Mullumbimby’s sub-tropical embrace of alternative lifestyles has made the northern New South Wales town well known for its slower pace of life. Since Wandana Brewing Co opened in May, it's become a town with its own beer too.
Well, given it's 2020, "opened" is perhaps overstating things a little: initially, the brewery launched selling just takeaways and only more recently have they been welcoming people through the doors.
Christine Koole and Rupert Brown are the pair behind the brewery; they made the decision to move back to the area in which Rupert grew up following years working in advertising in Sydney.
“We just wanted to come home and do something,” Rupert says. “The brewery’s been in the back of my mind for quite a few years so we just went for it.”
Located in Mullumbimby’s – or Mullum's – industrial estate, the space includes a 12 hectolitre brewhouse, taproom and uninterrupted views of the nearby Mt Chincogan and Mt Warning (the second of which served as the inspiration for the nearby Stone & Wood’s Cloud Catcher.)
Head brewer Andrew Meli, who worked at Batch in Sydney before moving north for a sea change, is largely responsible for their beers, although he does have to share that responsibility with an unlikely collaborator.
In true Mullum style, each beer is fermented to music, with Rupert saying the unusual brewing techniques stems from his own upbringing surrounded by sound. Rupert’s stepfather was Daevid Allen, the visionary musician and poet who founded the psychedelic rock band Gong in the 1960s.
His own passion for music found a space in the brewery after he learnt about University of Wellington’s research into music’s effects on yeast.
“Music was never going to be far away from our business,” Rupert says. “If everyone believes in playing music to their plants then why wouldn’t you play music to your beers?”
So does this mean a collaboration with Dustyesky, the southern hemisphere’s leading genuine fake Russian choir, is on the cards? Rupert says they’ll have to look into working on a Russian imperial stout together.
As Mullum – or Mullumgrad – embrace the new brewery, we asked Rupert to be part of our ongoing Who Brews? series to find out more.
Wandana Brewing Co
Who are you?
We are a couple Rupert (aka Ananda) and Krissy, the owners, and are ex "merchants of envy", i.e. advertising industry veterans. We are very proud to have Andrew Meli (ex Batch Brewing) on as our head brewer.
Where do you brew?
Our brewery is located in a little industrial estate of Mullumbimby, in the Byron Bay Hinterland. It’s a rural setting with beautiful sunset views of Mt Warning and beyond.
Why do you brew?
I think like most brewers it all started with exploring the great beers that exist in the craft beer circles. Which later turns into a mission of getting as many people to share experience of just how good fresh beer can taste.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Wandana is indigenous for "to see far". Anyone that has visited the brewery would agree.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
The "Aha!" moment for me happened about 15 years ago. A mate and I hiked down to the little fisherman`s shacks of Era Beach (Sydney's Royal National Park) on a particularly hot day.
We struck up conversation with one of the old local fishermen that resides there and, after sharing our beers, he invites up to his shack for some of his homebrew. And it was good, nothing like the stuff you stole off your mate's dad. The very next day included a visit to the local homebrew store; the rest is history.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Our Legit Wit is a beer that we are particularly proud of. A lot of our regulars have been requesting a mid-strength beer since day one, but as we all know a good tasting, balanced mid-strength beer is a hard one to nail. Our Wit was a perfect candidate, as it is a very yeast and wheat driven beer that drinks like any other sessionable offering.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Rather than blasting music we have a bunch of muffled soundtracks that emanate from our custom designed fermenters. To our knowledge we are the only brewery that ferments all their beers to music.
For example, our Legit Wit was piped a solid dose of German Polka throughout the fermentation. We believe that the results speak for themselves.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Seven Mile's Quarter to Seven Coffee Stout, Brendale's Essential Industry Hazy IPA, Guinness Stout.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Definitely the most interesting would go to Currumbin Valley's Bubblegum Sour.
Where can people find your beers?
Our beers are only found in our Tap Room and a small network of local businesses that have been super keen to support a small grass-roots operation like ours.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Obviously, national distribution would be fantastic, but it's not only about beer for us. It's our role in the community that is very important, and we can look to our closest neighbours Stone & Wood for inspiration. They are a prime example of what a sustainable and community oriented business can aspire to become.
Wandana Brewing is located at 20 Manns Road, Mullumbimby, and you can keep up to date on the brewery's Facebook page. You can find them and hundreds of other good beer spots across Australia by downloading the free Crafty Pint app.
Other entries in the Who Brews...? series can be found here.