To the dismay of millions around the globe, British stuffiness meant that one of the unlikely heroes of 2016 – Boaty McBoatface – never came to life; the organisation that had opened the naming of a new research vessel to the public opted for the hideously sensible David Attenborough instead*. But, thanks to a pair of pioneering women, the boat that never was will live on in the hands and mouths of Australian beer drinkers.
Today sees Jayne Lewis (above left) and Danielle Allen celebrate the completion of their journey from contract brewers to owners of a fully self-sufficient brewery – one that employs 20 people, no less – with a new look and a new beer. And that beer owes something to our tragically dismissed British buddy.
Late last year, Two Birds Brewing released a one-off keg release called Oaty McOatface, a pale ale featuring Jayne's beloved flaked and naked oats in the mix. They liked it. Drinkers liked it. They had been minded to add a pale ale to their lineup. And, lo, Two Birds Pale was born, slotting into the core range in place of Bantam IPA and alongside the Golden Ale, Sunset and Taco. Sure, it may not be called Oaty McOatface. It may have a tweaked hop component and more oats for added silkiness too, but we'll all know that a little bit of Boaty lives on in every sip.
And so, more than ever, does the legend of Australia's first 100 percent female owned brewing company. Those who have followed the pair's tale will know they launched with their Golden Ale five-and-a-half years ago, with former Mountain Goat, Little Creatures and Matilda Bay brewer Jayne's recipe brewed for the pair. They quickly gained a fan base, followed up with a great second beer, Sunset Ale, which last year won a trophy at the Australian International Beer Awards, went on to start winning champion brewery trophies for fun and, in the middle of 2014, opened the Two Birds Nest – housing brewery and venue – in Spotswood.
Since then, as they've steadily expanded in every way imaginable, all packaged beer was still brewed for them, but now they've completed the construction of their own packaging line in the warehouse adjacent to the Nest and are rather happy about it.
"It's the final piece in the puzzle," says Jayne. "We had said right from the beginning that we wanted to be able to make all our own beer and [starting out as contract brewers] was our way of going about it.
"It was always in our business plan and, for me personally, I'm so stoked and really proud that we've got to this position, that allows us to have control over our destiny. It's just an awesome position to find ourselves in."
It's a path that's been trodden by others, including fellow Victorians Boatrocker and Temple, Hobart's Last Rites Brewing and Gold Coast brewers Black Hops, to name just four.
"There's no right or wrong [way to build a brewing business]," says "Other Bird" Dani, who oversees the business and marketing side of the operation from Sydney. "It's what worked for us and what we were comfortable with in terms of investment personally."
When they started out, they expected to be at the "building a brewery" stage by now, so it's a plan that's certainly worked for them. More tanks have been added to their Spotswood home while production – and the size of the team – has been ramping up for the past six months in preparation for this week's announcement.
Marking the occasion is the first appearance of Pale, which comes with a new look that will be rolled out across the entire range over the coming months. The bold Two Birds logo remains the same, as will the simple colour coding of their labels that has been mimicked by many since they launched in 2011. But each label now comes with cartoon like illustrations that tell the story of each beer (Pale's includes a flying boat, of course) – another example of local brewers investing as much time and care in their presentation as the beer in your glass.
"After five years, we wanted to look at something different," says Dani. "Part of our brand personality is the fact that all of these beers are developed from stories of our lives, so we're putting a bit of that into the branding."
Taking full control of the ship's wheel, not to mention having a new beer and tale to tell, should stand them in good stead in what is shaping up to be the most turbulent year for craft brewing since it began its rise to prominence.
"It's competitive," says Dani. "Just from the sheer number of players that are joining us. It's an attractive industry to be in – it attracted us five years ago, attracted us to take a risk. We can understand why it's become so popular and we hope that everyone is successful.
"It's about sticking to your own plan and recognising the reasons why you started out in business and not trying to be too many things to too many people."
This evening will be an easy reminder of why they took that risk as they celebrate with friends, family and regulars at The Nest. And, says Dani, there's plenty more to come.
"This is a pinnacle moment for us," she says, promising "a lot of exciting stuff" lying ahead.
"This is just the start of it."
Photo at top: credit Tim Grey
*In fairness to the Natural Environmental Research Council, they did agree to name one of the ship's smaller underwater vessels Boaty McBoatface. At time of writing, however, a petition asking Sir David Attenborough to change his name to Sir Boaty McBoatface had not been successful.