Bendigo has arguably the most developed craft beer scene of any city in Australia outside the state capitals. But it wasn't always thus. At the time The Crafty Pint launched in 2010, there was a lone warrior, Tim Baxter, with his venue, The Dispensary Enoteca, the place inquisitive drinkers could find an impressive lineup of bottled beers (not to mention walls of gins, fine wines, whiskies and more).
It was there that two beer lovers hatched a plan: they were going to help drive change in the city and encourage venues to start stocking better beer. They were Justin McPhail, who has since gone on to become a chef and work at crafty Bendigo hotspots such as the Goldmines Hotel before opening Flight Bar & Bottleshop this year, and Trev Birks. And their vehicle for driving change was Bendigo Beer.
In the early days, they encouraged the city's live music venues to stock Bridge Road and Holgate beers, would hold free tastings in bars, foisting the likes of Stone & Wood Pacific Ale onto unsuspecting drinkers during Friday knockoff drinks, and used any means they could to turn people's heads. There have been homebrew competitions, an Oktoberfest and, perhaps most notably, Bendigo On The Hop. This unique festival invites attendees to wander between ten craft beer-supporting venues tasting beers from 20 independent Australian breweries.
Trev remains at the head of Bendigo Beer, which has grown in number, was established as a not-for-profit in 2013 and should serve as an example of what can be achieved via people power, passion and no little innovation. During weekdays, he's found at Bendigo Bank but also has involvement in The Farmers Arms on the city's edge and crops up onstage wielding his guitar whenever time allows.
With the 2017 Bendigo On The Hop looming on August 26, we thought it was about time we invited Trev to join our other Craft Beer Heroes. So here he is...
How do you fit into the wonderful world that is craft beer in Australia?
Chair of Bendigo Beer Inc and co-festival director of Bendigo On The Hop.
What drew you to work in beer?
I love the message, the people, the community feel and of course, the beers. Even though my main gig is banking, I am involved in a small capacity with a couple of beer venues and of course, Bendigo Beer Inc.
How long have you been promoting beer in your own particular way?
Since 2011, when I saw a need for someone from Bendigo to use an enthusiastic, inclusive business-orientated approach to convince local venues to support good beer. Before that, I was the typical closet beer lover in that I sought out and bought beers and bemoaned the fact that local venues were sub-standard because they “didn’t get it”.
Getting people motivated to act has always been a strength of mine so I thought: "Why not?"
What was the first ever job you had in the beer world?
Slinging beers back in 1996 at a Ballarat Brewing Company owned pub called The Park Hotel. $1.10 pots – those were the days. It was bought out by CUB soon after in 1997 *sob*.
As Wayne Coyne, of The Flaming Lips, once pondered: “Why does it matter?”
Two reasons; passion and economy.
As a country, Australia has become uncompetitive in many aspects of manufacturing. To support passionate small businesses striving to enrich their local communities and produce unique beer is right down my alley.
What's been your proudest / happiest moment as a craft beer advocate?
About 30 min after Bendigo On The Hop 2014 finished. It was a huge gamble and extremely stressful but to see Bendigo’s CBD peppered with beer enthusiasts from all over Australia was brilliant.
Describe your craft beer utopia.
Drinking free Bridge Road Bling IPA on tap at a Motor Ace and Foo Fighters gig.
Water, malt, hops or yeast?
A happy, delicious marriage of all.
If you had one minute in which to convert someone to craft beer, how would you spend it?
Tell them about Bendigo On The Hop and get them to buy a ticket. Forty different beers on show to demonstrate just how versatile beer is, all while bar hopping with your best mates on a Saturday afternoon. Perfect. [You can't keep a good zealot down! – Editor]
And if you had three beers with which to convert someone, what would they be?
A Bridge Road Pale Ale, Big Shed Golden Stout Time and a Lindeman's Cherry Kriek. You wouldn’t stand a chance.
You can read other Craft Beer Heroes here and check out our Crafty Crawl guide to Bendigo's best beer venues here.
If you know of someone you think should be featured as a Craft Beer Hero, feel free to drop us a line.
Photo at top (left to right): Jo Doye (treasurer and co-festival director BOTH), Trev, his wife Nic Birks and Adrian Doye. Trev says Steve Abbott and Sam Bastian have also been key figures in Bendigo Beer since 2013.