The year is 2020, pubs are illegal. The punters are locked in their homes and very thirsty. Hype is at its highest recorded level. The people have been whipped up into a hop and pastry induced frenzy. People found drinking a beer without Sabro in it are excommunicated from social media. Their lives are forfeit.
Conditions are perfect to throw open the doors to your brand-new brewery specialising in… yeast-driven European ales?
Slow Lane Brewing may just be what the beer world needs in these strange times. Located in Botany, just around the corner from fellow brewers One Drop, husband and wife team Alex and Yvonne Jarman are doing their best to inject a bit of the Old World into Sydney’s buzzing beer scene.
Of their opening three beer offering, the aptly named Foundation is the beer that clearly demonstrates their intentions. The beer, a 5 percent ABV barrel-aged saison spiked with Brettanomyces served up in an icy cold can, is a revelation. Saisons are somewhat of a rarity in Australia and saisons in cans are practically non-existent. Putting a beer like this in a can and calling it a farmhouse ale is all part of Alex’s plan to de-mystify saisons and get them into the hands of people who would otherwise never buy a 750ml bottle with French words all over it.
Refectory is a Belgian Blonde ale modelled after the Trappist “Single” ales generally brewed as a more everyday drinking beer as opposed to the big Dubbels and Tripels they’re mostly known for. And finally, there is Quake, a hop forward pale ale brewed with the Norwegian kveik yeast that is rather ironically known for ultra-fast fermentation. Staying true to form, Alex is having none of it: “It still spends a month in the tank anyway.”
Although very happy with their launch beers, Alex and Yvonne have several exciting brews in the pipeline including a dark farmhouse, a Berliner Weisse, Belgian red ale and some fruited mixed fermentation specials.
“Eventually Alex would like to be releasing a new beer every week” Yvonne says.
While initially they’re limited to takeaways and online sales, they’ve been humbled by the support of locals dropping in to pick up beers. There’s no tasting bar quite yet, but it’s very much on the cards.
We got in touch to find out more for our Who Brews...? series.
Slow Lane Brewing
Who are you?
We are Alex and Yvonne, a husband and wife team. Both of us started our working life in the corporate world, in financial services. Those jobs took us to the US – New York then California, which is where a big part of our beer journey has taken place (so far).
When we moved from New York to California in 2015, that was when Alex made the career move. He quit the corporate world and started working at breweries around San Francisco. The dream was always to start our own brewery back home at some point.
Yvonne still works in financial services part-time.
Where do you brew?
At our small brewery in Botany, between Sydney Airport and the Port Botany container port.
Why do you brew?
The challenge of continually tweaking our recipes and processes to try to perfect our beers is what motivates us. We are total beer geeks. We love experimenting with Old World beer recipes and creating modern interpretations of these.
To us, each beer has its own story and can take you on a journey to the origins of the beer style. We want to share this experience with others.
We want to add to the diversity of the beer scene through brewing beer styles that are less commonly available.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Yvonne: One year, for Alex’s birthday, I gave him a Brooklyn Brew Shop beer making kit. Alex is always looking for a new beer or beer thing to try, we were living in Brooklyn at the time, I thought it was such an appropriate birthday present. And actually, in hindsight, it’s proved to be a life-altering birthday present.
Alex started homebrewing as a hobby, but it very quickly turned into an obsession… and now here we are.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Slow Lane refers to the way we make our beers, slow-fermented using traditional brewing methods. All of our beer is naturally carbonated via can and keg conditioning, so it takes an extra few weeks to produce. Also, we do a lot of mixed fermentation and barrel-aged beers that take many months or longer.
Though many of our friends and family seem to think it refers to the long time the brewery has taken to get off the ground!
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Of our three launch beers – Foundation, Refectory and Quake – Foundation is probably most representative of what our brewery is about. Foundation is farmhouse ale that was open fermented then aged in oak barrels. It has complex yeast driven characters, but is still easy-drinking and approachable to anyone that normally doesn’t go for that style of beer.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Our go to Spotify playlist at the moment is Alternative 90s. It’s all Blur, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. throwback stuff.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Future Mountain, Wildflower and some Sante Adairius and Russian River bottles remaining from our San Francisco trip last year.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Have to admit we haven’t been sampling as many local beers as we like recently. However, we’re always impressed with Wildflower beers and our neighbours around the corner at One Drop are putting out some great beers too.
Where can people find your beers?
Right now, primarily from our online store and takeaway from the brewery. But we’re looking to be stocked in some independent bottleshops and beer-focused venues. We’re also finalising the fit out of our onsite brewery tasting room and hoping to open within the next few months.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
We hope in ten years’ time Slow Lane will be known for producing high quality and interesting beers. We don’t have aspirations to become a big brewery producing large quantities of beer. We love the brewing side too much and want this to remain a small family-owned brewery.
Other entries in the Who Brews...? series can be found here.
Photos by Anna Zhu.