Gather round, people, and let us tell you a tale of court characters, cans and corrugated iron...
In 2012, Harley Goodacre had a vision. He took a corrugated iron warehouse in the Brisbane suburb of Banyo, rewired the joint, put in a new floor, built a cool-room and installed a 20 hectolitre wood-clad brewhouse complete with old milk vats repurposed as fermenters – all on a shoestring budget. The result was All Inn Brewing.
Venues around Brisbane have showcased All Inn’s beers over the intervening years but, as with many suburban breweries, it's been the bar at the source that's contributed most of its business. The brewery has thrived thanks to the support of its loyal subjects: the devoted locals who call in to The Shed regularly for a pint or three, as well as a smattering of beer lovers from further afield who make the trip to the ‘burbs to see what all the fuss is about.
But, as the world keeps turning, All Inn keeps growing.
“We’ve grown quite vigorously, yet always organically," says Harley. "We’ve upgraded equipment, improved our methods, and raised quality tenfold. It was time for the branding and range to catch up.”
So, five years after launching, the close of 2017 heralds a new era for All Inn: a rebrand, a new range and the launch of beer in cans. And not before time, says the brewery's founder.
"Originally, we started out with no money so there was no money for marketing at all," says Harley. "It was one of those things that sucked but it is what it is."
Then, around two-and-a-half years ago, he started chatting with the man behind the new look, Tim Gibson of Flying Whities, who is a creative director for Garage Project. At the heart of their ongoing conversation was a desire "to not be like everyone else" – to take a different path from the two-tone cans or bold, bright colours against a black background Harley saw a growing number of his peers adopting.
Ultimately, that led them to their pop culture inspired characters and "Gather Round" – the catchcry at the heart of All Inn Mk II. It refers to the brewery’s focus on community and the inclusiveness that's made all kinds of people feel at home at The Shed. And it’s also a call out to the diverse assortment of beer characters that have become part of All Inn’s repertoire.
The logo is a vaguely hop-inspired line drawing of a crown that wouldn’t be out of place on the back of a playing card. And that’s exactly what the new branding is all about – bringing the playfulness of All Inn to the foreground, while maintaining a level of professionalism and sharp quality that hints at how seriously they take their beer.
Each core range beer (and some of the seasonal beers) has been assigned a fantasy character, portrayed on a playing card. Some characters are medieval, some are sci-fi inspired, others are just absurd (think Alice in Wonderland meets Rick and Morty, and you won’t be far off). But every single one is an impressive work of art, with a story behind it that the staff will happily share with you.
These miniature masterpieces adorn the gold-and-silver highlighted tap decals as well as the new beer cans, which sport metallic stickers on gold film; the phrase "spare no expense" comes to mind. The cans and coasters also feature a Tolkien-esque map of the Banyo brewery, depicted in gold on black, while inside you'll find a few tweaked recipes, with Harley feeling it was time to make some of their hop forward beers, well, increasingly hoppy and fruity to move with the times.
Yet, for all the shiny new design, All Inn manages to retain a certain humility in its approach to beer. As they once put it on their website: “Some say man's first brew marks the birth of civilisation. Others claim beer is proof of God. Here at All Inn, we have no official opinion on such grandiosities, aside from the fact that we are proud to contribute to the saga with a wide variety of delicious brews.”
It's an ethos – of being part of the ride – that fits with All Inn’s core values: treating their ingredients with care and respect; being as environmentally sustainable as possible, including recycling wastewater and operating on solar power; supporting local not for profits; and viewing serving their local community as their raison d'être.
And, while the hope is that the new look will help the brewery continue to expand and reach more drinkers, it's this local community that remains the beating heart of All Inn. Support has been so strong that this suburban brew shed is now open seven days a week and working overtime to keep up with demand.
"Opening on the first ever Friday night, I made about $40 and thought I was a king," says Harley. "Now, Thursday, Friday, Saturday you can't get in. The local following is so strong."
Looking at the wider scene across Brisbane and South East Queensland and the arrival of so many new – and often seriously resourced – players locally since he first opened his warehouse doors, he's equally upbeat.
"I think it's helping the industry grow," he says. "We're struggling to make enough kegs anyway."
Like everyone else in the brewing industry, the team at All Inn is made up of incredibly hard-working folk, often doing double brew days to fill demands for their kegs, cans and fresh wort kits…
…which is all the more reason to gather round, grab a beer, and enjoy the playfulness they want to share with the world.
(And, because I cannot in good conscience leave it unmentioned, special mention goes to the Mutiny Red IPA. Its use of lupulin hop powder – four times the "recommended" amount – skyrockets it to insane levels of bright, intense hop aromas and flavours. Thrusters on full!)