After a busy year behind the scenes, a new brewery in the Perth’s Swan Valley is confidently stepping forward into the light. While initially evoking thoughts of Smile-era Beach Boys, Heroes and Villains most certainly has modern rock n’ roll roots.
Led by owner, brewer and everything else Shannon Mizen, the brewery occupies a 100 square metre space at Oakover Grounds winery, just off the Great Northern Highway, one of the major arteries in the Valley. Shannon’s background in telecommunications and commercial power sales has brought a keen sense of the challenges involved in bringing a product to market and, ultimately, to the punter.
Although entering a crowded space, his debut pale ale, Beer of the New Age (BOTNA), found many fans looking for a beer with flavour that wasn’t 9 percent ABV and liable to cause paint on the surrounding walls to bubble when drinking it.
Now, with the arrival of Saison, Brown Ale and IPA siblings, Guy Southern got in touch to find out more for our Who Brews...? series.
What's the inspiration for the brewery name?
We are Heroes and Villains. We were originally going to be called Ritual Brewing, but there were some trademark issues so we had to change. I'm kinda glad we did!
Heroes and Villains is all about the ingredients; you treat your ingredients well and you have a hero. Mistreat your ingredients and you'll find a villain your midst!
It's also about perception – sometimes what we see as a villain can be used to create a heroic beer. Lactobacillus used to be a brewer’s enemy, now it is cultivated to make amazing product.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm a salesy from way back. I have been in sales for around 25 years, and sales management for around 20 years. I plan to use that experience to help grow our brewery.
My brewing background is homebrew. Our first mortgage meant homebrewing out of necessity. I started with Coopers kits and, over years, progressed from extract to all grain brewing. I got an all grain recipe book for Christmas once, which started me on the path of all grain brewing. That led to a Beersmith, which in turn led me to an interest in recipe development. I picked up some amateur awards and so began the next journey to up-sizing...
I have a strange blend of process/control nature and a creative desire, so brewing fits perfectly for me. I can come up with weird and wonderful ideas then develop them into recipes and brewing processes that produce what I think are unique and interesting beers.
What beers have you released to date and what's in the pipeline?
Our first release was Beer of the New Age (BOTNA) made at Beerfarm back in March this year. It received a great response and I was keen to get out there. We ran into some delays in installation that meant we didn't get brewing until winter. As a novice, I have been on a steep learning curve to create beers I would proudly sell. I think we are there now.
We released our first four beers in September: a single release Brown Ale, BOTNA, a Mandarina IPA and a special beer called Saigon Summer that was launched on September 28. From there, we will release some festival one-offs as well as the core of BOTNA, IPA, Saigon Summer and a Belgian Pale.
Of those, what's your favourite so far and why?
It would be hard to choose between BOTNA and Saigon Summer. BOTNA was the first beer I dry hopped as a homebrewer and the Fortnight hops blew my mind. I was looking for a fruity, sessionable pale ale that was approachable yet interesting and I think it hit the mark. I drink it often, still.
Saigon Summer is a favourite for two reasons: it is a sentimental beer that reminds me of our family trip to Vietnam. I wanted to make a beer that celebrated the cuisine and beer of the region and, for me, it does that with the blend of honey, lemongrass and ginger. It is also a real crowd-pleaser at our neighbourhood Oktoberfest.
If your brewery was a band or DJ who would it be?
My recent Insta posts might give this one away... I am a massive fan of Josh Homme and, in particular, Queens of the Stone Age. They can rock hard, but with a style and rhythm that keeps you hanging on and shaking your hips.
I created BOTNA on the weekend of their Villains album release (you can see a few references now...); I listened to the album on repeat for the full day. It got me into the groove for a successful brew day.
My mate Stu says QOTSA "phoned in" the recent gig. I don't agree, but even if they did it rocked!!!
Was there a beer or moment that set you on the path to brewing?
It was the mortgage that pushed me to homebrewing. It was homebrewing Coopers red kits that opened my eyes to the broader flavour profiles of beer outside of commercial beer. From there it has been a continuous journey a flavour and joy, interspersed with a few hangovers.
What's your desert island beer?
What would be the point of existence if there was only one beer?!
When I think desert island, I think heat, lack of drinkable water and tropical fruit. That calls for KAIJU! Krush. It's smashable and quenching with lots of flavour.
I know, why would you want something tropical and fruity if you're surrounded by tropical fruit? It's because you can always have more tropical fruit!
The world of beer moves pretty fast these days, what are your plans for this year, three years and five years?
This year is about perfecting production and building our brand. I want to be doing this for a long time, which means I need sustainability. Stability comes from managed growth. I'm still working full-time as well so I am focused right now on building a wholesale business, getting out of the day job and into the brewery full-time in the next year.
Three years is development of our presence in Perth and across Australia. Five years is Southern Hemisphere growth. The thing that will be at the core of all of this is the continuing development of solid processes that support the creative process of beer and lead to better and more interesting beers!
Besides your own, what beers are in your fridge right now?
Beerfarm IPL is always a go-to. I think those guys really know their shit. They are a great crew as well.
There's usually a Nail VPA floating around or Henty St Ale as well. If I'm thirsty and the fridge is bare you'll find me trying to trade beers with Reece at Nowhereman. How lucky am I to have those guys as my local!
Where can people find your beers and you on social media?
We are at @heroesandvillainsbeer in socials. Check out our website too.
Heroes and Villains beers are available at Oakover winery and through a growing presence in Perth’s beer venues and growler filling retailers. Check the website and socials for current stockists.