewery offerings. The former Dalgety woolstores are also adorned with murals and art galore, most notably a 50m peacock strutting its tail feathers along one side.
What's more, the options open to them within the new structure became apparent soon after with the launch of the MCC Ale, a beer created for the members at the MCG, which has been followed by the opening of a brewpub at Adelaide's SkyCity Casino and another in partnership with Sneakers & Jeans in Perth. Now who'd have seen that coming when they first set sail?