“There are many easier places to build a brewery than the second largest sand island in the world. There are cheaper places to do it. But it started with Straddie.”
North Stradbroke Island – or Straddie to anyone who knows it – captures the hearts of pretty much everyone who visits it. That certainly holds fast for Kylie Taylor and Troy Beaven, a couple of mainlanders who found themselves drawn back to the island again and again over the years.
The couple’s deep love for Straddie led them to a point where they thought: “We want to do something cool on Straddie – what does the island need?” Later, a visit to an island brewery off the coast of Scotland inspired them: “We should build a brewery on Straddie!”
A year later, they brought in Andrew Sydes (formerly of Green Beacon and Catchment) to partner with them and become their master of brewing. The team began by brewing offsite while COVID caused delays, but eventually built their tower of power and opened the brewery in October 2022.
Many craft breweries set up in big warehouses, but there aren’t a lot of those on this sand island off the coast of Brissie. So Straddie Brewing squeezed everything into a smaller site and built upwards, creating a three-level architectural beauty.
You can step off the ferry onto the island and walk straight to the brewery. The ground floor is where they brew, keg and can the beer. You could peek in the windows at the tanks, but for a better view, head up to the taproom on level one and look down over the brew deck with a beer in your hand. The polished concrete floors and exposed concrete ceiling give this spot a semi-industrial vibe, and even the handrail here is made from brewery hardware, so you feel like you’re right in the thick of the brewing process.
Turn to face the other direction and the aesthetic reminds you you’re definitely on Stradbroke Island: the beachy decor; the white paint; the natural colours and nature print on the front of the 12-tap bar… even the timber bar top is made from wood from the island, with a local carpenter doing the finishing.
But the real magic of Straddie Brewing is further upstairs: the rooftop bar. Up here, the industrial is gone and paradise has arrived. You’ve got a panoramic view that shows you right up north, where you can see Mount Tibrogargan in the distance, to right down south; see if you can spot the Tamborine plateau. There’s a huge stretch of sparkling water in between, and if you’re lucky (or clever) enough to be there at the right time, you can soak in a heaven-hued sunset while lounging with a beer or cocktail in hand.
But, honestly, any time of day is wonderful up here. There aren’t many places like it.
It seems the island itself is on board with having its own brewery, and wants to contribute: an aquifer under Stradbroke provides the super soft sand-filtered water that the brewery uses. In turn, the beers are made with Straddie in mind, as each of the core range beers is named after a place on the island. But rather than making the beers then throwing names on the label, the team built the beers around the places.
“For me, the challenge with my brewer’s hat on was to work out how to create liquid to fit the location,” Andrew says.
For example, there’s a rare but verdant ecosystem in the mix of fresh and saltwater created by Myora Springs. What better to represent this mix of fresh and salt water than a gose? Then there’s Jumpinpin Channel, where they detonated the unstable dynamite from a shipwreck in 1894 and inadvertently split Stradbroke Island in two, creating a channel that’s now constantly changing shape due to the tides and erosion. This history gave birth to Jumpinpin IPA, which was designed to be explosive in flavour and to evolve from batch to batch too.
These beers – along with the other regulars – are made with the locals and visitors alike in mind, and with the knowledge that easy-drinking beers serve Straddie well.
“We recognised from day dot that we’re making beer for people who are here not just for our beers… The majority aren’t coming here for us, but because Stradbroke is a beautiful place to visit,” is how Andrew puts it.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t the opportunity to swim in deeper waters. It’s in the Sandpit Series that you’ll find limited releases like a stout or a saison, a NEIPA or a DIPA.
“My core range is very intentionally aimed at being more approachable, balanced and drinkable,” he adds. “Our Sandpit Series is our chance to play around.”
There’s plenty of playing around happening in the venue’s kitchen, too. The food menu is bigger and better than even the founders originally thought it would be – a real gift to Straddie, since there are limited offerings elsewhere on the island. There are sharing boards, as well as plates both small and large that cover a range of cuisines: po’boys and tacos, meatballs and koftas, risotto and laksa. Local seafood is scattered throughout the menu, and for those who know beer and pizza is the ultimate combo, there’s a selection of wood-fired Naples-style pizzas.
Straddie Brewing is located in Dunwich, a township known as the gateway to Straddie since it’s where the ferry from the mainland arrives. (For the adventurous, there’s also the option of flying to Stradbroke on a Brewairy Tour, where you’ll ride in a private light aircraft over the locations that inspired the beers while receiving a matching inflight tasting of the beers.)
Kylie, Troy and Andrew have all made Dunwich their home, and have all fallen deeper in love with the place since they moved there. The three have come to see that there isn’t just one kind of person who appreciates Stradbroke for what it is.
There are people who visited Straddie once when they were younger, and people who holiday there every year; people who bought a holiday house, and people who split their time between the island and the mainland; people who moved to Straddie, and people who were born there; people whose families have lived there since European settlement, and the Quandamooka peoples who have lived on Minjerribah for thousands of years in direct connection with the land.
And now there are people who come for the beer. But, like everyone else, those people quickly discover there’s so much more to love about Straddie.
“It’s a funny place,” Andrew says. “It’s so peaceful and tranquil and separated from the mainland, and has this wonderful sense of emotion. Hop on the boat and head to Straddie and feel the tension melt away.”