There are so many opportunities to immerse yourself in the beer industry these days that it's far easier to amass knowledge and experience before launching your own venture. But we'll wager there are very few out there who have gone to quite the lengths of Nic Sandery.
Sure, the fact he spent time at established breweries Little Creatures, Stone & Wood and Holgate Brewhouse while he honed his skills isn't particularly unusual. Nor is the fact he's a keen student of beer and brewing. Yet such building blocks represent only part of what he's using to create Molly Rose Brewing.
Upon leaving a brewing position in early 2016 – and armed with a laptop, computer and protective cases for both – he set off to explore beer cultures in diverse regions of the world. He first spent time in Japan, later immersing himself in parts of the beer world in the US, England and Germany, all with the aim of understanding not just how they brewed and what they brewed but what beer culture meant in each of those places.
On returning from that trip, he worked at wineries in Victoria to understand the winemakers' mentality and techniques too and, along the way, built a vision for what Molly Rose would become.
Admittedly, all of this is well and good but, if it doesn't lead to Nic brewing and releasing any beer, is it not a little like the eternal student who embarks on successive uni courses? It might do, were it not for the fact that beers have been forthcoming since late 2017, initially in very small numbers but, from early 2019, in rather larger volumes.
From the very first releases, Nic showed how he planned to bring something new to the table and create something as elegant as the name Molly Rose (an amalgam of his grandmothers' first names) alludes. Those included a remarkable smoked Japanese dark lager featuring seaweed, for example, a finely tuned saison and a delicate strawberry-laced sour ale.
Midway through 2019, the doors to Molly Rose’s own home opened in the craft beer hub that is Collingwood. Built to a great degree by Nic's own hands inside a former furniture store on Wellington Street, barrels, tanks and the bar line the walls while contemporary hop driven beers, traditional lagers, farmhouse styles and barrel-aged blends typically pour through the taps.
It’s the kind of small neighbourhood brewery and bar that perfectly fits with Nic’s thoughtful approach to brewing and eagerness to educate drinkers about the wider beer culture while forging his own path.
The next major evolution came in early 2023, when a new Molly Rose appeared that felt like it had been taking shape ever since Nic bought his plane ticket to explore breweries across the world. Having taken over two adjoining buildings on Wellington Street, the new space saw Molly Rose install a small brewery. This complements the rest of their production: in some cases, wort is produced off site then fermented in-house; for many of his biggest-selling beers, they're brewed by mates at larger breweries.
That 300-litre brewery is a central feature with the expanded Molly Rose's beer garden, dining room and lounge, and allows for experimentation to flourish. Small batches brewed there allow the creativity to flow, which is the idea behind the 20-seat chef’s table (set to open in winter 2023) where beer, plates, wine and cocktails are presented as one. It’s the kind of blurring of lines that Nic has always promoted as a brewer and runs through the venue in which a genuinely gorgeous centrepiece bar serves local wine and other drinks alongside beer.
The venue’s wider food menu is as elegant as the space, featuring layered flavours that highlight local produce and use house fermented ingredients and sweet, sour and savoury flavours inspired by South East Asian street food.
Having begun the Molly Rose journey by setting off overseas to explore the drinking and dining culture of other countries, it feels only fitting that the modern brewery has ultimately brought something new to Australia’s craft beer culture.