When people talk about the growing craft beer scene in Brisbane, more often than not they’re talking about the inner suburbs of Brisbane. Certainly, few, if any, would have expected an award-winning brewery to pop up in Salisbury.
It’s in an industrial area, with rows of cloned steel warehouses used during World War II to produce and store munitions. But now those armaments are long gone, one of those lifeless, empty metal shell warehouses has been repurposed as Ballistic Beer Co. And, since its opening in April 2017, it's fair (if a little cheesy) to say its popularity has exploded.
A large chunk of its immediate appeal comes from the community-focused cellar door. When you approach the entrance of the mammoth building, you might be skeptical to see people sitting on white lawn chairs out on the grass, nursing beers while their kids run around (suburban bars, eh?). Then, when you step inside, you get it.
Ballistic has breathed new life into this behemoth of a factory. The steel girder ribcage is exposed, but softened by the reflections of the sky blue brewhouse floor. When you front up to the bar, you’re met with a cold and slick expanse of polished concrete, but when you return to your seat you’re surrounded by timber and flourishing green plants. On your left, the shiny brewhouse gadgets send out the message: “We Mean Serious Business…” but, on your right, the dominant view is an illustrated banner of airships dropping keg-bombs that says: “But We Don’t Take Ourselves Too Seriously”.
It’s easy to see why Salisbury locals – and beer lovers from further afield – flock there every Thursday to Sunday, sipping from the 13 taps, munching on the food truck offerings and tapping their feet to the live music.
Fair question, though: is it just some backwater tavern that’s only popular with the locals because it’s a convenient place for them to get booze, irrelevant of quality?
Honest answer: nope.
After living in Salisbury for more than a decade, co-owner and founder David Kitchen decided that if he wanted a place to get great beer in his suburb, it was up to him to make it happen. Which meant that, while he wants to connect with the people of the neighbourhood and become a centre in Salisbury for people to gather together, any gathering will be happening over damn good beer.
On that front, he picked well when he hired Lachy Crothers to be head brewer when the business launched. Lachy cut his teeth brewing for Gage Roads in WA for five years, did a short stint at Camden Town Brewery in London, then zipped back to the right side of the globe to bestow his brewing gifts upon Brisbane. His time as a brewer and beer judge has given him a particular passion for making consistent beers – beer that's both made and treated well from start to finish.
As he puts it: “It doesn’t even have to be ‘full of flavour’, as such. Just good. There’s so much noise around the craft brewing scene saying that ‘good beer’ needs to be full of big flavours and heavy on either hops or malt. I think we need to take a step back and try to appreciate the subtlety of beer and take notice of beers that are well balanced and expertly crafted.”
With this in mind, Ballistic customised its brewhouse to the extent they use water that’s gone through their own reverse osmosis water treatment plant to remove any undesirable chemicals and minerals. Lachy and his team then work their wonders with a 25 hectolitre three vessel steam system before transferring the nectar to their tank farm of fermenters. After the yeast has magicked that into delicious beer, it all goes into their monster cold room – a whopping 77 square metres and intentionally oversized so every single drop of Ballistic beer will fit in there, stored under 2C and remaining in its freshest state. It’s a privilege not all breweries can afford, but one Ballistic can pull off in their giant space.
The result of all this? Four excellent core range beers, two of which won gold medals at the 2017 Australian International Beer Awards (Pilot Light Table Beer and Dirty Word Lager) just a few months after the brewery’s opening, as well as a few taps always pouring seasonal and specialty beers. Depending on when you call in, these could take the shape of everything from Espresso XPA, Cold Brew Coffee Brown Ale, Belgian Golden Ale and Stout through to single hop IPAs (their Fortnight IPA also brought home a gold medal from the 2017 AIBAs) or something else entirely. You can take home growlers and squealers from the brewery and, before the end of 2017, you will be able to find Ballistic beers in cans at good beer stockists too.
Yet, while the Ballistic team goes to painstaking lengths to use the best processes and produce the best beer it can, at the end of the day, they shrug and say: “Most people just want a place where they can get a good beer.”
And Ballistic sure fits the bill.