Like the mash paddle he turns at work most days, Paul Gasmier’s beer career has turned full circle. Ten years ago, Paul installed Duckstein's brewhouse in WA's South West, raising the equipment that would pump out thousands of German-influenced ales and lagers for locals and tourists alike.
Now he is back amid the same old steel tanks and copper pipes to help lead another team of beer lovers into what is becoming a very busy market around the Margaret River region.
Paul’s official title is consultant at the fledgling Black Brewing Company. But that will soon change as he moves to become head of an operation that in quick time has already built a solid headquarters at its Cave Roads base, while also pushing its packaged beers into the larger pool of Perth drinkers.
Black Brewing has opened up following the demise of Duckstein’s southern operation (the business still operates a site in the Swan Valley). Given the thriving and constantly expanding Margaret River beer scene, the demise was surprising but didn’t deter two wine aficionados, Stewart Sampson and Scott Douglas (pictured above), from taking over the premises.
Initially, they ran it as a tavern and now Stewart has teamed with local vintner Robert Bowen to produce beer for the revamped venue. The restaurant and brewery will soon be complemented by a distillery too, providing a one stop shop for locally produced beers, wines, spirits and food.
“It is a bit surreal coming back a decade later,” says Paul. “And it is even weirder how I came back here.
“I was working for a hop and filtration supplier and we had an outstanding account with Duckstein. I was knocking on the door about the account and Duckstein had left and Sampson and Bowen [wines] had taken over.”
Naturally, Paul mentioned his history in their backyard and, although he wasn’t given the job straight away, his knowledge of the system prompted a phone call a few months later.
“The Black boys wanted to make sure the machinery worked so they got me in as a consultant. I’ve been back since,” he says.
“It is a great little unit, it does a great beer. It boils hard, it filters hard and it creates alcohol really well. If you don’t know the kit you can go way over in alcohol.”
Apart from his understanding of the brewhouse, Paul also brought plenty of experience to Black. He has enjoyed stints with Sail & Anchor and Gage Roads, and was most recently involved with Naked Monkey Brewing Co, while also spending time studying at the Siebel Institute.
That said, he says his first assignment back at Black was a tough one.
“The guys came to me and said they wanted a beer that was a cross between Mountain Goat Steam Ale and Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale,” he says. “I was trying to work out where they were coming from when they piped up and said we were also going to call it Fresh Ale.
“I said, 'Don’t worry about those two beers, I’ll make you a beer that tastes like a fresh ale.'.”
The result was a beer originally brewed with new Aussie hops Astra and Melba, with the former since replaced by American variety Calypso. It's one that sits somewhere between summer ale and Kolsch and, fortunately for Paul, Fresh Ale satisfied the taste buds of both Stewart and Scott.
Other beers on the lineup now include Rice Raaager, a 4.8 percent ABV rice lager, Pale Ale, a 6 percent XPA, 4.8 percent Saison and the Bao Bao Session Stout.
So, while the current owners originally wanted the former Duckstein site for a wine operation, it's taking a somewhat different route. With fully operational machinery capable of producing 160,000 litres of beer a year having survived the closure of the previous business, the opportunity to diversify was too good to waste.
Indeed, the brewhouse has gone from being in the red to back in Black.
Black Brewing is at 3517 Caves Road, Wilyabrup.
About the author: Ross Lewis is editor of beer website, The Sip.