Cast your eyes over the opening salvo of beers from Exit Brewing and it’s easy to conclude they’re only too eager to plunder all parts of the world for inspiration. There’s a couple of saisons, a Scotch ale, some US-inspired hop bombs and not one but two variations on the theme of stout.
It should come as little surprise then that, while Frase and Grum (Fraser Rettie and Craig Knight to their bank managers) are from Melbourne, met in Melbourne many moons ago and now live and work in Melbourne, their route into brewing was an intercontinental one that took in the UK and Ireland, Belgium and the US.
Frase, who was born in Scotland and thus had a British passport, was first to leave Oz, heading to the UK in 2001 to work on a series of major IT projects. Grum, whose brother was working in Ireland, followed later, initially on holiday but later finding IT work too after the successful “Operation Get Grum A Job.”
Reunited on the other side of the world, the duo embarked on various beer trips, including one to Belgium that was the moment their enthusiasm for beer become unconditional love. Upon returning to the UK, Frase headed to a home brew shop in Aldershot, bought some “cans of goo” and after just three brews by that method, moved on to all-grain brewing, starting out with a “stupidly hopped English bitter” that taught them early on the importance of balance.
From day one as home brewers, the practice of making pretty much every beer a different one was there. And they soon began to show promise too; on one visit to Ireland, Grum gave family members in Galway some of his home brewed stout and they promptly declared that Guinness, by comparison, “tastes like pish”.
By the time they were ready to head back to Australia, they’d invested in a quality pilot system designed by the brewer at the UK’s highly rated RedWillow Brewery. And before they left Europe, Frase decided he wanted to say he’d lived in Belgium so rented an apartment 25 minutes walk from Cantillon for three months. As you do.
Once back in Melbourne, they formed Exit Brewing and became one of the first tenants at Cavalier’s communal brewery in Melbourne’s west. Release one was a saison, brewed in tribute to the country that had set them on the road to being commercial brewers, and won them fans from the off.
At the end of 2015, they moved from Cavalier to share KAIJU!’s brewery in Melbourne’s southeastern suburb of Dandenong South. The area is becoming quite a hotbed for small Aussie breweries and the space they’ll occupy with KAIJU! features a 25 hectolitre brewhouse with two of the five 50 hectolitre fermenters set aside for Exit brews.
In April 2017, they opened their own venue, Uitgang Bar, at 406 Bridge Road, Richmond, with another beer loving mate, David Pike. It's a ten tap venue, with four Exit beers always pouring, one KAIJU! and five others on rotation.
Prior to that opening, throughout 2016 they introduced a core range of four beers: Amber, Milk Stout, IPA and Saison, the last of which became their first canned beer, soon to be followed by the rest then joined by the not-officially-core-but-brewed-whenever-we're-out-of-stock IIPA. Two of those beers have picked up trophies at the Australian International Beer Awards too: Amber (Best Dark/Amber 2017) and Milk Stout (Best Stout 2019).
It’s a core range that covers plenty of bases while remaining true to their ethos of producing beers that are a little bit left of centre. A bit like their brewing company’s name, in fact. Exit: Ex-IT. No, we didn’t get it for ages either…