Whenever the industry gathers for one of its award nights, social media gives those who can't make it along a glimpse of the stars of the show. Most often, it's brewers or business owners beaming with their trophies, awarded for the outstanding quality of their beer as judged by their peers, or services to the industry.
But there’s another group of people worth celebrating that might be thanked on the night without making it into the photographs. They’re the volunteer stewards, the beer lovers working behind the scenes to serve beers to the judges by organising, pouring and presenting beers correctly and in proper competition order.
At the 2019 Indies – the Independent Brewers Association's annual bash – something a little different occurred. Two of the volunteer stewards did make it into photographs from the night in Melbourne.
It started when Jess Clark was called on stage by head steward Pete Mitcham to present an unofficial award to her partner, Lachlan Miller, in recognition of his stewarding efforts. He received the award – an empty beer can – which had an unusual object clinking around inside. Tipping it in to her hand, a ring came out. At that same moment, Locky dropped to one knee to propose. The onlooking crowd erupted with applause and cheers.
Jess and Locky met in 2015 playing eight-ball in Glenelg, South Australia. At the time, Locky was recovering from a serious car accident and was using the game to help with shoulder rehab. Jess readily admits she was in it for the beer. By the end of the season, they were dating.
Jess volunteered for her first Indies (back then known as the Craft Beer Industry Awards) in Adelaide in 2017 and has been hooked ever since. She returned to take part in the Sydney edition in 2018, bringing Locky along, before achieving her hat-trick – and rather more – in Melbourne in September.
Now, we've featured some pretty impressive Beer Nuts on this site over the years, but none as yet who've chosen such an occasion to get engaged. And, having met and stewarded with both Jess and Locky in Sydney, it was particularly special to interview them both about their love of beer and special connection to the Indies.
Jess & Locky
Jess: Brew team at Big Shed Brewing Concern.
Locky: Rehab Peer Support and mechanic.
ARE YOU A NERD, GEEK, AFICIONADO, SNOB, WANKER OR SOMETHING ELSE?
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AFFLICTED?
Jess: It’s been about six years now.
Locky: I’m just along for the ride!
WHAT STARTED YOU ON THE SLIPPERY SLOPE TO CRAFT BEER OBSESSION?
Jess: In 2014, I did an unofficial mash brewing course that piqued my interest in brewing, but it wasn’t until I volunteered at BrewCon and the Craft Beer Awards in Adelaide in 2017 that I became utterly hooked. I haven’t looked back – I’m studying my Cert III in Brewing and doing a tasting course, and I volunteer at BrewCon every year.
Locky: Meeting Jess in 2015!
WHAT IS THE MOST EXTREME ACT OF BEER OBSESSION YOU HAVE COMMITED?
Jess: Becoming a brewer! It was the only way to complete my obsession.
Locky: I’d say proposing on stage to Jess at the Indies. I planned it with Pete Mitcham weeks before we went to volunteer and he was amazing in helping to orchestrate my opportunity to come on stage to help Jess “present a trophy”.
DO YOU DOCUMENT YOUR CONSUMPTION? IF SO, HOW?
Jess: Untappd and Instagram stories.
WHICH BEERS HAVE MOST BLOWN YOUR MIND?
Jess: We used HORT4337 (an experimental New Zealand hop variety) to brew the “Indie IPA” with Hopco for BrewCon. It was just insane that it had all the fruity characters of a NEIPA, but was clear and filtered. We called it a CLIPA – clear NEIPA!
Locky: A gluten-free stout by O’Briens at BrewCon tasting day. I wasn’t telling people about the gluten-free part until after they’d tried it. It was incredible!
AND WHICH IS THE WORST?
Both: Anything with fault(s) that doesn’t fit the description.
HOW MANY BEER T-SHIRTS DO YOU OWN?
HOW MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF DEDICATED BEER GLASSWARE DO YOU OWN?
We think 20 different types, multiples of most, being from all the beer events we’ve attended in different states. There could be more hiding in our cupboards!
IS ANY PART OF YOUR HOME OR WORKPLACE A SHRINE TO BEER?
Jess: I have a shelf of empty cans and bottles of my favourite beers.
Locky: There’s a special spot on a shelf where a blank beer can sits… it’s the most special one because it’s the one I used to propose to Jess.
Special thanks to Rallings at BrewCon for helping me out!
HOW MANY UNIQUE BEERS DO YOU RECKON YOU’VE CONSUMED?
Jess: It’s over 600, but my Untappd says 408, because I can’t give justice to posting a beer when I only have time for a sip and no tasting notes.
HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU SPEND IN AN AVERAGE MONTH ON BEER AND RELATED PRODUCTS?
Jess: Not as much as expected but working at a brewery helps with that!
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM BEER?
Locky: Seeing as I’m always the designated driver, an alcohol-free coffee stout would be something different I could get behind.
Jess: That’s a secret for my future brewer’s series!
You can follow Jess and Locky’s beer adventures on Instagram.