As Australia's beer scene continues expanding and maturing and more money pours into the industry, there's still no shortage of people driven purely by passion to make their own unique mark. Sure, you'll find high net worth individuals investing in breweries but longtime homebrewers are still going pro too, while the opportunities for graphic designers, artists, photographers and others to find ways to combine their passion for beer with their workplace grow too.
And then there's Deb Lieu, whose passion for beer and baking led her to start a new business, Deb Lieu Bakes. Deb's cookies make regular appearance at beer launches, festivals and breweries – one of her gingerbread creations even made it on to cans of Edge Brewing Project's Stagger Lee.
It's one of the more creative ways of turning two passions into a business so, with that in mind, we thought it was high time we asked the creator of those hand-crafted treats to feature in our ongoing Beer Nuts series.
Deb Lieu Bakes
During the week I’m a dispenser for a local optical company called Dresden, which make sustainable and affordable eyewear. They also have a range of frames that are made from recycled beer keg cap lids.
I’m also a freelance food and fashion photographer but I'm currently taking a break from this to focus on my new baking business, Deb Lieu Bakes.
The idea was strangely born from, and is inspired by, my love of craft beer. I initially started making beer-inspired desserts and treats to share with friends and with some brewers. I specialise in novelty cookies and cakes that are all about fun, so while the niche is mostly beer-themed desserts, it leads to many other projects for birthdays, tourism expos, product launches and gifts for special holidays.
Are you nerd, geek, aficionado, snob, wanker or something else?
I would have to say I might be a little bit wanker sometimes, but maybe a craft beer enthusiast would be more accurate. I prefer to be open-minded when trying differ styles and beers.
How long have you been afflicted?
Probably since January 2015. The first two beers that I fell in love were the Two Birds' Tea Party and Moon Dog's Bjorn to Boogie, both on tap at the Royston. I have great friends that were very patient when teaching me about beer in the beginning so I could wrap my head around the characteristics to develop my own personal palate. Over the years it’s just become a really great way to try new and interesting things with good friends.
What started you on the slippery slope to craft beer obsession?
I decided to stop drinking wine after a scary but hilarious dinner experience, which confirmed that something didn’t really agree with me; this was about the time I started learning more about craft beer. I really loved the variety of flavours and that it brought friends and new people together.
The slippery slope was realised when I started taking annual leave for beer festivals in Melbourne and Wellington, and has since become a yearly tradition. I definitely think it’s one of my favourite times of the year because it’s about so much more than just about beers themselves.
Do you document your consumption? If so, how?
I mostly use Untappd and take lots of photos. It’s probably the only way I’ve recorded my consumption as visual tasting notes to compare beers. I do love taking photos, so I do post occasionally post stories on Instagram of my beer adventures.
I guess I also document them in edible form via cookies for promotional items to launch new beers and sometimes passion projects for brewers to share the love. I was super lucky to be approached by Edge Brewing and be commissioned to make a label for their Stagger Lee Imperial Stout. It was super fun to make.
Which beers have most blown your mind?
I’m a fan of so many different styles so I think it depends on my mood on the day. I did fall in love with Holgate Sour Brett Ale the first time I tried it at a beer festival and it's been a favourite ever since. I also really loved KAIJU!’s Paradise Pils that was launched at their birthday this year and I’m so glad it’s recently come out in a can.
I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to try some amazing beers this year, both in Australia and New Zealand, from Wild Apricot Ale by Boatrocker, Tom Collins Sour by Wolf of the Willows, Stagger Lee by Edge Brewing to name a few of the top of my head. I had a great time at the Garage Project and Friends Wild Workshop and had some amazing beers in Wellington. I also really enjoyed the Garage Project Tangy Fruit Pink & Green at Beervana too!
And which have been the worst?
I don’t like to think of labelling a style or brand as the worst beer, but I guess for myself personally, I feel like some beers don’t agree with me and can make me feel quite bloated, so I try to steer clear from particular styles.
Is any part of your home or workplace a shrine to beer?
I have a small collection of beer stored away in a makeshift cellar, other than that I don’t have a physical beer shrine. If anything came close it would be my laptop filled with lots of beer templates to create cookies with.
How many beer t-shirts do you own?
Umm, I’d say probably about 20 or so? I’ve lost count.
How many different types of dedicated beer glassware do you own?
I have random glasses that have accumulated from festivals and gifts from friends, none that really match. I don’t usually drink at home actually, as I’m usually baking or decorating after work. Beer glasses are the perfect shape to hold upside-down icing bags.
How many unique beers do you reckon you’ve consumed?
I’ve been a little lazy this year with Untappd, eeek… educated guess would be unique beers close to 950 to date. I’ll try to do better in 2019.
How much money do you spend in an average month on beer and related products (not including kebabs)?
Depends on what events are on during the year, but I'd say about $100 to $300 a month.
Some months I’m working so much that I don’t spend much at all. I am also very lucky to have met the people I have throughout the industry and get given lots of beers from very generous people. I try to share them with friends and bring to bottle share nights and spread the love that way.
What is your dream beer?
It’s hard to pick a style when I enjoy so many different styles of beer, but I think I’ve finally come up with an idea of what my dream beer would be.
My all-time favourite cocktail that I fell in love with was at the Melbourne restaurant Maha: their Pomegranate Sour. Made up of pomegranate liqueur, vanilla vodka, lemon, egg white, cherries – it’s the best. I wouldn’t care if it was a fruity, sour, or a stout, but if someone could make it taste like this cocktail, I would fall in love with this beer!
You can keep check out Deb Lieu's range - and order some cookies for yourself - by heading to her website.