For the most part, our Aussie Exports series has focused on Australians who have found work in breweries in other parts of the world. Today, however, we feature a pair doing something rather different: running a beer podcast from their adopted home, London.
Michael Lally and Nic Crilly-Hargrave were both active in the world of social media, blogging and podcasting before they crossed paths in London, ultimately launching The Beer Podcast together.
Here, we find out more...
Nic and Michael of The Beer Podcast
What brought the two of you to London?
Michael Lally: I travelled Europe when I was 20 and loved London and always wanted to come back and do the whole working holiday thing for a few years. When I was 26, I got a job in London and was over here within five weeks!
Nic Crilly-Hargrave: Calling back to one of our previous episodes – Adam Norman from Beerbliotek in Gutenberg (who we'll be featuring in a future Aussie Exports thanks to Nic's tip off) – coined the term Love Refugees. We both came over, met an English rose and decided to stay longterm.
I originally arrived in 2004, stayed for five years, moved back to Melbourne in 2010 as the craft beer scene started to boom, and then headed back to London in 2015.
Did you know each other beforehand?
ML: I didn't know Nic until around 18 months ago. We connected through Twitter and started seeing each other at beer events. We had both been podcasting and decided to join forces.
NCH: I was an avid fan of Michael’s BushCraftBeer podcast [and] was on his back when I saw there was 52 weeks since his last episode. We met off social media at the recording of the final The Beer O’Clock Show at Hop Burns and Black and at many London beer events from there.
What was your connection to beer before heading overseas?
ML: I'd always been a beer drinker but never that discerning. I used to drink a lot of Coopers Pale Ale before I discovered Little Creatures Pale Ale. That was probably my gateway beer to craft, although I didn't really know it at the time.
NCH: Prior to arriving in London in 2004, I was drinking Coronas on the Gold Coast then warm London Pride over here but never had the lightbulb moment for me to properly appreciate it. Arriving in Melbourne in 2010, suddenly Dan Murphy’s had aisles and aisles of craft beer. I then started drinking everything to school myself up.
Why did you decide to launch the beer podcast?
ML: I first starting listening to podcasts a few years ago. I was drinking by myself in the South of France and needed something to pass the time. I listened to a few long form interviews and was hooked.
I got into beer podcasts, and no one was really doing long form interview podcasts in the UK, so I started my own – BushCraftBeer. I lasted 11 episodes and decided I wanted to change direction.
That's when I pitched the idea to Nic and he was keen too. We still wanted to do long form but also explore some interesting topics through getting the stories direct from the people and personalities of the beer scene in the UK.
NCH: Michael’s podcast was on hiatus and I had a radio show/podcast on Shoreditch Radio with a spotlight on London’s ever-changing food and drink scene. I quickly got over the "newsy" nature of the format and started doing long form interviews with chefs (that’s a dark rabbit hole), as Mike was doing, to get under the skin of the hospitality industry.
Are there many beer podcasts in the UK?
ML: There has been bit of an explosion over the past three years. There must be over a dozen that are regularly publishing episodes. The Beer O'Clock show podcasts have been going strong for about five to six years now and are the backbone of the UK podcast scene. GoodBeerHunting do the occasional UK focused podcast now too, but the rest are mainly beer review and banter style podcasts.
NCH: While there’s a fair few, many are quite regional and very inside baseball. You have to be in the craft beer bubble to really appreciate what some of the shows are talking about.
Had you had any experience in this are beforehand?
ML: You could say I'm self taught. I had to learn it all from scratch: the equipment, websites, hosting, editing was all new. As was reaching out to people for interviews and getting out there and talking to people. I've learnt a lot of new skills.
What has been the reaction of the natives to a pair of colonials kicking off in their midst?
ML: The beer scene is London is pretty international and a really positive scene, so it's been OK. There are some things that are a real blind spot for us because we didn't grow up here, like cask beer, so we can give a different view and perspective some time. [It] always gets a bit tense when The Ashes is on though!
NCH: People are super keen to see what we have up our sleeve. Being a couple of very cheeky Aussies, we tend to not hold back in what we think. Especially myself who likes to really question the norm and rock the boat when I can.
Everyone knows Michael from his previous podcast and his blog, especially his Three Bullet Tuesday posts.
What have you set out to achieve with the podcast?
ML: For me, it's always been about storytelling. I love hearing the stories from the people themselves. The Beer Podcast is all about storytelling and looking to get a full rounded view of the story through talking to the people and personalities behind them. But we want to try and make it as good as we can and sometimes that means, like making good beer, our episodes will take time.
NCH: We want to tell the stories from the beer scene that no one else is doing or is willing to do the leg work. I’ve found many of the podcasts in the UK have bypassed the casual drinker looking to learn more and expand on their chats with mates down at the pub.
We’re going to continue with long form interviews with people in the business but we’re also building episodes based around certain topics where we try and get interviews and opinions from as many people involved in the specific topic. This takes time, as for each topic we try to get four to five different perspectives from people throughout the business.
Any highlights to date?
ML: Our second episode was pretty massive. We went to Cornwall for a ten-way collaboration brew and got to interview 11 different people on their role in the collaboration. We spoke to brewers from all over the world. From Deschutes Brewery in Oregon to Adnams in Southwold, Suffolk, to Beerbliotek in Gothenburg, Sweden.
We also have a huge episode coming up on supermarkets where we spoke to loads of different people about the boom in craft beer at supermarkets in the UK.
NCH: We’ve kept many of our shows under wraps but, like Michael, I’m really looking forward to putting out our Supermarkets episode. The topic touches so many people from the buyers, the brewers who do/don’t supply and independent beer shops right through to customers. There’s a lot to unpack for that episode.
I’m also looking forward to the Restaurant episode, where we’re trying to find out why it’s so hard for good beer to make it onto drinks lists.
How are you finding the UK (and European) beer scene?
ML: I guess I am more familiar with the London craft beer scene. And it's great.
There are lots of great people working really hard and smart to build great breweries and beers. When I went to the Great British Beer Festival for the first time this year, it really opened my eyes to how big the traditional beer market is in the UK too.
NCH: The scene over here is stupidly busy. If you want to do a beer-related event every day/night of the week I could put together a schedule for you. London’s a pub city and they all want a piece of the pie so there’s always a tap takeover, meet the brewer, collab launch and beer pairing going on.
From Friday night on the weekends, the breweries on the Bermondsey Beer Mile begin to open and there’s now a North London equivalent with Beavertown, Affinity, One Mile End, Redemption, Pillars, Wild Card, Five Miles and soon to open Pressure Drop breweries all within a short walk of each other.
Europe is a whole other ballgame. I’m clueless to many of the original brewers who perfected many of the European styles so all holidays are planned around hitting as many breweries, taprooms and craft beer bars as possible. One thing I have learnt is that the people behind the bar are always 100% on the money as to recommendations for coffee, restaurants and any other bars that aren’t on your list. Oh yeah - there’s also a huge amount of specific beer festivals to hit - especially in Belgium.
How does it compare to what you experienced in Australia?
ML: When I left Australia back in 2006 there wasn't much of a craft beer scene. And, to be fair, there wasn't much over here too. It was only around 2012 that I really starting paying attention to the craft beer scene over here.
NCH: I thought the Melbourne scene was busy – but it’s nothing compared with London. I’ve got my finger deep in the pulse of the scene here and there’s events happening every night of the week that I completely miss.
While London is ahead of the food and drink world in many things, I’ve really missed Melbourne’s Good Beer Week and all the varied events that the city holds. London Beer City (basically London Beer Week) is improving with every year.
We are going through turbulent times here in Australia - is there a similar situation in the UK?
ML: Absolutely. There are the big multinational brewers looking to establish their craft credentials via acquisition with the likes of Camden Town, Meantime and London Fields all snapped up. There is a huge push by US craft brewers to import to the UK with Stone (via Berlin), Brooklyn, Left Hand and Oskar Blues taking up increasing amounts of shelf space and, with increasing competition from new breweries, there is a certain tension in the market.
Which beers/breweries/venues must anyone visiting London checkout?
ML: The icons of London would be The Kernel and Beavertown. The Kernel is in Bermondsey, where you will also find about half a dozen other craft breweries including Brew By Numbers and Fourpure. Beavertown is up in Tottenham and a Saturday visit to their taproom is recommended.
NCH: My craft beer epiphany happened at the bottom of a can of Beavertown’s Gamma Ray so I have to put that on anyone’s list whether they’re looking to convert or not. There’s so many breweries and venues to recommend but, in reality, if you’re visiting London you’re staying pretty central.
On the Bermondsey Beer Mile, Fourpure is a very impressive setup and has small batch beers that you’ll never find elsewhere. The Kernel and Brew By Numbers are always 100 percent on the money and all next door to each other.
In Peckham (my home turf), Get a Peckham Pils from Brick Brewery and wander to Gosnells Meadery and next door to them Kanpai is distilling London’s first sake.
Aside from your podcast, where can anyone heading to the UK find out more about the craft beer scene?
ML: Beer bloggers are a great source of information. Check out Matt Curtis, James Beeson, Jonny Garret from the Craft Beer Channel and Rebecca Pate. Also take a look at @beerguidelondon on Twitter.
NCH: There’s so much going on and there’s only one place I know doing a proper monthly roundup of the main events: https://londonbrewersmarket.com/news/.
I’d suggest getting in touch with us on Twitter or Instagram a few weeks before your arrival so we can help plan a hit list and ensure people get involved in things happening during their visit. Once in a lifetime kinda shit.
But also go back and have a listen to Michael’s conversations to whet the palate.
Thanks, chaps. Will be in touch when next in London, for sure. Check out The Beer Podcast here.
You can read past Aussie Exports features here too.