There's a fair few Australian breweries that have been around longer than Wilson Brewing that also take the name of their owner. Yet we're not sure we've come across one that is even close to being an extension of its owner quite like this Albany operation.
It was launched by Matty and Jessica Wilson in 2016 and it takes little time once you step through the courtyard at the front of the venue and into the glorified shed to realise this is a place built in his image. That's not to say he's the only employee – far from it, of which more later – but he gives his business more than a name, a reason to exist and its beer recipes; the brewery and all who work within it feel like an extension of his personality.
So it's just as well Matty possesses the sort of personality it's easy to fall for: an exuberant, grinning, seat-of-the-pants, red-headed, heartily bearded whirlwind of all-encompassing enthusiasm eager for you to love his beers, his venue, his staff (all of whom come bearing his grinning enthusiasm and, in many cases, similarly hearty beards), his hometown, his vision... well, you get the message.
For the first six months, the former FIFO boilermaker who sold the family home to follow his beer dream, brewed on what was effectively a scaled up homebrew kit he'd built himself – the biggest RIMS system going, he reckons – and looked to service a few local pubs. Now the beers are brewed on a far larger Spark brewhouse, one he admits he "retarded to make it more manual" and thus to his tastes.
"You get to see, touch and feel the beer at every point," he says.
You can see it too if you visit the brewery venue that inhabits a former plant nursery a short distance outside Albany; peer beyond the taps on the bar and you'll spy the small army beavering away in the brewshed to the rear. When The Crafty Pint visited, Matty was already employing ten staff despite the relative youth of the business and gives the impression that if he was able to give a job to everyone in Albany he would. Little surprise then that the man who handles Wilson's branding reckons he'll be mayor before too long.
Yet, while watering the local region is the key focus – hence a core range that plays things rather safer than many young breweries these days – Wilson has been receiving calls from further afield across WA, aided by successes such as winning People's Choice at the inaugural Perth Royal Beer Carnival in 2018.
And, while the core range keeps the reins tight, there's been plenty of experimentation elsewhere, sometimes involving barrels and frequently involving local produce; if you grow something in the Great Southern, chances are they'll be keen to brew with it. They've worked with a local indigenous leader on a beer celebrating native flora and have snapped up the fresh hop crop from Kracanup for the coming years too. And, in a bid to keep the beers on an upward trajectory, a brewer with commercial experience was added to the team to bring in new knowledge and allow Matty more time to focus on future planning.
And what does that look like? At time of writing, work was starting to significantly expand the venue while the target is to push the 15 hectolitre brewery to produce 15,000 litres of beer every week. There's half an eye on the export market and all manner of locally grown ingredients set to feature in beers too.
It's already been quite the journey for a brewery located in one of the most remote locations of any in Australia and, wherever it leads, you can be pretty sure you'll find a welcoming smile at its end.