Ten Years Of Crafty: Meet The Team II

In part two of the midway feature in our Ten Years Of Crafty series we again hand the mic to some of the people who've been part of the growth of the site over the past decade.

You can view part one of Meet The Team here and find the remainder of the series here. To date, we've looked at the site's genesis, shared photos from the decade, looked at the growth of the industry and the changes in ownership, and also at the biggest and most read stories since September 2010.

Still to come we have a feature on the role beer media in its various forms has played over the decade, a study of the country's changing tastes and Aussie beer firsts, and more before we wrap up (well, almost wrap up) at the weekend. But for now, more Crafties, from A to Z...


Matt Aitken

 

When Nick O (see day one) headed back to New Zealand, we were left without our OG writer and Crafty Pint NSW. Soon afterwards, Mick Wust (also day one) announced he was heading from Sydney to Brisbane, solving one issue and creating a new one in Brisbane.

Matt is among those to have helped fill the gap left by Mick, an avid beer lover almost as likely to be at a new brewery on its opening weekend as John "Beer Tragic" Black, and keeping us abreast of happenings around South East Queensland.


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

Was a long time reader before asking why my local brewery (Brendale) hadn't been featured. After convincing James to include them, he allowed me to have first crack at writing the story.


Highlight of the decade?

That was the Brisbane addition to the GABS lineup. It was great to try all the crazy experimental brews and catch up with the best the country could offer.


Your favourite story for the site?

You always remember your first: Brewed for Brendale. My local and still favourite – always make me feel welcome, even before the story was penned. Close second was my trip to Toowoomba to cover Brewoomba 2019.


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

The Participation Award – the collaboration between Brisbane's Range Brewing with Mr Banks and Mr West. This oat cream double IPA launched Range Brewing outside of Queensland and let the Victorian hazy kings know there was a new player in town.


Matt King

 

Matt's been involved with the site long enough that, were it a marriage, it would be reaching the point our uncles would joke you get less for murder. Part of the story for more than half a decade as Crafty Pint SA, he was already writing a blog and social accounts dedicated to the South Australian beer scene before making contact.

He's maintained a steady stream of beers and stories while starting a family and securing promotions in his main role as a teacher. And the great ideas keep flowing; this year's #keepinglocalalive Beer Swag Day was sparked separately by Matt and Guy (see below), while of the final elements in this series arose from him too.


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

As a primary school teacher, I always found the subject English difficult to teach so I started to do some writing. I saw that Pirate Life were about to start up in Adelaide and I had been a follower of the Crafty Pint since moving to Adelaide in 2013. I sent an email to James asking if he wanted me to do a write up for the site and luckily he said yes.

From there I continued to suggest article ideas and it just snowballed and now, seven years later, I am still submitting pieces when I have a spare moment.


What were your beer highlights of the past decade?

The industry in SA has grown exponentially since I first started reporting on it in 2014. Just seeing where it has come from to now is a highlight as I have been fully emerged in that growth from the drinking side of the bar. Also, seeing the consistency levels and experimentation explode has been fun. But probably the biggest highlight for me is meeting so many great people from all over Australia.

 


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

The article about the Wilkadene's houseboats on the Murray (pictured above) will always stick in my head as a favourite as it is associated with one of the most relaxing holidays I have had. Calm, peaceful and adventurous, all while pouring Woolshed beer from taps on the top deck and consuming a home-cooked meal.


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

Can anyone give a straight answer to this question? So many beers float through the memory bank here.

Keeping within SA, my favourite beer would have to come from the closest brewery to my house and that is The Wheaty. Jade has brewed so many great beers over the years and collaborated with some legends; I still remember the interview I did with Tobias of Weihenstephan fame at The Wheaty.

The best beer they have produced, in my opinion, would have to be the Berry Tight Down Under alongside Ben Kraus from Bridge Road Brewers. The memory of drinking it for the first time just sticks in my head and I remember thinking: "This is awesome." Having said that, my close second favourite was also a collaboration with Ben; the Hopikopi Sour they brewed with coffee additions.


Kerry McBride

Kerry McBride (right) at Good Beer Week 2018 with British beer writer Melissa Cole, Three Weavers (US) brewer Alexandra Nowell, Wild Card (UK) founder Jaega Wise and Alli McDonald of the Pink Boots Society.

 

If there's one thing above all else that's helped get The Crafty Pint to this point, it's my background in "proper" journalism. Spending five years as a news reporter then features writer at a UK paper provided a solid foundation for embarking on a mission in the beer world, not least thanks to learning shorthand.

Such a background isn't essential – some of the best writing we've published comes from people with their own "untrained" style and voice – but it certainly came in handy when Kerry McBride became our senior writer. With a background as both reporter and working on the newsdesk at the Dominion Post in New Zealand, she instantly lightened the load while also raising the bar thanks to a fearlessness and determination to take on stories designed to ruffle feathers. Since joining Good Beer Week, Kerry has gone on to work for Two Birds and the Made In Shade hospitality group.


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

Back in 2015, James put out a call for beer writers and I got in touch with an unnecessarily long email detailing how, as a former journalist, I considered myself a writer who loves beer, rather than a beer drinker who could try and write. James obviously didn't mind it too much, because by the end of that week we were meeting at the Royston to discuss how to best put me to work.

It's not an exaggeration to say that beer changed my life, as it led to so many incredible experiences and opportunities in the years that followed. Thanks Crafty ❤


What were your beer highlights of the past decade?

My favourite moments tend to form around beer, rather than because of the beer itself. To name a few:

  • Interviewing Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River at their brewery in Santa Rosa, and discovering just how good Blind Pig is as we chatted over a beer in her office. I loved it more than Pliny(!). Later that night, my partner and I were working our way through their giant tasting paddle when there was a total power cut. We kept drinking to the light of everyone's phone torches, and Vinnie soon emerged, pilsner in hand, to make sure we hadn't spilled a drop in the dark!
  • Spending more than an hour with Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery, covering everything from diversity in beer, to the resurgence of sours, to LCD Soundsystem. I've still got the interview recorded, just in case I ever feel the need to revisit his wisdom!
  • Finally, the incredible women of beer I've been able to meet, and especially those I've been lucky enough to work alongside: Melissa Cole, Jaega Wise, Dani and Jayne of Two Birds, and the queens of Melbourne beer, Kate and Shev. Plus so many more that I couldn't possibly name them all.

 

Highlights from a career in beer (from top left): Garrett Oliver; partying at Good Beer Week with Shev Kerin; at Russian River with Natalie and Vinnie.

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

I think it would have to be The Big Issue: Gotta Catch 'Em All, about the gamification and the impact that the pursuit of hype beers can have on the broader industry. Those pieces were written back in 2016, and I think things have only gone further down that rabbit hole in 2020.


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

Acid Punch from Garage Project. Why? Because it was the collaboration brew that my now husband and I brewed at Garage Project in my hometown of Wellington for our wedding. A tiny number of kegs were air freighted to Melbourne and it'll probably never be seen again. Nothing's going to top that!


Jono Outred

 

The nature of the beast – trying to run a national publication from a laptop in a country that's effin' huge with a young family that prefers it if you're not on the road all the time – means it's not uncommon for people to start contributing to the site long before we ever meet.

That was the case with Jono, with a first meeting not taking place until a trip to the Margaret River region last year. An afternoon catch-up at Margaret River Brewhouse went well enough that by the end of the evening we'd been joined by his girlfriend and he's now our go to man for all things beer in the state's South West. If you ever spot photos that stand out from the crowd on The Crafty Pint, there's a good chance they're Jono's too.


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

Luck! WA's ambassador of craft beer, Guy Southern, was struggling to keep up with the plethora of craft beer being made in WA. My convenient location in the South West, plus some previous beer blogging, put me in a good spot to take some of the load and keep up to speed on everything crafty south of Perth.


What were your beer highlights of the past decade?

GABS 2018 was a cracker, being a part of the winning team of Battle of the Brews for WA Good Beer Week 2015, and discovering cask ale in the UK in 2011!

 

Some of Jono's photos for the Wild Hop Brewing Co listing on the site.

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

The recent listing on Wild Hop was a pleasure to write and is also a throwback to the first story I got to write for Crafty. So that one will stay with me!


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

So hard to say! Jester King El Cedro is an absolute favourite. I LOVE that beer.

Closer to home, though, I think some back vintages of Boris, from Feral, have been world class. Around 2012/13 was sensational.


Judd Owen

Judd Owen getting to know the bonus guest at the Airbnb I booked for team members during the 2019 Crafty Weekender.

 

Judd is one of those writers you wish you could persuade to spend less time and effort on his government job and write more for the site instead. After all, who doesn't want 1,000-word write-ups on beer full of obscure historical and political references, or articles ostensibly about nice things littered with disdain for much of humanity?

When not working for the government, exploring tangents or referencing the Oriental rat flea in Crafty Crawls, Judd can be found winning TV game shows, judging homebrew competitions, wearing loud shirts and, in the case of Wildflower, proving it is possible to display a greater degree of obsession than the young women in the front row of Shea Stadium in '65. 


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

I'd just moved to Sydney, had no friends and a lot of spare time so I thought I'd try taking my beer writing a bit more seriously. The intention was always to keep writing on my blog but I had the sheer audacity to email in July 2015 saying that I would like to write something, anything for The Crafty Pint. In hindsight, I probably believed that my MSPaint drawings and incomprehensible articles littered with obscure Simpsons references and dick jokes deserved a wider audience. They did not, of course, but you gave me one anyway.

The first time I got that illicit thrill of seeing something that I wrote being read by people who weren't my immediate family members, all other earthly pursuits were abandoned and I wanted nothing more than to be able to swan around town, introducing myself to indifferent hospitality staff as Judd, from The Crafty Pint.


What were your beer highlights of the past decade?

Having a beer I designed and brewed on tap at a bar beside the GABS 2015 People's Choice winner. To celebrate our departure from Brisbane, my mate Brad and I brewed 50 litres of Lock Stock and Two Mongrel Pigs, an Anglo-Australian Pig Ale at Newstead Brewing Co and tapped it at the late, great Hoo Ha Bar in South Brisbane. It's still up there with the best things I've ever done.

Being the guest of Stone & Wood in Byron for the brewing of Stone Beer was like a dream come true. I got to meet some of the loveliest people in the beer industry and I'd never in my life felt so looked after.

Then there's all the beer-related travel to think about! Drinking 65-year-old Lambic in Barcelona, Gueuze Lou Pepe at Cantillon in Brussels, Borg Brugghus Surtur imperial stout at a Lebowski-themed bar in Reykjavik, lunch and Evil Twin beers at Tørst in Brooklyn.

 

One of the photos I set up for Judd's "single dumbest thing" article.

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

Any normal person would probably be most proud of the articles that were actual examples of journalism that involved interviews, research and hours upon hours of writing and editing. Me? Probably the single dumbest thing that James has ever published that I wrote in about 45 minutes.

I genuinely believe that: "Putting aside a century of cut-throat competition, Australia’s two brewing heavyweights decided to throw down their weapons, rise from the trenches and engage in some heavy petting in no man’s land." is the best sentence I've ever written.


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

Well, I've already talked about the Pig Ale, so I guess it has to be the bottles of Wildflower Gold, Amber and Table Beer [Knew we'd get to Wildflower eventually – Editor] I shared with Nick, MC, Chris and Topher at WIldflower about a month or so before they opened (there's a photo of this very occurrence on the Wildflower listing, I think?).

Topher and Chris' generosity and passion for making "simple" local beer which expressed their love for NSW was absolutely infectious and, even then, it felt like a momentous occasion. Undoubtedly, Wildflower beers have only gotten better since but those first few sips of Batch #1 genuinely changed my perspective on beer and its place in the world.


Pia Poynton

Pia (left) with chef Daniel Burns and fellow WA beer food maven Wendy Marinich at a Good Beer Week 2017 event.


Pia is one of a small number of people whose role over the past decade of beer in Australia is hard to pin down. She's been one of WA's most prolific beer writers / bloggers, run beer venues, worked for breweries in various roles and been a driving force in many other beer-soaked ventures. The easiest way to put it is, simply, that Pia is beer in WA in human form.

These days, her contributions to the site are few and far between due to her multifaceted role at Nowhereman but she remains a great sounding board and source of information, contacts and joy, and has supplied many of the photos we've shared to date as part of this series. That said, my favourite moment was when I made some halfwitted remark about her name being an anagram of IPA and blowing her mind; how had she not realised!


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

My memory is pretty bad but I think I got an email from James. We'd met in my previous life as assistant manager at Five Bar.


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

Probably the 2018 hop harvest article at Karridale Hop Farm – such a memorable experience!


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

This is an insanely hard question, year to year I can't seem to answer this one let alone across a decade!


At this point the email tails off, with a final reminder of the looming deadline met with an apology on another busy day, and: "A partially answered questionnaire from me is a pretty good representation of my Crafty career anyway. Start out strong then just disappear into the night!"


Anna Reissig

 

As introductions go, having someone listen to you detail just how disorganised you are and respond with: "You have to meet Anna; she's great at sorting people's shit out!" is one of the less likely. But it turned out to be true, with Anna ensuring Crafty Cabal members and competition winners get what they need, compiling the disparate parts of the operation into remarkably useful spreadsheets (then reminding me they exist), and ensuring we rock up to events with the things we actually need for them, skills she now brings to the Independent Brewers Association too.

During lockdown, the contribution to team welfare has expanded to include baking / making / purchasing and delivering cookies, homemade Brie and cakes. Ain't no amount of News Corp COVID fear-mongering gonna compete with that shit.


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint?

Um, I asked you when a good time to meet was. You took ages to get back to me, so I told you when I'd be in a Fitzroy coffee shop, ha! The guy running the place thought I was on a blind date...

I've been trying to get some system involved (and keep track of your camera lens cap) since, and now I'm researching ways to put various things into a barrel of sour beer for ten years...which is strangely normal for us.  


What were your beer highlights of the past decade?

Will starting his AIBA Best Media acceptance speech with: "Hello" was fun.

Blobfish – beer, people and location were all outstanding.

Convincing Fi (Dollar Bill) to make Ed take a shift off, find a babysitter and drive to Melbourne for Indies 2019 whilst trying not to let them know they'd won something (I'm 95% sure I failed at the last part).

A GBW 2019 event at Molly Rose with the crew before Nic opened to the public. Pretty sure the bathroom door paint was still drying, there was wiring for lights not yet hooked up hanging from the ceiling, but the beer and (insane volume of) food and cheese were great.


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

Killer Kween – because it's amazing.


Neil Richardson

Neil (right) with Alex Troncoso, former Little Creatures head brewer, at the brewery he launched in Bristol with wife Annie, Lost & Grounded.

 

In an ideal world, we'd have someone on the ground in every part of Australia where there's a good beer scene. We're a long way from that, but thankfully we have Neil Richardson in Newcastle, a city where you find some of the best beer people in the country.

Due to respective hectic schedules, we don't seem to make as much use of each other as we'd like but we're working on it!


How did you first get involved with the site?

When I was doing my journalism degree at Monash Uni, I emailed you to see if you needed writers. I think I pitched an article on Mark Mead and Grainfed – a double-header interview. Then I had my third kid and he got in the way! Eventually, I got back to you and the article was about ten months out of date! So, you sent me on a Newy pub crawl instead...


Beer highlights of the past decade?

I cannot even recall if it was a Friday or Saturday night, such was the devastating effect of Corey Crooks getting his hands on the first release of Troubadours Magma IPA down at The Albion, in Newcastle. I went with my mate who had also just started to get into craft beer (or "Boutique Beer" as it was called back then). The only 9 percent ABV beers I had ever seen were in the hands of street people back in London, with Tennent’s Super emblazoned on the cans. This was a beer we used as a forfeit while playing cards, when we were young lads.

The crafty fans of Newy crammed into the pub with Corey announcing he was pulling the first schooner and off we all went, a sublime journey with this gorgeous Triple IPA hopped with this stuff called Simcoe. It was marvellous. We stared wide-eyed at each other, "hmmming" and "aaahing" our way through too many schooners. 

Then I appeared at the corner of the major thoroughfare back to my house. We had only moved in recently and I had no idea how I had got there, let alone how I got home. I was three kilometres from the pub. Honest, one second I was stood in a packed bar with my mate, then three hours later I was lost in the dark. The last memory I had of the pub was Corey announcing everyone had just drank the entire keg in 45 minutes, which in my opinion was an Australian record, seeing as The Albion was the only pub which had it! I recall my wife standing over my prostrate body, which was draped over the sofa, staring at me with arms crossed in disgust the next morning, while my two-year-old daughter tugged at my toes.

Researching for articles is always tough and I have to remind my wife this is an important aspect of the job.


Favourite stories you've written for the site?

I loved the Hunter Valley tour through the breweries up there. A bus load of fans, all quiet at the start, culminating in a loud singing group, all back-slapping each other on our return to Newcastle seven hours later. I also really enjoyed the Newy Tram Crawl piece. A marvellous trek through all the best bars in Newcastle on a gloriously sunny day when the city looks her best.


What's been your best beer of the past decade?

I was such a massive fan of Pirate Life’s IIPA when it hit the scene. This lovely, big, chewy beer which I shared a four-pack with my mate – after "trying" a few other beers that same evening – while we were having a crack at homebrewing a saison.

It was 32C at 11pm, we had no way of cooling the wort, so we stuck it in a wheelie bin full of water and ice. It was a disaster. And I blame that on the IIPA!


Guy Southern

"Ummm... Lens cap?" and our first meeting, since when it's become a tradition upon landing at Perth Airport to be presented with a can of whatever Guy deems the best beer released in the state in recent months; always chilled and usually with matching branded glassware.

 

Guy is another longstanding member of the Crafty team and now pretty much runs things for us in the west. It's a contribution that goes beyond the writing, the stream of information and the running around; Guy is very much part of the fabric of WA's beer scene and responsible for doing far more for more people in the local industry than pretty much anyone realises.

He's also driven the two of us around the state for countless hours without (yet) getting tired of my company, which deserves some sort of medal.


First involvement with The Crafty Pint?

The first time I met James, we literally bumped into each other ordering beer at Beer DeLuxe. It was Good Beer Week 2015, and he was showing a man with a chain of Chinese restaurants around the rammed venue – this, of course, makes total sense once you are in Mr Pint's orbit. Joel Beresford introduced us, and during the 30 second conversation I gave James a cheap business card that I'd made for the trip. He emailed that night and asked if I had any WA beer stories; things went from there.

The next time I'd see him in person would be picking him up from Perth airport with a sign saying "Crafty Pint", because there was no image of what James actually looked like, anywhere. The pic (below right) was taken at Blasta while James assessed a tasting paddle – Read: spilt it on himself – and it's indicative of the professionalism I've come to expect: insightful, knowledgeable, humorous and with a persistent touch of chaos which makes the everything Crafty Pint all the more enjoyable.


What were your highlights of the past decade?

Good Beer Week 2013 sticks in my mind as a turning point for my own beer interest, but also as the last year before things blew up. By mid-decade Pirate Life, Modus, Balter and others had launched and the Australian beer scene gained increasing momentum and exposure, which hasn't stopped. Also, flying across the country as a punter to share beers with brewers, new friends and soak up the Australian beer industry proved a prescient career turning point!

 

Guy on the pour at a past WA Beer Week blind tasting; not the best start to a day of brewery visits and meetings...

What's your favourite piece for the site?

I read The Crafty Pint for five years before contributing, and each Friday's newsletter was always a wealth of information. This was before the growth of Facebook groups, Instagram and rating apps, when the best local bottleshop had maybe ten percent of the range it has today. There were weeks that I'd be hanging out for the newsletter at 3pm Perth time, wondering if something was wrong with my inbox, but little did I know it was one man in Melbourne's inner north scrambling to push send!

Newsletter aside, I've enjoyed the long form pieces on Little Creatures Pale and Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, and am genuinely humbled to have been able to help tell the story of Feral's Hop Hog at Ten, and 20 years of Nail.


What's your number one beer from the past decade and why?

I've enjoyed the evolution of Australian beer over the decade more than anything. We are now at a point where Australian brewers and punters needn't look to international beers for direction, and, concurrently, overall quality and label design has improved greatly.

Beers that stick in my mind include Moon Dog's Black Lung II, La Sirène's Saison, Boatrocker Ramjet and Banshee, Feral's Barn Farm and Biggie Juice, Indian Ocean x DTC's Oaklore, Eagle Bay's IPL and, of course, my collab with Rocky Ridge and Devine Cellars, Devine Goodtimes, because five years after Good Beer Week 2013 I was able to collaborate with my industry friends, and we need more chardonnay barrel-aged imperial Brett saisons!


Will Ziebell

Will (middle) with James Smith and Grain Store founder Corey Crook at FogHorn. Photo by Marie Claire Jarratt.

 

It seems a little unfair to have Will at the end of this feature but having decided to open with the first person to hop on board and then go in alphabetical order, it's the curse of a surname he refuses to pronounce properly.

Will has been senior writer for The Crafty Pint for the past couple of years, but also a sounding board for ideas and moral guidance and a willing event host, regularly flying around Australia (when we could) to represent the site at festivals and beer weeks. We did similar degrees, both trained and worked as journalists, and share many of the same interests outside beer, which makes things easier. The fact he's planning to start accepting hugs post-COVID suggests the future is bright.


How did you first get involved with The Crafty Pint? 

It sounds almost too normal but I just applied for it. Like a real job. I was finishing off an honours year in history and the accompanying thesis and started hosting a beer show on my uni’s radio station so I didn't go mad reading poems by communists. I saw one of my favourite sites was looking for new writers, jumped at it, heard zilch for months and now I’m somehow still here.


What were your highlights of the past decade? 

There’s been a lot but to pin it on one moment I’d have to go with a singular day during Good Beer Week in 2016. I started off at the homebrewing competition System Wars, hosted by Grain & Grape at Two Birds, before heading to a Crafty Cabal party followed by a talk by John Mallett from Bells Brewery and author of Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse. It was a superbly diverse day and was probably the first time I went: “This industry is superb.”

 

Will received the 2018 AIBA Best Media trophy from Pete "Prof Pilsner" Mitcham as the first winner of the award, Matt "Brews News" Kirkegaard watches on.

 

What's your favourite piece for the site?

I’m going to be greedy and take two. There's this one I wrote about Sailors Grave soon after they launched. James asked me to take it on because he knew I was from Gippsland but, being a Brit, he overlooked the fact my hometown of Leongatha is more than three hours from Orbost.

Fortunately, I happened to know almost everything there is to know about Sailors Grave’s new home in the historic Orbost Butter Factory. My grandmother’s grandfather was the first manager of the place and one of the people who had worked to restore it before Sailors Grave took over introduced my parents to one another. Plus it was a chance to really blend in some Victorian history to a story about an exciting new brewery: something I wish I did more of at the moment.

The other was on community clubs like bowlos and an RSL turning to craft beer to revive their spaces. Passion is something we talk about a lot in craft beer and after conducting the interviews for the story I was blown away by just how much of it everyone involved in each club had. Plus I felt the story really showed how craft beer can breath new life into old spaces and when people take a chance on it, they win.


What's your number one beer from the past decade and why?

It’s a tough one but one beer I really look forward to each and every year is Hargreaves Hill’s Russian Imperial Stout. One time I even bought Slowbeer out of their entire stock.


Well, that's a fair few tales from over the years. And there could have been more but a few chose not to take part and I realised that in the madness of preparing this series there's a few I forgot to invite, including one writer who even has an entire series dedicated to him...

Will is back with part six of Ten Years Of Crafty, which looks at beer media over the past decade. And you can find the remainder of the series 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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