Crafty's Advent Calendar: Joel Beresford

On day four of this jaunt through the past decade, we finally alight in Western Australia. It's credited as being the birthplace of modern craft beer thanks to the work of Phil Sexton and friends, initially on the small brewery they installed at the rear of what they turned into the Sail & Anchor in Fremantle, later with the brewery they built called Matilda Bay.

In the three-and-a-half decades since, plenty more good beer has come out of the state and plenty of brewers have made their mark too. But it's about time we focused in another part of the industry, because without people selling beer to customers – and educating them as they do – there wouldn't be much of an industry to write about.

While WA has traditionally had a relative paucity of good beer venues and retailers – at least in relation to the number of small breweries that call the state home, even before the recent growth in the sector it's had some bloody crackers. And Joel Beresford has been integral to two of the best: Cellarbrations Carlisle and The Dutch Trading Co

But it wasn't always lambics and obscure barrel-aged imperial stouts for Joel... Wind back the clock and he'd set out to study viticulture, imagining a life working in vineyards until, as he puts it, he "realised how full of wankers the industry was" and how, "as a bit of a bogan" he didn't fit in.

It was while working at Rossmoyne Cellars, as he traded Swan Stout for sausages with a neighbouring Polish butcher, that things changed. First it was European pilsners; then he tried one of those 7 percent-plus stouts and that was it: "It was massive – molasses and vegemite and umami – and it got me pissed quick as well," he recalls of a beer that became the one he'd take to parties (not only for its effects but because no one would nick that from the fridge).

But it was Cellarbrations Carlisle where the slippery slope became steepling waterfall. He says, other than the International Beer Shop, there was very little on offer for anyone wanting a variety of beer. That said, it pays to remember that "different" in the early years after the Millennium generally meant British and European beers – a time when bottles of Cantillon Lou Pepe were curios sitting on shelves gathering dust. When they hit one hundred different beers in store at Cellarbrations Carlisle, they made the papers.

 

So, we bought a pallet of expensive beer and no one wanted them. More for us.

 

At one point, one of his colleagues, Adam O'Brien – even then a hophead – returned from a trip to New Zealand raving about the beer scene. So they ordered a pallet of Epic, Hallertau and Harrington's, then dragged all the Kiwi customers they had over to bask in its glory. None of them had a clue who the breweries were. The beer didn't sell.

"I realised we had to educate people," Joel says, and so Grain Cru – a play on wine's grand cru and gathering a crew of beer lovers – was born and started hosting legendary session exploring the best beers they could get their hands on. Fifteen flights of barrel-aged beers? You got it.

It's a passion that's continued to this day and one that Joel has been able to take to greater heights after being invited to run The Dutch Trading Co, a beer lover's paradise in Vic Park, ten years after starting at Carlisle. By that stage, he'd discovered he was pretty good at sourcing rare and hard-to-find beers and that passion has continued to this day too; there's nowhere I'm more likely to be dazzled with outrageous and outré beers than when with Joel and co at The DTC.

He's since started distributing half a dozen or so interstate brands around WA and has bigger plans for 2020 too, including attempting to entice Belgian lambic brewers to Australia for a festival.

As he puts it: "Lambic is my spirit animal."

Anyway, once again I've failed to keep the intro short, so let's cut it off now and welcome the man someone recently suggested "holds everything together" in the Perth scene, fostering a community over the past decade in particular from which many have gone on to build careers.


JOEL BERESFORD

 

What's been your highlight of the past decade?

Seeing the blood, sweat and tears turn great people's passion into an amazing industry in WA and around the country. My personal journey over the last 20 years has particularly filled me with satisfaction. I just wish it paid more sometimes...


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

Again, the passion - be it from inside the beer industry as a brewer, wholesaler or a retailer. But, more importantly, people from every walk of life jumping in and hoisting the Craft Beer Flag up high! 

Also the transformation: Belgian Quads and English barleywines and stouts were all the rage back in my day... now it's all haze, milkshakes and juice. Sometimes I feel a little out of touch!


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

Sustainability. There has been some crazy growth in such a low populated country. I'm amazed and gladdened by it but wonder sometimes if it can continue the way things are. 

Also, I perceive the way we share beer is changing. Less group shares and more drinking alone - Untappd and social media help new people take up craft beer but are taking precedence over getting to the pub, events or bottle shares. 

It's a bit of a generalisation but it's something I feel is causing a shift on how we incorporate craft beer socially.


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

To do what I have been saying I'll do for the last few years: getting there!! 

Also, keeping up the integrity and respect the craft beer industry prides itself on.


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

For the Senne River to magically spring up in WA and create a new Pajottenland just for me. It's not cheap flying to Belgium all the time.


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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