Stockade occupies a unique space in the Australian craft beer scene. To understand it you need to go back a few years to the time of Australian Independent Brewers (AIB).
AIB was based in Smeaton Grange, around 60 kilometres southwest of Sydney, and was a large contract brewer before it fell into receivership and was eventually purchased in 2012 by the Szpitalak family. They renamed the business BrewPack and it has gone on to become one of the country’s most popular contract brewing facilities; dozens of small Aussie brewers now call on BrewPack to produce beer on their behalf, whether to supplement demand they’re unable to meet at their own breweries or, in other cases, acting as the primary producer for a brand. Whether you know it or not, BrewPack produces a considerable number of the craft beer brands you see regularly in bottleshops and bars across the country.
But rather than simply brew beer for others, the Szpitalaks – at least, three of the four brothers who are active in daily life at the brewery – decided to add another string to their bow by launching their own range of beers. This was originally done under the Macarthur Grange Brewery name which, although not pushed too widely, claimed some significant successes with its pale ale and IPA both picking up gold medals at the Sydney Royal Beer Show. But in the latter stages of 2015 the Macarthur range was quietly retired to make way for what has become Stockade Brew Co.
It’s a more adventurous brand than Macarthur in just about every way. Gone are the traditional style labels, replaced with striking works of graphic art. The core beer range, which launched with a new world lager, golden ale and pale ale, still has mass appeal but none are shy of flavour. Then there are the limited releases which sent them hurtling into the heart of beer geek country. At one end you have the seasonals – the first was a peach, salt and coriander infused gose – and at the other you have a small barrel ageing program housing beers as diverse as a bacon rauch and a 12 percent ABV imperial stout. For a team that spends much of its time brewing other people’s beer, the Stockade Brew Co has become a collective creative outlet.
Due to the nature and demands of BrewPack’s core business, Stockade’s beers benefit from things many small brewers would look upon with envy. Along with a substantial brewery and packaging line which has been significantly upgraded since the owners took over – including the addition of a monstrously large dry hopper – they also have the luxury of a dedicated lab tasked with constantly monitoring and testing the quality of the beer at each point in the brewing process. As calls for increased quality and consistency in craft beer become louder, Stockade is already well down the road.
Having a foot in several camps – the production capability of a large brewer, the ability to behave like a small brewer and working closely with a lot of other brewers and retailers – is what puts Stockade in its unique position and gives it a sound platform to spread its name far and wide. Take, for example, the fact that they only launched towards the end of 2015, yet within six months were already sending the odd export order to Asia.
As they seek to strike the right balance between their ‘day job’ as BrewPack and the fun stuff they slot in between batches, expect to see and hear a lot more from Stockade.