There's no shortage of brewers that have started out pottering on a homebrew kit in back sheds over the years but, more often than not, the shed typically gets left behind when the brewing goes pro.
That wasn't the case for Sam and Amanda Preston or Peta-Maree and Tim Sproule, however. When they decided it was time to step into the commercial realm as Bucket Brewery, they did so with a 300 litre brewhouse that was spread between a couple of back sheds in a quiet neighbourhood in Kempsey, on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales.
"The brewhouse and fermenters were in my brother-in-law's back shed and the grain mill and the cool room were all in my shed a block away," Sam says.
In the end, those sheds weren't enough to contain their ambitions and, two years later, Sam and Amanda decided it was time to go to the next stage and moved their brewery to the banks of the Macleay River. At the same time, with a young family and full-time jobs, Peta-Maree and Tim decided to step down and bid their Bucket buddies well on the brewery's next stage.
"We found a place a couple of kilometres away from home overlooking the river," Sam says. "It's an old powerstation with plenty of character and charm."
At time of writing, it's a production only brewery, with kegs and cans typically found within a 150 kilometre radius of Kempsey; in other words, about as far as Sam can deliver the beer on the back of his ute.
"We're in a very traditional beer drinking area," Sam says of the challenges of launching a small brewery in a regional area. "The craft beer revolution hasn't really hit here but our focus is on being local and independent."
They recently celebrated their third anniversary and, with plans afoot to turn their old powerstation into a brewpub, we thought it was the perfect time to catch up with Sam for another instalment in our Who Brews...? series.
Who are you?
Sam Preston. Head brewer and owner of Bucket Brewery with my wife Amanda.
Why do you brew?
Like many, I guess it was a hobby that got out of control.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
My wife Amanda and I backpacked through Europe in 2001 and were influenced by the beer culture in Germany in particular, but it was the Guinness brewery in Dublin where I said to Amanda something like: "How cool is this!" and "I am going to give that a go one day."
What beers have you released to date?
Quite a few:
- Bucket Lager – Helles
- Bucket Black – Schwarzbier
- Bucket Pail Ale – American style pale ale
- Bucket Wheat – Bavarian Weizen
- Half-a-Bucket – Mid-strength pale ale with flavour
- Das Märzen – Oktoberfest style beer released for a local pub’s Germanfest
Of those, what's been your personal favourite?
That’s like asking which one of my kids is my favourite! It’s a complicated combination of my mood/the weather/what’s in the fridge.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Bit of a long story, so here goes:
When our second son Patrick was born, our eldest son James, who was two at the time, could not pronounce Patrick properly. It always came out as "Bucket".
This turned into a family joke and so, when our daughter came along, James and Patrick were adamant that their little sister should be called Bucket! Needless to say, we called her something far more appropriate, Sophie.
But the boys didn’t give up and six weeks later when a puppy joined the family they got their wish and "Miss Bucket" got her name.
Now, prior to the brewery starting up, there was a lot of brewing in the back shed. Bucket was always hanging around ready to pounce on any spilt malt or beer. She wouldn’t really care if a person was in the way. Many shouts of: "Oh, Bucket!" were cried. Not sure what the neighbours thought.
So, when the hobby went a bit too far and a name was needed, it seemed only natural to go with Bucket Brewery.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
None. It’s Monday morning and the fridge is empty after the weekend. I’ll probably bring some home from the brewery tonight though.
What would your desert island beer be?
I’m thinking it’s hot and thirsty weather on this desert island, so I reckon that nothing would be better than an ice cold Bucket Lager.
If your brewery was a band, who would it be?
According to our daughter Sophie, Pink is a good choice. Not sure why, but at least she’s happy she gets to name something.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Where it is right now, but with a cellar door for people to come and visit. Overlooking the river and town, supplying good quality, local beer to thirsty people in Kempsey and the wider region.
Where can people find your beers?
Either in cans or on tap at bottleshops and other licenced venues, mainly in a 150 to 200 kilometre radius of Kempsey, but we are starting to look further afield.
Check out the "Bucket Locator" on our website for a full list of our can stockists and tap venues..
You can keep tabs on what Sam and the team at Bucket Brewery are doing here and find other Who Brews...? features here.
If you'd like to be featured in the Who Brews...? series, get in touch.