While there’s no shortage of breweries in Australia that contain a reference to hops in their name, we’d wager there’s few – if any – whose name is also a reference to jazz legends or plastic saxophones.
Hoppin’ Mad Brewing is one of Sydney’s newest gypsy operations and the man behind it, Simon Stribling, takes his brewing inspiration from music as much as he does from the beers he's enjoyed on his frequent travels.
He currently brews out of the St Peter's Brewery in Sydney's west and is here to tell tales of Portland, Charlie “Bird” Parker and lambics as part of our Who Brews...? series.
HOPPIN' MAD BREWERY
Why do you brew?
I love beer. I love the science behind brewing. But I also love the art of brewing.
Being a travelling jazz musician has taken me all over the world, and has exposed me to some incredible beers in equally incredible places: the cellars in Munich, the lambics near Brussels, the monasteries of Westmalle, Portland's IPAs, the UK bitters... the diversity is astounding. That’s what I love. I also love to cook, and brewing is like cooking. YES, it is a science, but it is an art form as well.
Then there is the symbiotic connection between jazz and beer. Jazz is for the people, as is beer.
What beers have you released to date?
Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, White IPA, IPA, Pale Ale and, soon, a Vienna style lager.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
I’ll try to keep this brief – as you know when you are truly passionate about something, you can get carried away and go on and on about it.
OK, here goes…
Hoppin’ Mad. The reference to hops is obvious. But besides that there’s a story. One of my Australian jazz heroes was a guy by the name of Ade Monsbourgh. It was during the early 1950s on a tour in the UK that Ade teamed up with a bunch of English musicians in London and recorded the tune “Hoppin’ Mad”. Ade wrote the tune in reference to the washboard player George Hopkinson.
In addition to that, if you look at my logo, you will notice a white saxophone. Ade was presented with a white plastic alto saxophone by the UK Grafton company. The Grafton company gifted four such saxes – one to Ade and the other three to Johnny Dankworth, Benny Carter and the legendary Charlie Parker. There are some cool photos of Charlie “Bird” Parker playing the plastic sax.
Ade Monsbourgh recorded his tune Hoppin’ Mad on the plastic white alto. So there you go, there’s my inspiration behind the name.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
There have been many moments when I look back. I think the first moment was at the Portland Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon. There were a bunch of us Aussie jazz musicians that had just performed at the biggest jazz festival in the US – Sacramento Jazz Jubilee.
We hired a car and drove to Astoria, Oregon, to stay with our great friend and trumpet-playing hero Jim Goodwin. Jim had this Thursday night duo gig at the Portland Brewing Co. We tagged along.
Jim performed on the stage, which was tucked up above the bar in a kind of attic or balcony with a railing, while we were down below sampling over a dozen different kinds of beers. I remember thinking: “Wow, drinking world class ale and listening to hot jazz. Really? This is cool!”
Then numerous subsequent trips to Belgium to play jazz festivals fuelled my appetite even more – lambics, witbiers, Abbey ales and the magnificent trippels of Karmeliet and Westmalle were just like nectar; “How do they make this?”
It was a few years later that really sealed it for me though… The "Aha!" moment was the first time my wife and I visited the Red Hill Brewery on the Mornington Peninsula. It was nestled in the lovely countryside, a tasting room draped in hops. I’d been toying with the idea of owning a vineyard and was discouraged by a few vintners referring to the amount of work involved. But a brewery? This might fly!
This was eight years ago. I have brewed ever since.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Always way too much – my wife complains that our tiny fridge doesn’t have any room for food sometimes!
There is usually a Deschutes on hand. [Currently there’s] a bunch of different IPAs from BC and Texas as I was over there for a family trip recently.
What would be your desert island beer?
That’s a hard one. I would probably have to say it would be a Fat Tug by Lighthouse Brewing Co on Vancouver Island, BC. Or my good pal Derrick Franche’s 5 Rings IPA, which you can find at the Brewhouse (Mark James Group) in Whistler, BC. Wow, then there is Deus from Belgium. Can I take all three of them?
If your brewery was a band, who would it be?
Hoppin’ Mad Jazz Band of course! Which actually exists, by the way. We play every Sunday at the Sugar Lounge in Manly as well as at other cool venues like Palmer and Co in the city. My motto is “Cool Craft, Hot Jazz”.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
In a funky A grade location where people love cool craft beer and hot jazz. Imagine that: being able to play hot jazz in the venue that you brew beer in.
Yep! That’s it.
Where can people find your beers?
- Lord Raglan Hotel
- Jah Bar, Manly
- Belrose Hotel (January 2018)
- Bank Hotel (January 2018)
And my beers have been on a rotating tap at the following pubs:
- Forest Lodge Hotel
- Harts Pub
- Frankie's Pizza by the Slice
- Woolpack Hotel
- Arcadia Liquors
- Sugar Lounge
- The Hayberry
- Dove & Olive
- Keg and Brew
You can keep tabs on where else the beers might be cropping up by following @hoppinmadbrewery on both Facebook and Instagram.
And you can view past Who Brews...? features here.