Sometimes, even with hindsight, it's hard to work out why some things catch one's eye more than others. Case in point being Sailors Grave Brewing.
The Orbost brewery first came to our attention when we spotted a regional newspaper article on Chris and Gab Moore's plans to open a brewery in an historic, rundown butter factory in remote East Gippsland. Given there were plenty of brewing companies launching every month at the time, there was no reason for this to stand out.
Yet, for some reason, it lodged itself in the Crafty brain like an earworm. Perhaps it was because one of our writers is from Gippsland and has a passion for Australian history. That said, as the writer in question pointed out, Gippsland is bloody huge and Orbost is nowhere near where he's from. But, when he put together the story, it turned out his great, great grandfather was the original boss of the butter factory and he knew the last guy to run it before it closed in the 50s.
Then, when we published his story, we realised the Crafty clan would be passing through Orbost for the first time two weeks hence, thus had to opportunity to call in and grab some of the beers that had barely reached Melbourne at the time. The cosmos seemed to be dropping hints of some sort...
Cutting to the chase, call in we did and took a tour of the brewery, at which the Moores have done a great job of bringing part of the old factory back to life and creating something like nothing else you'll stumble across in this part of regional Victoria: its facade bears their uniquely childlike and colourful branding (of which more later) that stands out a mile from the rest of the town's buildings. We left with a case of the first three canned beers (canned on their own line) and an invitation to stay on their family farm on the way back through. This might seem a trivial detail but the stop allowed us to sample the last bottle of a three-year-old homebrewed lambic style beer that hinted at where Chris wants to take Sailors Grave.
So what else do we know about the brewery? We know that the Moores founded successful Darlinghurst restaurant The Commons and ran it for four years before selling up, starting a family and moving back to the coast. We know that they spent some of the intervening years touring the States visiting rural breweries doing cool stuff to get inspiration for their own grand plan. And we know that they have a singular vision that looks set to help them stand out in the ever busier marketplace – and not just because of where they're based.
The beers, for one, are far from common or garden. Their session ale is a gose using locally farmed seaweed, their first limited release was a mandarin Berliner Weisse using fresh fruit from a local farmer that responded to their shout out on Facebook and they followed that with a whisky sour take on the style, as well as a saison featuring ingredients from the family farm. It's a farm that was started by Gab's parents, local abalone farmers, hence their desire to showcase as much of the region's produce in their beers as possible.
Then there's the look and feel of the brand. They wanted something innocent and different from everything else seen on shelves and decals and found a children's book illustrator whose work they loved on Pinterest. He lived in Cornwall so, in lieu of payment, they invited him to come and live with them for a while, thus enjoying a holiday in Australia, getting to know them well and, ultimately, coming up with the brand and packaging for the first 20 beers (yes, they've thought that far ahead).
As for the name Sailors Grave, it references a local reef that's brought down many a ship in the past and is a theme that continues through the beers too.
Within a few months of opening, it was clear it wasn't just the eyes of The Crafty Pint that had been captured, as they'd garnered a fair bit of buzz around Melbourne's beer circles and were started to dip into the Sydney market too. And, the Orbost Foodworks aside, while winning over their locals will take longer, embarking on such an ambitious mission in the first place gives you confidence they'll succeed. After all, when you take a wander through a crumbling old butter factory and where you see smashed windows, cracked walls and graffiti your hosts see a restaurant, barrel room and luxury accommodation, you suspect they have the imagination and determination to win out.