Back in 2010, we spoke to then Bridge Road brewer Nardia McGrath about her favourite brews, beer styles and how she got into the world of craft beer.
Fast forward to present day and you’ll find Nardia in Newfoundland, Canada, on the verge of launching her brand new brewery, Pig & Pepper Brewing. From making braggot in Beechworth to starting a brewery on the other side of the planet, it's clearly been a big few years, so we thought it only right to bring her back as the latest in our Aussie Exports series.
How are you involved in beer in Canada? How did that come about?
Nardia McGrath: When I first moved to Canada I worked for a small brewery called Picaroons, but I wasn’t really a fan of the brewery or beer so I moved on pretty quickly. The next 18 months were spent working in bars and enjoying more of a social life.
I left Canada for 18 months before returning to work in another brewery in Newfoundland called Yellowbelly. Yellowbelly was great and I learnt a lot. After a year, following the dream of starting my own brewery became a priority and I moved on to pursue that.
When did you leave Australia, and what took you overseas?
NM: I’ve always loved travelling and I’ve been doing it for a while now. I received a Diploma in British Brewing Technology in the UK and have been lucky enough to brew around the world since then. I first moved to Canada in 2011 when I had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave Bridge Road Brewers. The urge to keep travelling was just too strong.
How were you involved in beer in any capacity while still in Australia?
NM: I’ve been extremely fortunate when it comes to breweries in Australia. Ben Kraus gave me my first break in the industry and I was lucky enough to brew for Bridge Road Brewers. I couldn’t have been happier there. It was a great place to work and I was made to feel like family. I still miss the crew.
Bright Brewery and Mornington Peninsula Brewery were also kind enough to give me the opportunity to brew for them. Both are great breweries in beautiful areas, where I got to make some lifelong friends and drink awesome beer.
Did you intend to start setting up a brewery when you moved overseas?
NM: The dream before I even became a brewer was to start my own brewery. When I first began I had no idea where that would be. I thought at first it would be somewhere in North East Victoria as that’s where my parents live. As it turns out, I fell in love with Newfoundland and saw great potential for starting a brewery.
How does the beer scene in your part of Canada differ from home?
NM: The craft beer scene in Newfoundland is relatively small with very few craft breweries. Fortunately, I’m now seeing growth in the industry.
Newfoundlanders love beer and they love trying new styles of beer. Unfortunately, having provincially run liquor stores has meant that Newfoundlanders don’t have a wide range of beer to choose from.
What learnings / experiences have you been able to take with you from Australia or previous roles?
NM: I started working in the Australian craft brewing industry in 2008 at a time when things hadn’t quite boomed, and introducing people to different styles of beers could sometimes be a little disheartening. I learnt to not take things too personally when people would ask me for "real beer", meaning VB or Carlton Draught, or when they would call the beer we had made "shit". I know that I’ll unfortunately have to endure similar experiences when I start my own brewery.
What could Australia learn or do differently to further the beer scene, or what have you seen in your time away that could work in Australia?
NM: I don’t know that where I am in Canada has too much to teach Australia in relation to the beer industry. The Government having full control over alcohol sales hasn’t made for a very forward-thinking industry here in Newfoundland.
Is there much knowledge or understanding of Australian beer in Canada?
NM: There’s the typical Foster’s comments that you come to expect when you’re an Australian overseas, but unfortunately Newfoundland has had to miss out on all the outstanding beer coming out of Australia.
Do you intend on coming back again, and if so, what would you look to do here?
NM: Never say never, but for now Newfoundland is home and I can’t see myself leaving anytime soon.
What's your most treasured beer memory from your travels?
NM: Earlier this year, I was awarded a scholarship by the Pink Boots Society to study Brewery Entrepreneurship in Oregon. Having never been to that part of the world, I had such a great time visiting breweries and bars throughout Oregon, Washington and B.C. There’s just so much going on there and once again I got the chance to meet a lot of great people.
I was also able to fulfil the lifelong dream of visiting the beach where The Goonies was filmed. As luck would have it there was a brewpub there too.
What beer tips do you have for people visiting your part of the world?
NM: There’s a lot of great little breweries popping up all throughout Atlantic Canada and it’s a beautiful part of the world. Do yourself a favour and take the time to explore the whole region.
What Newfoundland is currently lacking in beer it more than makes up for in food and hospitality. There’s some outstanding restaurants here and Newfoundlanders love to show you a good time. You may not find your favourite beer here, but you’ll be hard pressed not to fall in love with the place and its people.
You can check out the rest of our Aussie Exports series here. And, if you're an Aussie doing cool stuff with beer overseas or know someone who is, please get in touch with Kerry McBride.