Groovin the Moo has always been a little different to Australia’s other one day festivals. Its autumn touring schedule may see GtM hit as many cities as the Big Day Out (RIP) did in its prime but the festival and the promotion company behind it, Cattleyard, have always focused on giving people an experience in different areas. Melbourne and Sydney could have their Big Day Out but Groovin the Moo brought The Black Keys to Maitland.
In 2017, keen to offer a different experience to festival-goers, Cattleyard added brewing to their business. The first of their beers were brewed at Capital, the Canberra brewery that’s enjoyed its own share of musical collaborations and festivals. Initially brewed just for the festival tour, Cattleyard beers would occasionally make it into trade around festival time before disappearing until April rolled around the next year.
That was until they hired JJ Baker early in 2019, whose love for festivals and live music may only be surpassed by his love of brewing. Before becoming the man of many hats at Cattleyard, he started out at Six String before working at 4 Pines’ production brewery in Brookvale then Green Beacon’s in Geebung; it's an impressive education given the awards amassed by the breweries over the years.
“It’s where my skills fall into," JJ says. "I sit there and look at production schedules and work out stock levels and what batches we’ve got to put on next."
JJ has since focused on getting Cattleyard beers into more places – particularly around his and Cattleyard’s home in Newcastle – while rebranding and expanding the lineup.
With the new look Cattleyard beers out and about, we asked JJ to join us as part of our Who Brews...? series.
Cattleyard Brewing Co
Who are you?
JJ King (pictured above). Before getting into the brewing industry I worked as a process engineer in coal. I finished there in 2013 and bought a pilot kit from Six String Brewing and enrolled for the General Certificate with the Institute of Brewing & Distilling with a plan of getting into brewing. Before the first batch of homebrew I put through the system was in bottle I was brewing at Six String.
Since then I’ve worked with 4 Pines while they were undergoing some strong growth and went to 24-hour shifts. 4 Pines was great for a technical education, they really encouraged doing the Diploma in Brewing Modules with IBA as a part of your development.
I went to Brisbane in 2017 to work with Green Beacon when they were commissioning their production brewery in Geebung, stoked to have contributed to their success in awards when they went from Small to Medium AIBA champions.
Where do you brew?
Cattleyard is a contract/gypsy brewer. We’ve been brewing out of Hope Estate in the Hunter Valley since early 2019, prior to that had some batches done with Capital and Hairyman. I like to be as close to the process as possible.
I’m lucky to have done a short stint with the crew at Hope before starting with Cattleyard, so I can work in well with the team and help to make sure the batches are the best they can be
Why do you brew?
I brew because I want to apply my scientific background to something that I am passionate about, and I find rewarding.
A quote I heard Prof Pilsner use on Radio Brews News – "flavour is emotion set to experience" – best sums up why I’m passionate about good beer. A large percentage of my memorable experiences have that link to beer.
I find making beer rewarding because of the mix of analytical and sensory feedback. I find I make decisions from analysis, but the sensory at the end of each batch is the confirmation that it is all coming together
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
It was at a mate’s party at The Hill [in Newcastle] with a mixed box of the Rare Breed longnecks that Mountain Goat used to do – I was having a conversation with my partner about how leaving a job in the mines was totally feasible. It was naïve, but with some sacrifices we’ve made it work well.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Cattleyard is also the name of the promotions company that runs Groovin the Moo festivals, which is where our cans have been exclusively available since 2107.
We’ve kept Cattleyard Brewing since entering the wholesale market because we’ve drawn on similar company values: collaboration and inclusivity, and the aim to contribute to regional Australia. The concept for all Cattleyard beers is to be a complementary part of a live experience and vice-versa. That results in a full but approachable flavour profile, keeping the ABV manageable, and a heavy focus on quality.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
I am the type of brewer that gravitates towards the work that will gradually but consistently make our core beers better. I’m definitely on the scientist side of the spectrum rather than the artist. I’ll happily put my effort into improving processes and refining ingredients, rather than constantly releasing one off fruited NEIPAs and pastry stouts.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Any Queens of the Stone Age album. Every intro track on their albums is perfect – enough time to walk back into the brewery before it really gets going and starts echoing around the tanks.
I have been told I need to vary my playlists a little more.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Quite a few Grifters, because I really like their can design, their beer has been fresh and consistently great across the range. Some BentSpoke Red Nut and Capital Session XPA.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Maltnhops did a NEIPA that was awesome, had everything that makes a NEIPA great, heaps of raw juicy aroma/flavor, but no astringency or pepper burn that quite often comes at the end of a NEIPA.
Where can people find your beers?
We’re building our base in Newcastle, so most independent bottleshops in Newcastle/Hunter, and a selection of good pubs and hotels.
We’ve just redone our packaging and are going to be building on our current small distribution area in 2020. The cans will also be at all the Groovin the Moo festivals in 2020, with some collaborations in the works.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Ten years is a long time. I will be proud if Cattleyard has a space in Newcastle where the beers we make can be a part of an amazing sensory experience alongside local food vendors and some amazing live acts to provide the tunes.
You can find our other Who Brews...? features here.