After spending any amount of time with Amos Polglaze it’s impossible not to be impressed by his passion. Passion for beer, music – metal in particular, quality food, stream of consciousness answers and profanity (dear reader, you have been warned).
Luckily, as the resident "Beer Walrus" at Perth venue Old Faithful, that passion has been channeled into curating one of WA’s craftier beer lists, one embellished by a quality spirit range, boilermakers, unique events and American BBQ.
An accidental Instagram career as the Shower Beer Walrus has also turned Amos into a cult figure in the WA beer scene. It's one that sees him “standing in a bar surrounded by showers talking shit about shower beers” at most West Coast beer festivals.
So, as WA Beer Week 2019 kicks off, Guy Southern gets to know what the Beer Walrus sees Behind Bars.
How did Old Faithful launch and what is the ethos of the venue?
Old Faithful opened in mid-2013 as a great American bar with a great BBQ kitchen to assist. This quickly evolved into an incredible BBQ kitchen with a pretty good bar to back it up.
Over time, we’ve been more and more dedicated to craft beer. We’ve increased our taps from eight to 16, introduced a tinnie fridge and have begun to source some more bespoke large format beers.
Our main focus is on WA craft but I still source a few beers from interstate and try to keep one tap dedicated to North American brews, being an American BBQ and all.
We like to make sure we’re a place where you know you can get quality but you can still wander in in your thongs. It’s all about creating comfort. I guess the easiest way to classify it is we just want people to drink good booze, made by good people.
What’s the soundtrack to your venue?
When we open, it's obnoxious EDM that I cannot even begin to understand on a musical level, but it keeps head chef Shaye Clarke happy, and nobody wants a grumpy head chef.
While we’re open, it’s a blend of jazz and funk, with 90s grunge, early Noughties pop, obscure cow punk and all sorts thrown in. My favourite playlist is called "Walrus goes to Nashville" – find it on Spotify.
When we close, I tell whoever has done a great job to change the music; if no one does then they have to endure power metal and folk metal. I close best when listening to Sabaton, Judas Priest, Korpiklaani, Power Wolf, and a sprinkling of King Diamond.
But if we’ve all had a shit day though, it’s Disney singalong all night, and god help anybody who tries to skip songs from Moana or Hunchback of Notre Dame.
What’s the beer that was a game changer for you?
My background isn’t that normal: all through high school my eldest brother worked in bottleshops so I remember going to school parties with Hoegaarden Grand Cru and Belle Vue Kriek. To me, “craft” wasn’t a thing, it was just “this beer is better than Heineken”.
But when I left high school I needed to buy my own beer, so my beer of choice became Budweiser, king of beers. It was cheap and it did the trick.
Everything changed when I came across Nail Brewing’s Oatmeal Stout and Red Ale. It was this strange moment where I suddenly remembered that beer had flavour and should be more than just a way to get drunk. My love affair with Nail continued and, as a homage to that moment, I have a Nail Brewing logo tattooed on my leg. Owner John Stallwood then created the leg lease agreement, in that he gets me a sample of every new Nail beer, which I usually drink in the shower. I still consider Nail Brewing Red Ale my favourite beer of all time.
Eventually, I landed a gig at Petition Beer Corner and, before we opened, we all went down to Cantillon’s Zwanze Day at Dutch Trading Co and I had my first gueuze. I still remember distinctly the thought process that went through my head, it was simply: “This is fucked! I love it.”
My beer journey changed; I suddenly wanted the weirdest shit I could find: ridiculous ingredients, over the top IBUs, bullshit sour… just weird shit. And, while I still love all that, fuck I love a good clean beer these days.
What’s the Old Faithful team drinking after work?
Almost every chef that has started at Old Faithful came in drinking VB and Export and, while there’s nothing wrong with those beers, they now sit down looking for big sours or juicy hops. Front of house mostly came to me with little to no booze knowledge or primarily spirits knowledge and I get them to experiment with new beer styles too. I feel the best way to learn is by doing. They’re all smashing sours at the moment.
Me? I’m on nice clean pale ales or weird boilermakers. I’m currently enjoying pairing Blasta’s Rampant Raspberry sour wild ale with Rum Diaries Royal Fortune, while Shaye is pairing it with Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin.
What are your customers asking for at the moment?
I find Perth drinkers don’t follow too many trends. It’s currently cold and people should be smashing stouts, by logic, but they’re smashing sours and NEIPAs. People are going mad on Biggie Juice and Imperial Biggie.
How has this changed over the past few years?
I find customers care more about what they put into their mouth. Not just health wise but quality. The reality is the mining boom caused everything to get more expensive, but those prices aren’t going down now that people aren’t earning the same money - my very basic understanding of economics tells me that they’re shit like that. For that reason, people expect more for the money they spend.
Dining isn’t just about being full and drinking isn’t just about getting drunk for a lot of people now. It’s about an experience and people expect a good experience.
It now also means people know the styles, people know what certain hops do and what different yeasts mean. I can say to a customer these days: “They used Eldorado hops in the tank and late hopped with Galaxy” and a lot of people can tell what they going to get already, and if they don’t know, then they want to know. A nerd like me no longer falls on deaf ears and I can babble on about how fascinating yeast is, and trust me, I can babble on.
GS: Duly noted.
The beer landscape has exploded in the past few years, have you seen a change to everyday buying habits?
I think the biggest change is that craft doesn’t scare people any more. When I first started to push craft beer, I had constant opposition from the regular punter who insisted they didn’t like craft beer as a blanket term. In the early days, to the old school beer drinker, craft was this boogeyman coming in to change the beer they loved and make the simple act of sharing a beer with friends into a pretentious wank-fest, and there were elements of truth to both ideas.
Now a large majority of punters have realised that craft beer did change beer, but for the better. And I’d like to think a lot of the arrogance in craft beer had started to die off or, at the very least, we’re self aware of how obnoxious we can be when nerding out.
Now most punters are willing to try something different and, even if they don’t change their mind, they’re happy to test their limits and do something different. On top of that, more and more beer nerds have become accepting of macro beers and we are realising that these bridge beers like 150 Lashes serve a purpose. So, there has been a much greater acceptance on both sides, which has, I think, led to a better understanding of how to communicate and market to each side.
The other big change is obviously the acceptance of beer cans. I remember selling cans at Petition when we first opened and even the beer nerds where unsure. For years tinned beers had been associated with bogan beers and trash; now our beloved craft beers where coming in cans - "What are we to do? How can we act superior to the other commoners if our beer was in a can too?"
Eventually, we all learnt that cans can be so much better for a beer. They’re also far easier to drink anywhere wet. Like, for example, in the shower.
What advice would you give to a customer who is new to craft beer?
Just don’t be afraid to try new things and trust your bartender or bottleshop attendant. When I first started drinking craft with my brother, we just bought beer with cool labels. Thanks to that I had incredible beers and I’ve had some shit ones.
As a bartender, I like to try to extrapolate data from drinkers' preferences outside of beers. Are you a white wine drinker? Maybe try a Berliner Wiesse. Do you like bourbons? Maybe you’ll like stouts.
Just be prepared to try some things you won’t like and just keep trying. I’ve believed for years it is impossible to hate beer or wine or whisky, or whatever. You simply need to stick it out and find the one you like.
Steven Blaine (100 Proof national beer category manager and Institute of Beer training consultant) also taught me a great lesson: never say a beer is bad unless you can prove it. It’s fine to say you don’t enjoy a beer but, if it’s not faulted, don’t say it’s bad, and don’t discourage others from drinking it.
Likewise, I encourage my staff: if you do or don’t like a beer, figure out why. Did you hate the floral notes? Did you love the grapefruit pith? All these things help expand our tasting vocabulary as well as help inform our decisions with what we want to drink in the future.
Further to this, what have been the Australian and international standout beers that you've tried this year?
My favourite local this year has probably been Rocky Ridge Karl’s Date Turns Sour. It was the kind of bullshit sour I’ve been missing, it was face-puckering, but also lovely and sweet, like drinking a lemon warhead.
Also, if I’m allowed to be that guy, I was super impressed with how our collab with Boston Brewery, This Is How We Get Ants, turned out. We decided it would be fun to make a sticky milk stout named This Is How We Get Ants – an Archer reference.
We took that info to Boston head brewer Tyson Addy and he helped us settle on a peanut butter and jelly milk stout. After that, we kind of left it in his hands, apart from taking vanity shots and making a goddamn mess. I was just amazed that he could create it just out of the bullshit that swirls around in my head.
On top of that, everything I have had from Artisan Vintage Ales this year, and always really, has been incredible. Most notably the Peps Goyave lime and guava sour saison. I could drink that for breakfast every day, and it would still be healthy because fruit… Right?
Interstate, my favourite beer this year has probably been Boatrocker Jeepers Creepers Sour NEIPA. It just reminded me of mixing lemonade with breakfast juice and it disappeared off our shelves between how much we wanted others to buy it and how much of it we drank ourselves.
After that, it would be Green Beacon Uppercut. It's exactly what it says on the can. It’s a swift smack to the face. Yet somehow so damn easy to drink.
In your opinion who is the brewery to watch this year and why?
I think the brewery to watch is Boston in Denmark. They seem to be going through a renaissance at the moment, with a super solid core range and the best shower beer in Australia, Afterglose Raspberry Gose. But, also, every collab they’ve released locally has been absolutely outstanding. Not to mention a brewpub to open in Vic Park very soon, meaning more local presence and hopefully more incredible beers.
I can see Boston becoming one of the best breweries in WA, if not Australia, in the next few years.
Tying all of this together, what do you think is the next big thing in beer?
I hope it's towards lagers and just clean drinking beers but part of me wants to see a resurgence in English styles in Australia. Barleywine may be life, but British is just better.
That said, the Old Faithful team also suggested saisons and pilsners, more booze - 10 percent ABV sours and 18 percent ABV IIPAs, a focus on wild yeast, and that IPAs will continue to dominate the industry.
I guess all I can say from this is that, with so many varying opinions, it can only mean what’s next in beer is gonna be diverse and exciting. I say bring on the madness.
Can you sum up how you see the WA beer scene, retail and hospitality, at the moment and what do you think it driving this?
The thing is WA people are passionate, which is awesome, but with that much passion there’s bound to be a few assholes. Having said that, I love how much everyone in beer knows each other, and gets each other’s backs.
Last year, I saw an amazing response from one another when we finally looked at how bad mental health can be in the beer and hospitality industry. It was amazing to see how many people were willing to share their story, give encouragement and lend an ear to a frankly terrifying problem.
I guess the main thing we need to do sometimes is step back, remember a real person with real problems makes the beer we love, and, as such, be happy that someone wants to give so much of themselves to make us all happy.
And I’ve got to love a community that’s so mad that they helped a dude who just drinks beer in the shower become a pseudo celebrity.
Finally, what’s next for your venue?
We’re in the process of opening a new venue in Fremantle that will be even bigger. Still shit loads of great BBQ meat, but now 32 taps and a takeaway system.
The venue is simply stunning. It’s about 150-years-old with cast iron, Marri wood beams and so much exposed brick. We’re hoping to hold about 300 people.
The focus is going to change a little; while I still want to keep plenty of local love, I will be getting a lot more international and national beers in as well. I’ll be running between both venues making sure the beer is shit hot at both and, if it ever isn’t, I’ll promptly find someone else to take the blame, even though it will be all mine.
Amos’ shower beer adventures can be followed here.