The beer scene around Brisbane and South East Queensland has utterly transformed itself from a place of few microbreweries and even fewer places in which to drink a craft beer to one of the most vibrant and diverse in Australia. Playing a major role in that transformation since opening the doors of its industrial-meets-refined-dining brewery in December 2013 is Newstead Brewing Co.
Instantly forming a mini-crawl for beer lovers alongside Green Beacon and Tippler's Tap (since relocated to the Southbank) within the Newstead suburb of central Brisbane – itself utterly transformed and now home to a growing number of residential apartment blocks and creative businesses – it quickly found fans for its beers. What's more, visitors were drawn to the unique dining experience within the former coach warehouse: an experience that's as good as at any brewery in Australia.
The two men largely responsible for these twin appeals are Mark Howes, the cellular biologist and fastidious home brewer turned fastidious pro brewer, and Michael Conrad, a man with a storied background in high end hospitality. The former set about taking his finely honed recipes from home onto a commercial scale; the latter, working alongside architects, brought his fine dining nous to bear on creating a welcoming restaurant that sits between the open kitchen and 12-tap bar pouring a mixture of their beers and guests' on one side, the brewery on the other, and underneath what they have tagged, totally appropriately, "Big Ass Fans”.
Milling around in the background and filling out the directorship are Mark's parents, Peter and Heather. While Peter’s background is in business management and his passion lies in wine, he is ever so slowly being exposed to and appreciating the world of craft beer. Between them, these not-so-silent partners bring more than 30 years of growing a small business to the table and keep Mark’s and Michael’s heads out of the clouds.
The quality of Mark's beers was apparent early on (he brewed 96 batches of home brew in the 12 months leading to Newstead's opening). And, in combination with the work of Michael's hand on the hospo side – not to mention the insatiable desire for good beer amid Brisbane's flourishing beer scene – they ensured people were quickly flooding through the doors and bars were demanding Newstead beers for their own taps.
Their quickfire success – and Mark's inability to say no when gypsy brewing mates such as Brewtal Brewers and Croft Brewing come asking for tank space – did raise one significant problem, however: they quickly exceeded brewing capacity. For, while putting their brewhouse and row of fermenters along one side of their warehouse space creates a visually arresting site for visitors, it limits them to no more than 40 kegs per double batch brew. Thus, having initially met demand both at home and interstate via Sydney contract facility BrewPack and their mates at KAIJU! in Melbourne, they opened a second site in Milton, home to a serious production facility and impressive venue in the shadow on both Suncorp Stadium and the home of XXXX.
Managing growth has done little to affect the beer's quality. Their 3 Quarter Time Session Ale took out the trophy for Best Specialty Beer at the 2015 Craft Beer Awards shortly after their Two to the Valley collected gold at the Australian International Beer Awards, with the former striking gold again in 2017. They're both beers that, as with their stablemates and the rest of the Newstead look and feel, place themselves as part of Brisbane's heritage.
All the while, the open door policy continues as arch-collaborator Mark invites brewers and bar owners into the brewery; for Brewsvegas 2015 alone, he brewed nine separate collaborative beers and the arrival of the production facility means there's now tanks at Doggett dedicated to gypsy brewers, collaborations and experiements.
With such a work ethic and a business suffused with a spirit that embodies the best of the beer world, it's little wonder Newstead has come so far so fast.