There must be something in the water that they serve during Merri Masher meetings. Although, considering it’s a homebrew club, the likely refreshment is probably beer, so maybe it's the water they use to brew that contains something special, because they are proving fertile ground for new commercial operations. One can only hope that, whatever it is, they aren’t getting it out of the brown creek that the group is named after...
Although Merri Mashers is one of Melbourne’s younger homebrew clubs, it's displaying a pretty good success rate when it comes to turning amateurs into professionals. Last year, four of the club’s brewers established Old Wives Ales and now, following hot on their trail, is Co-Conspirators Brewing Company. We’ve been told that their unlikely to be the last too.
Before anymore put their heads above the parapet, we meet the Co-Conspirators: two couples who, after finding success in a few homebrew competitions, got the taste for professional brewing. Separately, they had all had ideas about starting up a brewery but, after coming together (we can assume over some beers), they soon realised that they shared similar ideas. From that moment on, a grand conspiracy was born.
Who are you?
There’s four of us: Jacqui Sacco, Tim Martin, Maggie and Deon Smit. We are a team of two couples who came together through the Merri Mashers homebrew club, which is based in Melbourne’s north.
Where do you brew?
We’ve brewed at 100 Acres Brewery out in Warrandyte, which is the production brewery for Croydon’s The Public Brewery. But due to the nature of gypsy brewing we’re going to be brewing wherever we can get in. Which is fine by us!
Why do you brew?
Deon: We just love beer is really all it comes down to. We all have a passion for beer; whether it's drinking beer, making beer or sharing beer. That’s what it’s all about for us.
Jacqui: It’s also come through the homebrewing, always having fresh beer on tap has been important for us. Not only is it great to have nice beer so readily available, but we also love being able to share it with whoever comes by.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
The idea came from the fact that there are four of us all conspiring together, outside our normal jobs. We also want to conspire with others as well, whether they are other brewers, or great producers or restaurants.
As gypsy brewers, we hope to learn whatever we can from the places where we brew. We started out with that idea and then it’s grown from that; we are really excited to work with local coffee roasters and the like to brew some fantastic beer.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Deon: Maggie and I won a homebrewer competition that allowed us to brew a commercial batch and that planted the seed. That was almost a year and half ago now; we liked brewing before that, but that was the first taste of professional brewing.
Maggie: We brewed it out at Kooinda. It was supposed to be just a 50 litre keg but they were generous enough to brew an 800 litre batch. That meant we got to have some at bars around Melbourne and even my family got to try it up at Brisbane. It was just such an awesome feeling seeing absolute strangers drink it and go: "That’s really nice."
Jacqui: Tim won an IPA competition as well and brewed it at Clifton Hill Brewpub and, right after that, the four of us got together and realised that we were all interested in doing something similar.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Deon: Lots and lots of test batches. We are brewing constantly at the moment so our fridges are full of new recipes we are trying to perfect.
Maggie: We’ve also got a few styles that we are curious to brew in the future to get us thinking about what we’ll make next. A lot of them are pale ales because it’s a style every brewery really needs to attempt and one that’s really stood out recently is 3 Ravens'.
What would be your desert island beer?
Are you allowed to have an everyday beer and then a fancy desert island beer for when people come and visit your island?
Glass Case of Emotion by 7 Cent Brewery must do it for a fancy beer. Then Stone Best Before would be the everyday beer; sure, it’s expensive, but what does it matter on a desert island?
If your brewery was a band, who would it be?
Black Keys– we just all love them. They work as a band in the way we want to work as a brewery: they push the boundaries while still being fantastically brilliant musicians. We want to make great classic beers while also push the boundaries of style.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Not gypsy brewing. When you haven’t sold a single beer yet it’s hard to work out where you want to be, but we do have had the goal of making a brewpub from the very first meeting.
It’s a model that’s underutilised in Australia at the moment and it gives you lots of freedom to experiment and find out what your customers really enjoy while also showing you what you enjoy brewing too.
Where can people find your beers?
Our first beer, The Henchman, is a West Coast IPA that will be launching at The Alehouse Project on December 10. From there we’ll be focusing on getting our kegs into Melbourne’s inner north to begin with.
You can view other Who Brews? features here.
About the author: Will Ziebell is a history graduate who finds the greatest use for his degree is telling anecdotes to anyone who will listen. Often they involve beer, especially when hosting Melbourne Brewery Tours. He can be found on Instagram and Twitter.