To balter is to dance artlessly without particular skill or grace, but usually with enjoyment. It’s also the name of the Gold Coast brewery opened by a quartet of Australian surfing legends and some mates, with a trophy-winning brewer at the helm to ensure that when it comes to the beers there’s style and grace as well as enjoyment.
Friends and co-founders Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning, Bede Durbidge and Josh Kerr were surfing in Hawaii when discussions moved to Bede’s long held dream of setting up a brewery in their Gold Coast hometown. So they did, with the assistance of co-founders Stirling Howland, Ant Macdonald and Sean Ronan.
Soon former Stone & Wood and Byron Bay brewer Scotty Hargrave was brought on board to help them realise this dream; shortly afterwards, he discovered he had won two prestigious AIBA trophies for his final brews at Byron Bay, suggesting the founders had picked a winner. Initially sceptical, Scotty’s fears that Balter might be little more than a publicity stunt were soon assuaged, as they convinced him they were in it for the long haul and, says Scotty, proved to have “considerable will and drive to build a brewery” while also “hiring the right people in the right places”, including other senior staff well versed in the local beer world.
Within a year of making their plans public – initially with a joke at the media’s expense – they had opened their 750 square metre brewery in Currumbin, an up and coming suburb of the Gold Coast, and had released their first beers, leading off with an XPA.
Initially, the beer was supplied to a dozen carefully chosen venues; some ripped through their first keg in less than a day, suggesting the skills that brought Scotty his trophies are going to serve Balter well. It led to instant demand from further afield but the plan is to grow slowly and ensure support for their early customers is maintained.
“Our first batch of XPA was literally sucked out the door and sold in a weekend,” says Scotty. “This truly opened our eyes to the confidence local bars had in us and this close connection between brewery and venues is something that Balter wants to keep.”
As for the brewery itself, exposed brickwork and copper pipes are complemented by a floor to ceiling custom-made piece of artwork by local artists Frank and Mimi, who are responsible for the mural wrapped around Newstead Brewing’s home in Brisbane. There's a 12 tap tasting room directly in front of the brewhouse and a neat and narrow beer garden to the side. If you fancy a tour, there’s an overhead gangway that gives you unparalleled access throughout the entire brewery. Taken together, the end result is a stunning contemporary brewery.
The toys upon which the brewers play include a 35 hectolitre DME brewhouse, six 70 hectolitre tanks and a canning system from Cask Brewing Systems in Canada. There’s also a 500 litre pilot system from Melbourne-based Spark Brew Engineering upon which Scotty conceives experimental beers to be tested upon his business partners as well as the guests they welcome through the doors of the taphouse.
“Not only will Mick and the boys taste them, but locals will get to decide our lineup too,” he says. “At the end of the day, if I tell someone they won’t like this beer, I want them to tell me, ‘#$%^ off, don’t tell me what I don’t like!’
“I’m not here to dictate to people what beer people should be drinking like the big corporations do – I want to make beers that people want me to brew.”
With a range of burgeoning, small scale, artisan industries on the rise – in coffee, food and handcrafted products as well as beer – there’s a crafty vibe bubbling just beneath the surface in Currumbin. And, with four of the biggest names in Aussie surfing behind it, a knowledgeable team and an award-winning brewer with a talent for creating crowd-pleasing beers completing the picture, expect Balter to be among those ensuring more and more people around the country know all about it in time too.