Brisbanites are notoriously unwilling to travel to get anywhere. Apart from commuting, most people resist driving more than 15 minutes to get somewhere – if it’s farther away than that, it’s too much hassle. (Sorry, Grandma.)
And, as the population keeps sprawling outwards, more people are living farther from the city centre, which means they're also further from the cluster of breweries inhabiting the inner suburbs. In short, it’s getting harder for some people to get to good beer.
As of November 2017, White Brick Brewing has been doing its best to help resolve this issue by taking beer to the people: serving up its brews to those on Brisbane's northern fringe.
It’s located in North Lakes, a young suburb quickly gaining a reputation as a thriving hub of culture in the outer northern suburbs. The region has long been crying out for good beer, and White Bricks’ founder Adam Gibb stepped up to provide it.
After two decades living in the area, and almost as long homebrewing, Adam developed an appreciation for fresh beer, and a steadfast loyalty to his local community. When he decided his neighbourhood deserved better beer than the offerings of the nearby pubs and taverns, he realised he could bring his two loves together by starting White Brick.
The beers bearing that name are all about approachability and impeccable balance. The brewery's most popular drops include the mid-strength Plantation Pale Ale and the crisp Petrie Pilsener – tasty beers that you don’t have to think about, and also accessible for those who generally enjoy commercial lagers.
They also offer a couple of styles that are seldom seen in an Australian brewery’s core range: the Brickworks English Mild Bitter, designed to sate the Brits who live in the area and intrigue those for whom malt driven beers are a novelty; and the Rothwell Radler, a German style beer infused with real lemon and offering a mere 2 percent ABV that's there to quench your thirst with a mix of sweetness, bitterness and tartness.
Between the core range and whatever small batches are available at any given time, there are always eight beers pouring, making the tasting paddle an efficient way to go if you’re finding it difficult to choose. Or just do what some of the regulars do: walk in, sit down and work through every beer on tap.
Adam gives credit where credit is due, openly praising his head brewer, Steve Hollis. Since White Brick is a relatively small operation, Adam knew he’d need a brewer with a wealth of experience, and he could hardly have done better on that front than Steve. He brings with him a quarter century with Lion, including six years at the company's craftier end.
“Steve has a phenomenal amount of knowledge,” says Adam. “He brews incredibly balanced and consistent beers. And he’s great to work with. What he brings is bang-on exactly what I needed.”
Steve also brought with him a quiet, understated manner, one that belies his brewing skill. He singlehandedly runs the three vessel 15hL Spark system, plus a pilot system installed for brewing limited batches and experimental beers. And, on a green note, the entire brewhouse is solar-powered, only drawing electricity from the grid when they turn the kettle or hot liquor tank elements on.
As much as Steve enjoys punchy IPAs and strong stouts, he knows the importance of making the right kinds of beer for the area, so he’s intentionally developed (and continues to develop) a range of beers that appeals to a broad spectrum of beer appreciators – perfect for North Lakes.
White Brick’s focus on the local area goes beyond bringing them locally-brewed beers – it starts with the the names of the beers.
“North Lakes is relatively new,” says Adam, “so we’ve tied all the names to the area, people who founded the area, things like that. And it makes a great talking point for a lot of people.”
They also support the local community and businesses where possible; all the soft drinks come from a local company, as does the jerky they sell. White Brick is involved in various neighbourhood events and groups, and has become a hub for homebrewers in the area, including hosting homebrew competitions.
What the locals appreciate most, though, is having a place in their suburb that serves excellent beer. If a customer wants to take beer home, White Brick offers growler fills (and sells double-walled stainless steel growlers), fills 19L Cornelius kegs, and sells the core range beers in cans.
But the brewpub itself is a place for people to gather. Adam, Steve, and the other staff are always willing to have a chat, giving the venue a friends-serving-friends vibe. And the aesthetic is pared-back and beer-centric: quotes and facts about beer adorn the walls; there are several thick stretches of black pipe with plants growing from them; and, of course, the brewing tanks provide a gleaming backdrop that reinforces the freshness of the beer being served.
“We’re in suburbia,” says Adam. “The majority of our market are people who are just looking for a good quality beer… and that’s what we’re brewing.”