Apparently, the three most important factors to look for in a property are location, location and location. But what are the most important factors to look for in a brewpub?
Location’s one of them, for sure. And, in the case of Aether Brewing, it’s fair to say they hit the spot marked X. The founders somehow managed to snag a spot directly next to Milton train station, within a trendy dining precinct, in the shadow of new residential buildings and within spitting distance of Park Road, everyone’s favourite faux-Euro strip.
It’s also close to Suncorp Stadium, thus inundated every time there’s a major event there, and shares turf with The Scratch, Newstead Brewing, Brewski and Fritzenberger, making for a mean bar crawl that’ll have you sampling some of Brisbane’s finest liquid gold. And, speaking of gold, it breathes the same air as the Castlemaine Perkins Brewery, whose flashing red XXXX stands as a monument to Queensland’s love of beer.
But a stellar location is hardly the main factor in assessing a brewpub; Won’t somebody please think of the beer?
Thankfully, the Aether crew has thought of the beer, with a rock solid core range that moves from the obligatory mid-strength through various hop forward styles to the rum-soaked vanilla featuring Event Horizon Porter and has amassed a handy collection of Craft Beer Awards medals to boot.
Then, in a kind of extended-core-range, they have the likes of the Boos ESB, Pitchfork Saison, Black As Your Heart Black IPA and an alcoholic ginger beer with chilli and lime.
Aether was overwhelmed by the huge demand for its beer from the day they opened, so Jimmy and co-owner and head brewer Dave Ward had to think on their feet fast. The outcome saw them brew a chunk of their core range beers at a friend’s brewery in Maleny, which keeps their taps flowing and allows them to bottle and can just enough to keep the crowds happy. As of November 2017, they also have a CANimal machine – dubbed El Canerator – that allows punters to take home a litre of fresh beer from any one of the brewpub’s taps.
The move to off-site brewing also gives them more scope for brewing limited releases at Milton, meaning they’re constantly unleashing a barrage of seasonals, special releases and collab brews. This includes the usual suspects (stout, amber ale, IIPA, etc), but also lets Dave bring his inner foodie to the table – a white truffle wheat beer, lavender saison, passionfruit and blood orange NEIPA, pistachio and hazelnut brown ale and even a bone marrow double Irish red ale have all spent time in Aether’s tanks.
At any given time, there are 12 taps pouring at the downstairs bar, usually consisting of the core range, a cider and ginger beer, and a mix of Aether specialty brews and guest taps. (Not to mention a range of bottled beers, non-alcoholic options, spirits, wine, and cocktails. Special mention to the abundance of whiskies and the beer cocktails!)
What about the food, though? Well, it kind of looks like your standard brewpub offerings, until you look closer and realise it’s jacked up a notch. The “Monsters Under The Bread” section includes a Wagyu Meatball Cheeseburger and a Rosti Sandwich; their Aether Big Smoke Platter is a force to be reckoned with; and any venue that serves up beer battered chips, onion rings, and sweet potato fries to beer lovers is clearly in tune with the deepest desires of our hearts. Long live deep fryers!
And the staff? As well as general helpfulness and great customer service, this is one of those places where the staff are genuinely happy to be there – they’ll chat all things beer with you while you’re deciding what to imbibe; Dave’s always open to talk you through the brewing process and share his latest ideas and Jimmy will just pull up a stool and have a drink with you. Everyone and everything in the joint has been shaped by Jimmy and Dave’s down-to-earth nature, so you can’t help but feel that you belong.
And how can you truly appreciate a brewpub unless the atmosphere is memorable? The bar downstairs has an “industrial laid-back chill” feeling: high-contrast black-on-white walls; the labels adorning the five hectolitre brewing tanks are in towering words; a network of black and steel pipes lining the ceiling like tracks on a railway map; polished copper bright beer tanks; modern black folded steel stools and bar; and backlit laser-cut metal plates listing the beers available on each tap. The dining area upstairs is decked out with cork floors, copper cutlery, and padded lowback seats, giving it a slight 70s vibe. And the function room out the back, aptly named the Barrel Room, is home to barrels, fairy lights and pinball machines.
After opening in November 2016, Aether Brewing promptly inserted itself into the heart of the Brisbane beer community and has barely stopped for breath since, what with their involvement in the Beer InCider festival, Brewsvegas, CRAFTED Beer + Cider Festival and wave after wave of collaborative brews.
But, when you’re dealing with something as important as they are, there’s no time to waste.
“In Greek mythology, Aether is the fifth element, which holds the universe together,” says Dave. “Obviously… that’s beer.”