For the past few years, Peter Philip has been living up to the wayward name of his brewing company. Since entering his first beer into the market at the end of 2012, he’s become a stalwart of Sydney’s gypsy brewing scene and has, by his count, produced his beers in seven different breweries. But that’s effectively all in the past now as Wayward gets ready to roll up the doors of a home to call its own.
Tucked away in a quiet lane on the border between Camperdown and Annandale, the brewery will be the latest in the Inner West’s blossoming list of breweries to open in the past couple of years, joining Young Henrys, Rocks Brewing, Batch Brewing and the forthcoming Grifter.
Wayward is set to provide a substantial footprint, with the brewery’s initial output upwards of half a million litres annually but built with growth in mind. Says Pete: “We got a four vessel system because we wanted to have shorter brew days or be able to do more brews in a day.
"When we went over to the CBC [Craft Brewers Conference] in the US, everybody I spoke to said, 'Plan for success' or 'Plan for expansion', so our plan is to put another row of 40 hectolitre tanks in. That should take us to around a million litres [annual capacity].”
Ahead of the brewery being commissioned, Pete enticed Shaun Blissett north from the Illawarra Brewing Company where, along with Ashur Hall, he had produced several award-winning beers and helped put the Wollongong brewery on the map. Having spent the past seven months setting up the brewery, Shaun will take charge of the day to day brewing operations while Pete attempts to balance his time between his day job as executive director of an e-commerce business and the undoubtedly more attractive option of playing in the brewery.
And that prospect isn’t far away at all, to the point where, if you peer in from the street, it looks more or less ready to go.
“We’re pretty happy with things so far," says Pete. "The glycol is in, the water’s connected, CO2 is still to be finished and the gas should be turned on soon.
"That’ll be the last thing before we can fire it all up. There are a couple more certificates to get but after that nothing’s stopping us doing a water brew.
"I fully expect something will come out of the blue to delay things, but if it didn’t I’d say we can have beer in about a month”.
And so, to the beer.
Wayward hasn’t really ever done mainstream styles. They launched with an India red ale then followed that up with a kellerbier, biere de garde, jasmine saison, eisbock and a chocolate doppelbock. So it’s a slight surprise to hear Pete describe what the first beer coming through Wayward’s own brewing system will be.
“I always said we’d never do a pale ale," he says. "Well, never say never!
“The first beer coming out of here will be called Camperdown 1 and it’s probably going to be a pale. Shaun and I are going to do a brew-off: he’ll do one and I’ll do one then we’ll choose, or maybe blend them.
"Normally we’ll collaborate on beers, for example he’ll do the malt bill and I’ll do the hop bill or vice versa, but we’ll try to have some fun with this. Because we’ve never done one, if we’re gonna do it I want it to be awesome and a little bit different.”
With “awesome” being a fairly subjective term, Pete elaborates...
“My secret one which I haven’t told Shaun about [erm, sorry Pete...] is going to be a hybrid of English and American styles. So it’ll be like an English bitter but a bit more pale and I’m adding some US hops for fruitiness, but it’ll still have that earthy character and be a real session beer.”
As a side note, Pete suggests experimenting further with English hops may become important for the brewery as “there’s another great hop crisis coming and we’ve got to start building beers that don’t depend on Galaxy.”
Whatever transpires, he’s pondering all past and future beers and how they’ll sit within the wider Wayward range.
“We’re kind of getting a few too many pale beers now," he says of the beers he's released somewhat haphazardly as a gypsy over the past few years. "We’ve got Fusami IPL [India pale lager], Keller Instinct, Oatis IPA and Raconteur – which is a bit more golden – but we’ll have to do a few dark beers I think.”
Once the doors open, they'll be able to weigh up how the Wayward range looks in the company of an eager test audience: you.
The brewery will have a cellar door accommodating around 150 people with 12 taps serving beer straight from the cool room and an area set aside for a barrel-ageing program which has space for around 24 barrels. It’s an interesting space in that the whole lane used to be part of a winery and each of the small rooms that run off the main cellar door were once concrete wine vats; run your hand along the wall and you can feel the wax and see the brown stains where red wine has soaked into the concrete.
Says Pete: “I’ve been to every brewery and bar in town and I think what we’ll be doing will be significantly different, so the cellar door is really exciting for me.
“To start with, it’ll just be our beer and we’ll do the food truck thing because it’s no hassle. It just makes sense as I don’t know anything about running a restaurant – I can pour a beer but that’s about it! But once we’re up and running we’ll think about what else we might want to do.”
What has been considered is building ties with the community and that’s something he wants to do from day one, starting with a karma keg type concept whereby they’ll choose a charity, tap a keg and ask that people pay what they feel for a glass.
“To taste the beer, it’ll be a donation,” he explains. “We won’t take any money from it, so all the money goes to the local charity of choice. We want to start building a bit of community spirit and hopefully people will enjoy the beers too, so it should work out well for everyone.”
Likewise, with his gypsy brewing background, Pete’s not about to forget how he got his start and is ready to help support other gypsy brewers.
“I’ve been a gypsy brewer for three or four years so I want our brewery to be gypsy-friendly to the point that if you brew a beer here, it’s going on the bar - even if it’s just a keg.”
Having lived in the area for 15 years, home brewed for almost all of them, professionally brewed for the most recent of them, and having a long held idea to open a local brewery, things are finally coming full circle for Pete - in a wayward kind of way.
You’ll find the Wayward Brewery at 1 Gehrig Lane, Annandale.
If you’re keen on working with Wayward, they’re still taking applications for a Beer Evangelist. Details here.