Ten Years Of Crafty: Meet The Team I

As we reach the midpoint in our series looking back over the ten years since The Crafty Pint launched, we're handing the mic to some of those who've helped turn it from one man, a laptop and a camera to a nationwide team of staff and freelancers (and one haggard, greying man with a newer laptop and a camera that barely gets a run these days).

A scroll through Settings>User Management suggests more than 40 people have contributed at least one article over the decade. Then there's the graphic designers, illustrators, business advisors (still wishing I'd listen to their advice, no doubt...), all-round "tidier-up-of-James'-shit", bookkeeper, accountant and, as of late 2018, even someone in a mysterious role called "sales".

Below we've got some of their highlights, photos and reminiscences from the decade in beer, with part II to follow at the weekend after we realised this was too much for one sitting. You can find the other articles in the Ten Years Of Crafty series here.


Nick Oscilowski

 

They say you never get over your first love. Now he's been back in his home country of New Zealand a couple of years (still contributing occasionally but not as much as I'd like), I'm doing my best.

Nick O, a name I bestowed upon him that I'm not sure he ever wanted – AKA Crafty Pint NSW – was the first "outsider" to write anything for the site, doing it for nowt for a while too back when there was nowt in the pot. So who else could we start with?


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

Like most things in life, luck and timing – good and bad.

In 2011, myself and my soonish-to-be wife were living in New Zealand, but we’d nabbed visas to work in Japan. As we packed up to fly out, a tsunami rolled in and the general sense of destruction rather undermined our confidence in carrying on with the trip. But our bags were packed and we had to go somewhere.

Australia was never part of the plan, but it seemed like the most interesting place we could get to with air points and without a visa. Fast forward a few weeks and we’re living in a camper van in central-west Queensland, spending our days picking citrus in the company of disgruntled European backpackers. It was no cherry blossom festival, but it was a long way from Fukushima Daiichi. Despite the premise, we genuinely loved it out there with all the kangaroos and vitamin C, but we had to get the camper back before their late returns policy came looking for our limbs. With no other obligations, we started fishing for jobs around the country and my fiancée got a gig in Sydney, so that’s where we went.

I can’t recall why writing about beer ever seemed like a good idea. I don’t have a writing qualification – and given I failed English in my final year of school I suppose I’m technically less than qualified – plus I knew very little about beer, other than that I really liked drinking it. But sometimes enthusiasm is enough. And maybe a sprinkle of optimism. And an inflated sense of one’s opinion. Why else would you start a blog?

I’d only published a handful of posts before I found Crafty. It hadn’t been going all that long but it looked professional – at least by the standards of the day, and certainly compared with whatever it was I was attempting. But what really stood out was the relentless tone of positivity. That was a vibe I could get behind.

So I got in touch, asking if whoever they were wanted help from a know-nothing layabout. It was an offer too good to refuse and now here we are almost ten years later: wandering hearts, ticking together, but always apart.


Playing favourites

 

If you’ve ever bothered scrolling to the footer of this site you’ll see these words: “We bring an honest, old-fashioned journalistic approach to beer's brave new world, telling stories because they're worth telling not because someone is paying us to write them.” That, to me, is the essence of Crafty and something I took to heart; no brief, no word limits – just find a thread and go with it. With that in mind, here are three picks:

  • A few weeks before Wildflower opened in Marrickville, Topher Boehm had invited me around to explain their schtick with all the barrels, the Australian wild ales, etc. Over the course of an afternoon, I’d fallen in love with beer again. I felt like this place was going to be important, so there was a self-imposed sense of trust to try and do their story justice. From a writing perspective, it was energising.
  • At one point not very long ago at all, Chicago’s Goose Island brewery seemed poised for world domination. It was a story that seemed to grey all the lines of what people cared about, from independence to authenticity to beer quality. I’m not sure if you could call it “proper” long-form journalism, but it's as close as I reckon I’ve come
  • In 2016, The Lord Nelson Brewery in Sydney turned 30. You’d need a book to tell their story, but hopefully my potted history is a gentle reminder of why these sorts of places are important. What a great pub.

Highlight of the past decade

The swelling sense of belief. In my first few years getting to know the industry, I’d say Aussies looked overseas for validation: “It’s not as good as [whatever American brewery]” was a common trope. It was possibly a fair comment at the time, given how few breweries there actually were and their limitations, but look now at how many people drink local. It’s an amazing change in attitude and a beautiful thing to have been part of.


Favourite beer of the past decade

Clockwise from top left: preparing the Beervana-destined pilot batch of Auld Bulgin' Boysterous Bicep with Shawn Sherlock (now FogHorn) and Ian Watson (now Slipstream); sleeping off the night before; rousing himself for the addition of the molluscs.

 

The improbably brilliant Auld Bulgin’ Boysterous Bicep. Although, for me it’s probably less about how it tasted than memories of its creation; the smell of raw seafood wafting through the train carriage as it began to warm on the three hour trip from Sydney to Newcastle; hunching over a bread bin with the Murray’s brewers in the upstairs kitchen of The Albion at 2am, glasses full of Hunter shiraz, attempting to extract a little extra amplification from an iPhone; trying to sleep off an immobilising hangover on sacks of grain in the brewery as hundreds of molluscs cascaded all around; hilarity at Beervana in Wellington as the beer beat the cream of New Zealand’s brewers with a perfect score in the Media Brew competition.

Conceptually, the beer still seems daft, but given that it was re-released twice and sat for a number of years amongst the highest rated beers in Australia on Ratebeer, it speaks volumes of the brewing genius of Shawn Sherlock.


Marie Claire "MC" Jarratt

 

Moving to alphabetical order now, and to Marie Claire "MC" Jarratt, winner of the 2019 AIBA Best Media trophy, which we had to present to her later on as she was overseas at the time of the awards. That she claimed said trophy in the final year of her doctorate in quantum computing says it all, really!


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

I almost didn’t, because my pitches got rejected the first time! [Oops! – Editor] I essentially cold-called James from the website’s contact form asking to write a Crafty Crawl for the Inner West – back when it only had about five breweries. It was already being written, so I tried again with some more ideas a month later. One of those stuck, and the first article I wrote for a site dedicated to craft beer was about mead.


Beer highlights of the past decade?

What makes a beer special to me isn’t the beer itself, but the story around it – and there are so many to choose from! There’s the glass of Sydney Brewery ESB I desperately clutched in my sweaty hangover hands while I rode in a golf cart driven by Michael Capaldo at high speed between grape vines in the Hunter Valley, just because. Then there’s the glass of Rodenbach I drank fresh from the foeder in Roeselare (below), because James somehow convinced the people there that I was an important enough “journalist” to have that honour.

But I live for (beer) festivals and most of my beer highlights would probably involve whatever crazy concoction was developed for a given years’ GABS, because that always serves as a great reminder of the creativity of craft beer.

 


Of all the pieces you've written for the site, what's your favourite?

Definitely the Big Issue: Sexism article that won me the 2019 Best Media AIBA. I didn’t like that I had to write it, but the conversations I had while writing it, and the ones I continue to have, make a huge impact on my life as a woman in the beer industry. It will always stick with me as to how well that article was received, and that I was able to help support a move towards a more inclusive industry.


What's your absolute best beer of the past decade and why?

Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, hands down. It’s a cliché answer, but nothing comes close to the impact it’s had on the state of craft beer in Australia.


Jessie Jungalwalla

At Bigrock in Vancouver, where Jessie worked as "growler refill gal" back in 2014.

 

Prior to working with Jessie, what little graphic design work appeared on The Crafty Pint was either my best (worst) efforts or from the hands of a mate (Will Delmont) or Nick's wife Gia. Realising we needed someone more readily to hand, one of our writers at the time, Kerry McBride, said she'd met Jessie at an event and thought we'd get on.

We met up for lunch at The Cornish Arms, I knew I wanted to work with her straight away and soon she was overseeing the rebrand based on a conversation around album covers from some of my favourite bands and electronic artists, psychedelics and jesters. She's enlivened and enhanced the site looks no end and is a gem of a human, whose wedding to the equally awesome Maria (now supplier of epic metalwork items to Crafty Towers) earlier this year was a day and night for the ages.


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

Through a Pink Boots Brew day and a convo over a beer with Kerry.


What were your beer highlights of the past decade?

"Discovering" craft beer in Vancouver, Canada in 2013 ... the Sour Beer craze ... my first GABS in 2016.

 

Launching her business, Craft Instinct, in Froth; a first beer at Blackman's before she started working with them; wedding day in February (included as it's one of the best action shots I've captured on my phone!).

Of all the pieces you've created for the site, what's your favourite?

My favourite designs are the annual Hottest 100 infographics.

[I should point out all the graphics appearing throughout this series, not to mention the Keeping Local Alive artwork, are Jessie's handiwork too.]


What's your absolute best beer of the past decade and why?

Love Buzz Raspberry Berlinerweiss from Strathcona Beer Co in Vancouver ... because it blew my mind with taste and presentation (so pink!), and I had a keg of it at my engagement party in the Canadian summer of 2018.

Good memories – the name kinda says it all.


Scott Kirkaldy

 

A couple of years ago, we invited Totem Marketing to do some analysis of what we did and advise us on how to move Crafty in a business sense from something made up organically over the years into something with a clear direction (or at least a less vague one). The one thing that was blatantly apparently was that we didn't (and didn't know how to) sell what we did.

I don't really understand the concept of sales (or marketing or PR) so asked around those who do and heard Scott (above stemming the flow as we sampled some Old Money at Stockade last March), who'd I'd previously met working behind bars but had since moved into repping, was available. Now he has the dubious distinction of being responsible for sales, customer relations and whatever else I start panicking about on any given day.


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

After leaving beer rep life, whilst on holiday I received a call from Crafty wanting to have a chat about what I was doing next. The rest is history.


What were your beer highlights of the past decade?

I have been in the industry for eight years now and have loved seeing the growth of the industry as a whole, in particular, Good Beer Week and, within that, the Pint Of Origin. I have been lucky enough to have been involved in some way for a large number of those.

This is a great event that has exposed me to some outstanding beers and some outstanding people throughout the beer world.

 

The selfie king: at Willie The Boatman; back in his barman days at The Alehouse Project; enjoying a beard off with Dan Taranto of Otter's Promise.

Of all the things you've done for the site, what's your favourite?

Even though it was a pretty horrible few days, I'm really proud to be involved in the What's The Damage? article. It really taught me to stand up for what's right. It's a great illustration that we still have a long way to go.


What's your absolute best beer of the past decade and why?

Mountain Goat Before The Dawn Black IPA – A delicious big, bold black IPA when fresh.

But, to my surprise when I cracked open an extremely out of date bottle, hidden in the back of a cool room, it had developed into a completely different but equally delicious beast.


Bert Spinks

 

You never know where Bert (pictured above with Will Ziebell) is going to crop up next (or at least you didn't pre-March), with wanderings since he first started seeing him send in missives from the likes of Iceland, Budapest and the mountains of his home state Tasmania. His emails are as much of a joy as his articles (particularly one involving a dress, cooking brandy, paying customers and an Argentinean poem).

That he lives off grid in an old railway carriage in a town called Meander tells you much of what you need to know, and you can catch him in Hobart at the minute performing a variety show called Poor Man's Pot, which he says "gets weirder and weirder every time we do it".


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

For the amusement of myself, mostly, I had a blog called Beers I've Read and Books I've Drunk. One of my few readers happened to see a call-out for writers on CraftyAt that time I was in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, and pretty broke. I sent in a pretty piss-poor article about craft beer in the Scottish isles and it was accepted, to my great surprise.

The editor, I remember, wrote: "I like the cut of your jib." Little did I know it was the first of many allusions to nautical life from then on.


What were your beer highlights of the past decade?

My favourite thing about beer is what it does to open up opportunities to enter unusual social situations, the stranger the better. A handful of occasions come to mind.

Creating stout spiders on a manic Monday night in Launceston – Evil Twin's Even More Jesus with scoops of half-melted Peters vanilla ice cream – was a highlight.

My 27th birthday, in the Icelandic fishing village of Sauðárkrókur, finding a local IPA – the brewery was Gaeðingur, and the IPA was called Tumi Humall – that used Tasmanian Galaxy hops: I staggered back to my campsite down empty streets, hollering what were ostensibly Icelandic folk songs.

And an infamous night in Melbourne during GABS when I ended up swapping clothes with the proprietor of a certain Australian beer magazine (and the clothes in question were a sailor costume).

Or, literally this afternoon, I was sipping on a tinnie of Hobart Brewing Co's Harbour Master Tasmanian Ale on the south-eastern tip of Tassie, a very thin spine of dolerite sticking out into the sea. These snippets at least give a sense of what I reckon the essence of beer-drinking is – what it's become for me over my years writing for Crafty.

 


Of all the pieces you've written for the site, what's your favourite? 

A few years back at a writers' festival, I had a critic and publisher say that Bushwalking with Beer (featuring Bert's mate and now Du Cane founder / brewer Will Horan, pictured above) was the best thing I had written. I was a bit miffed at first (given that the same critic had read some of my much more serious attempts at literature) but I've come to agree.

Although I also enjoyed the Beer Travel piece I did for Hungary [For which I must apologise for my title! – Editor], which ambitiously began with a short lesson in the Magyar language (and also included my best portrait photograph ever of the Gergely, who owned the influential Budapest beer store 'Csak a jó sör').


Mick Wust

 

A Queenslander now living and teaching in Sydney who's effectively taken on the mantle of Crafty Pint NSW while also covering much that comes out of his home state, Mick is a beautiful writer whose words paint pictures and conjure emotions. He's also such a generous and gregarious spirit that since a cancelled flight led to him staying at Crafty Towers last year the Crafty Pots' ears shoot up at the very mention of his name and the tales of his antics that day are recounted often.


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

Crafty put out a general call for freelancers in 2017, so I threw my hat in the ring. I already loved writing. I already loved beer. In fact, I already loved writing about beer (I was already blogging as Schoonerversity). But somehow it’d never occurred to me that I might be able to do it as a job!


Beer highlights of the past decade?

Watching Brewsvegas grow every year is a highlight for me – a testament to the people who pour themselves out to bring good beer to the people, to strengthen the community, and to see the industry thrive.

The truth is, most of my highlights aren’t about things that have happened, but people I’ve met who have unveiled their little corner of the beer world to me. George Levi and Tilly Milne [mainly of The Scratch], whose limitless creativity and quirkiness and vivaciousness lights up the events they plan, the artwork they design, and the punters they serve. Costa at La Sirène, and his infectious enthusiasm for farmhouse beers. Mark Howes and the good people at Newstead Brewing who’ve used beer to support all kinds of groups and causes over the years.

 

Clockwise from top left: A Brewsvegas panel; Mick, wife Kamina and friends at the 2016 Brewsvegas Pool Party; tucking into barrels at Bacchus; with Tom Champion at Felons ahead of the brewery's launch.

 

Of all the pieces you've written for the site, what's your favourite?

While I had a blast writing about the craft beer scenes in Rome and Bali, I can’t look past my feature(s) on kveik.

I’m not a brewer, and I’ve never had any special interest in yeast or fermentation, but for some reason I was captivated by the concept of an old super yeast that acts differently to every other kind of yeast known to brewers. I was obsessed with kveik, and thought about nothing else for about three weeks solid. I can’t explain why. But it was memorable, and I was stoked to be able to chat with brewers, research kveik, process my thoughts, and write two articles about it.

And since no one else in Australia had really written about it yet, there was something exciting about sharing kveik with Aussies.


What's your absolute best beer of the past decade and why?

I’m going to have to go with Boatrocker Ramjet, and all its variations. I know I’m not the only one who has a long list of good memories attached to Ramjet. As an annually released, barrel-aged imperial stout that showcases Aussie whisky barrels, Ramjet sets the standard. And anyone who’s chatted to Matt Houghton about brewing and barrels can see the sparkle of artistry in his eyes – Ramjet is so clearly a product of passion, and you can taste that in every sip.


We'll be back with more in the coming days (but figured half a dozen was a good starting point after a week heavy with retrospective coverage already).

We're running a series of features looking back over the past decade of beer in Australia to mark ten years of The Crafty Pint, and collecting all the articles here.

If you'd like to share your favourite photos and memories from the past decade on socials, please do so with the hashtag #tenyearsofcrafty so we can check them out and maybe feature them in another article later in the series.

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