Doctor's Orders Brewing could lay claim to being the archetypal gypsy brewing company in Australia (although founder Darren "Doc" Robinson prefers "cuckoo" to gypsy, given he takes up residence in other people's nests to create his beers).
This year saw the gypsy-cuckoo turn seven, an anniversary that's being celebrated on December 2. In those seven years, Darren has created some of the most unusual beers to reach local drinkers' lips, including many Australian firsts. He's brewed with squid ink, created all manner of sours before they were cool, is one of The Wheaty's regular collaborators (or "spooners") and has never been afraid to turn the booze / oak / adjunct list up to 11.
In advance of his seventh birthday party, we invited him to take part in our Brew & A series so we could find out a little more about what makes the Sydney-dwelling Kiwi tick.
Why are you a brewer?
When I moved to Australia 20 years ago the beer was very ordinary.
What would you be if you weren’t a brewer?
I am also an IT Identity Management Consultant. I wanted to be an architect but thought I’d be clinically dead after five years at university. Electronic and Software Engineering was only three years.
What was your epiphany beer?
Pre craft beer (when I was in my 20s), it was Speights Old Dark. A few years later, Hoegaarden Grand Cru.
How did you first get involved in the beer world?
I was a
compulsive obsessed home brewer and a few mates started brewing commercially and they dragged me in.
What's the best beer you’ve ever brewed?
The next one. This week it’s Tonic our Witbier / Tonic Mixer we’re releasing for Summer.
(Darren says the beer is designed to pair with gin from Baker Williams (Mudgee). He says: "The citrus forward Gin makes Tonic pop.")
What's your single favourite ingredient to use in beer?
Are there any beers you’ve brewed that might have been better left on the drawing board?
Not yet, but there are still plenty that I haven’t pulled the trigger on that have potential failure written all over them.
If you could do a guest stint at any brewery in the world, which would it be and why?
3 Floyds. The beers, the music and the vibe.
Which local (Aussie or Kiwi) breweries inspire you?
Ben at Bridge Road, Brendan at 3 Ravens and Stu at Yeastie Boys.
What's your desert island beer – the one to keep you going if you were stranded for the rest of your days?
Anaphylaxis [his NZ Manuka Smoked Black IPA with Chipotle]. That beer still amazes me with the balance and complexity.
And what would be the soundtrack to those days?
A playlist of alternative, metal and Australian hip hop from 1990 to 2015.
If you couldn’t have beer, what would be your tipple of choice?
Sour mash whiskey.
What's the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a brewer?
Advice to probably not do it commercially ;-)
And the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering a career in craft beer?
Hangovers are an occupational hazard.
Thanks, Darren. You can join him for birthday drinks (and he's putting on a vast array of them too) at Creek and Cella in Leichhardt on December 2, 2016. And you can keep tabs on all things Doctor's Orders Brewing (and order some prescriptions) here.
We've also lined up a case of new release Tonic – read about it here – as part of our final major monthly prize draw of the year for members of our Crafty Cabal beer lovers bonus scheme. We'll reveal the full December prize lineup soon...