Many beer sites, blogs and podcasts – not to mention hundreds of brewing companies and thousands of beers – have come and gone since the demo for what would become Radio Brews News was recorded in September 19, 2010. Indeed, The Crafty Pint was a mere 18 days old at the time and not much older when the site's founder was invited to be a guest on the first official episode the following May.
To provide some context, among the topics on the agenda that May day were the Royal Wedding beer ban, Crown Ambassador Reserve, Cascade First Harvest, seasonal beers, collaboration brews, Little Creatures' Single Batch Marzen, the Australian International Beer Awards and a preview of what was to be the very first Good Beer Week.
Since then, along with the site from which it was spawned, Radio Brews News has become part of the very fabric of the Australian beer industry, interviewing people from all parts of the beer world on all manner of topics, often reaching out to key figures from outside Australia and, increasingly over the years, hosting podcasts at major events such Beervana in New Zealand, the Craft Brewers Conference in the US and BrewCon in Sydney earlier this year – not to mention the annual live coverage of the Hottest 100 countdown.
At its helm from the start has been the team of Brews News founder Matt "Beer Matt" Kirkegaard and his long-standing sidekick Pete "Prof Pilsner" Mitcham. Both had been involved in beer in one way or another for years before striking up the partnership. The former started pitching stories about beer to the press around 15 years ago at a time when any beer writing in his home state of Queensland tended to be dropped in the lap of the sports writer; the latter was working in hospo at the Keg Restaurant and Bar in Nunawading long before that.
Says Matt of his early days as a beer writer and subsequently beer dinner host and educator: "When you get published, brewers start calling and asking if you'll write about them.
"Conversely, 15 years ago, Brisbane didn't even have a craft beer bar. People wanted to know where they could get the beers I was writing about so that's where the beer lunches started."
Prior to doing so, Pete had gone from teaching himself about beer in order to assist inquisitive diners at Keg – back when a lack of information on the internet meant you had to do actual research – to falling for Matilda Bay's Dogbolter in WA back when it was still an 8 percent-plus beast, then hosting beer dinners in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.
His start as a beer writer came about when, as part of a group of mates he'd known since kinder days, they cleaned up on the Melbourne Cup and invested in homebrewing equipment. His main partner-in-crime, Dr Lager, soon realised there was plenty of downtime involved on brew days and said he would build a blog to document their experiences.
"To which I replied, 'What's a blog?'," Pete says.
The two nascent beer bloggers soon found each other online, started commenting on each others' articles and then, not long afterwards, bumped into each other at The Local Taphouse.
"Matt was standing at the bar next to me with [Taphouse founder] Steve [Jeffares]," Pete says. "He asked Steve if he knew me, to which Steve replied, 'Know him? Step back and you'll step on him.'."
Soon afterwards, they decided to combine their writing efforts under the Brews News banner, with the podcast following later. While others have been part of the Brews News team at various times, notably James Atkinson, who has since launched the Drinks Adventures podcast, it's these two that have remained the constants.
"It's fucking hard work," says Matt of running the online site and podcast. "People all have something to say once; it's then replicating that week in, week out. Will people start to read it? Will you feel the pressure to be on top of everything? It really is a hard slog trying to do that."
But read and listen they do; Matt says the podcast made the top 30 food and drink podcasts on iTunes recently.
This Sunday (December 9) sees the core team of Matt and Pete heading to The Local Taphouse in St Kilda to record a special live edition to mark reaching their double ton. It will be something of a retrospective on their previous 199 shows plus a look back at 2018 and what lies ahead in 2019.
While the podcast will be recorded in the venue's Wilfred's Room between 4pm and 5.30pm, the Brews News team plus a collection of industry folks will be at the pub from 3pm if anyone wants to swing by. Before then, here's more on the podcast itself in a Q&A with Matt...
RADIO BREWS NEWS Q&A
Why did you decide to start the podcast in the first place?
I found that writing articles meant I was having conversations with brewers and you had to leave so much great stuff out of the written article. I wanted to share these conversations and a podcast seemed the best way to do that.
Podcasts were fairly new when we began toying around with them but they made sense to me as a way to share conversations.
Were there other beer (or non-beer) podcasts that inspired you?
This Week in Tech was a major influence, as was Stuff You Should Know. In a lot of ways, what we do is pretty much those two, but for the beer industry.
Did you envisage it becoming such a central part of Brews News?
Absolutely not. It was something that we did for ourselves in a way and I dreaded putting them out there. We found the conversations valuable and fascinating, but were very uncertain anyone else would. But it really has become a very important part of what we do and fortunately podcasts seem to have entered the mainstream now and that means more people are accessing them, which is great.
We very much focus on the industry and prosumer which is always going to limit the scale of the audience, but it also makes sure we are relevant to those who listen.
Was there a moment (or moments) when you realised what an integral part of the local beer world it was becoming for many people?
Early on we were hopelessly infrequent because I hated listening back to them to edit and couldn't believe anyone wanted to listen to them. But people seemed to like them for some reason. Every time we stopped we would get emails from people asked when the next one was out, so that kind of inspired us to keep going.
More recently, as we have been regular, hearing back from people who listen and want to discuss and debate what is on the show, or hearing about the discussions that we were sparking – good and bad – in the industry was pretty exciting.
Do you have a favourite episode(s)? Or guest(s)?
I don't think I have a favourite guest or episode because we have had so many great ones. My favourite type of guest is the one who comes on willing to actually answer questions and not just push the company line. Though the great thing about a podcast is, when they do that, the listener gets to hear the question and the answer so they can make up their own mind.
We have had some really fascinating discussions over the years with people who are actually willing to really open up about what they think and engage in a real discussion.
Has its purpose evolved over time?
Not really. I think as we have had more resources the show has become a little more professional (thanks to our producer Jo!), but the purpose is still the same: discuss this fascinating and exciting industry with the people who drive it.
How do you decide who to interview?
It's really just a case of who would we like to have a beer with and who interests us. The best conversations flow from that and we figure the people who interest us will interest others.
Who's been on the most?
[Feral co-founder] Brendan Varis has probably been the most frequent guest and would be even more so if we didn't lose a couple that we recorded. You've been a staple!
Recently, we've been thrilled to have Zoe Ottaway [of Totem Marketing] as a regular and would love to have her even more, her time permitting.
Any awkward moments?
For Prof, whenever I open my mouth. For me, when Prof forgets that our audience isn't all his age.
You can check out Radio Brew News here.