In a country as vast and underpopulated as Australia, there’s always likely to be challenges when you find yourself right in its middle. As many who've spent time in Alice Springs know, it’s not been any easy place in which to find good beer. But now the locals behind Alice Springs Brewing Co hope locals won’t need to either travel far and wide – or freight in kegs – to enjoy a range of locally brewed Aussie beers.
Leading their charge is Kyle Pearson, who grew up in Melbourne but has spent the last 15 years living in Alice Springs working in the hospitality industry. And his reasoning for opening a brewery in a town of around 20,000 people is pretty hard to argue against.
“Well," he says, "we didn’t have one.”
Kyle says he and the group behind the brewery were keen to bring the experience of drinking beer from the source to Alice, something he always looked for when travelling.
“We wanted to brew the sort of beer that we would seek out," he says. "A brewery is the kind of thing we look for whenever we go on holiday interstate, so we built it for ourselves more than anything.”
Drinking beer from the source may have to wait a few more weeks as the brewery waits for its liquor licence to come through. Until then, the first Alice beer, the Almost Summer Ale, was tapped at the Jump Inn last Saturday (September 15). Kyle says Jump Inn, along with the likes of Gap View Hotel, is part of a growing band of venues keen to provide more options to local beer drinkers.
“I think Alice Springs, mainly due to the fact we get some cooler weather down here, is a bit more receptive to craft beer than the Top End,” Kyle says.
He adds that, despite more drinkers taking an interest in craft beer locally, as brewers they still need to work closely with local palates and, invariably, the local climate.
“The Territory is about mid-strength beer and so we are really working towards a particular beer that we aren’t far off releasing."
The plan is to keep the six taps at their taproom filled while occasionally supplying other venues in town. Once it’s open, the taproom will also have a full kitchen serving up food to go alongside the likes of a Kolsch, IPA, mid-strength and summer ale. Although he recently brewed a stout, Kyle reckons the next dark beer release might need to be held back until Alice’s winter returns.
Building a new brewery in Alice is a lot like the town’s own history: it’s a frontier project. There’s been unique challenges along the way, beyond the all too common construction delays and the glacial pace of both planning permits and liquor licences. But the willing embrace of Alice locals suggests it’s not quite the hunt for Lasseter’s Reef.
“Everything here has been hard,” Kyle says. “The water isn’t great – it’s all bore water – so we’ve had to do a fair bit of work to get suitable water and freight just kills us here.
“The support we’ve received has been unbelievable, we’ve been blown away from the response we’ve had. Even from the point we just started the build and then leaking a few things out on Facebook we’ve had a massive response.”
Keep tabs with the team's progress via the Alice Springs Brewing Co website. And look out for a feature on the rise of craft beer in the Northern Territory coming soon too.