Crafty's Advent Calendar: Jayne Lewis

While the success of Pacific Ale dwarfs that of any other craft beer released in Australia in the past decade or so, there's a good chance more of you will be familiar with the face behind the second door of our Advent Calendar than the man behind that beer.

Jayne Lewis is best known as the co-founder of Australia's first female-run brewing company, Two Birds, which she launched with mate Danielle Allen in 2011. It's a notable – and totally accurate – title, but also one that risks undermining the winemaker-turned-cidermaker-turned brewer's influence in the beer world over the past decade and more.

Jayne has played a key role within the establishment and growth of the Pink Boots Society in Australia, an organisation that works to empower women in the beer industry, running events and coordinating collaborative brew days that raise money to fund scholarships. 

She is one of the country's most respected beer judges – a familiar face at awards here and overseas – and an equally familiar face when it comes to promoting local beer in the media, something she has done – often in tandem with Dani – with a confidence and relatability not always found among the brewers of the land.

Prior to founding Two Birds, she was hired by Mountain Goat from Matilda Bay, having previously worked at Little Creatures, with a mandate, among other things, to remedy an unidentified issue with their packaged beer. It was a task undertaken while wearing a pith helmet and an instruction to the other brewers not to talk to her while she was "elephant hunting" – as you can read about here.

 

Dani Allen, Jayne Lewis and the Two Birds team collect the Champion Medium Australian Brewery trophy at the 2016 AIBAs.

 

When Dani and Jayne launched Two Birds, they did so with a tight and eye-catching package that was rare at that time in the local beer world. The bold gold, red and green of their first three releases – Golden Ale, Sunset Ale and Bantam IPA – created an easily-identifiable family of beers with an approach that's commonplace now yet felt like a step ahead at the time. 

More importantly, the liquids inside were what we liked to term "pocket gems" – beers that might be smaller in stature than some of those catching the attention of the nascent beer geek scene at the time but squeezed in plenty of character. It's an approach that has brought success at competitions too, with major trophies at the country's two biggest – the Australian International Beer Awards and the Craft Beer Awards (now The Indies).

The duo also proved adept at making the switch from contract brewing – most of their early beers came out of Gage Roads in WA – to brewing in-house when they launched their seemingly ever-expanding and constantly-enhanced Nest in Spotswood. Their home opened for events for the first time during Good Beer Week 2014; in keeping with their tireless work ethic, the Two Birds were running or involved in something like thirteen events that week as well as judging and finalising everything at the brewery and venue, leading to a brief conversation at the AIBAs I'll never forget.

Jayne was as glamorous as ever, in a dramatic gown and with dyed hair cascading upwards, when I asked how things were going.

"If Good Beer Week had a face, I'd punch it," was the reply, one that brought to mind the famous line about being a duck: serene on the surface yet paddling like hell underneath, which was probably a fairly accurate summation of Jayne's life at the time. [NB I was Good Beer Week festival director at the time and am happy to report Jayne didn't punch me in the face.]

Even the move to Spotswood in Melbourne's west was noteworthy. There's a vibrant beer scene there now, with some of Melbourne's very best bars and breweries such as Hop Nation and Black Arts calling the area home. But, the odd outpost like the Junction Beer Hall aside, it was untapped territory in 2014. Two Birds' roots there have only deepened with the forging of a partnership with the AFLW Western Bulldogs team, with whom they created the Trail Blazer Lager, a beer name as appropriate for those on both sides of the partnership.

So, as the Two Birds team edge ever closer to their own decade, over to Jayne.


JAYNE LEWIS

Two Birds' Dani Allen and Jayne Lewis hawking beers at Como House back in 2013.

 

What's been your highlight of the past decade?

I’ve never been good at choosing just one, so here are three:

  • Opening the brewery and tasting room in Spotswood in 2014. It was so much hard work and planning and was my dream come true!
  • Winning Champion Medium Brewery at AIBA in 2016. Fantastic recognition of the quality of our beers across the board.
  • Drinking the beer we brewed for the Western Bulldogs AFLW team at Whitten Oval. Being able to support a team of trailblazing women brought a tear to my eye!

What's surprised you the most about the Aussie beer scene?

How quickly people’s tastes are changing and how many new breweries are opening up.


What are your thoughts on the health of the beer industry as we approach the end of a remarkable decade?

To be honest, I think it’s a bit too healthy and the growth doesn’t feel sustainable. To me, it feels like a runaway hot ferment that’s going to burn out before it hits terminal gravity.


What's your number one goal for the next decade?

To take care of myself and aim for some balance in life.


And, if you had one Christmas wish for beer in Australia, what would it be?

My Christmas wish is that we stop searching for the next big thing in beer and find some happiness in being in the present.


We're opening a door on Crafty's Advent Calendar every morning up until Christmas Day and you'll be able to find them all here.

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