The age old saying that "home is where the heart is" will have taken on greater meaning for many in this year of closed borders and cancelled flights. People often long to be close to home, close to family, especially amid the insanity 2020 has brought to bear.
It certainly rang true for brewer Luke Scott, who is taking his 21 years of brewing experience onto a new project only a short drive from his home in Geelong. After more than a decade at the helm of brewing operations at the Otway Brewing Group/Prickly Moses, he's signed up with new venture Sou’West Brewery in Torquay.
Luke told The Crafty Pint that being closer to family helped drive his decision, as well as the opportunity to take on an exciting new brewery at the ground floor.
“I guess some of it was looking for a different challenge in terms of a new build but also a bit of a closer proximity in terms of being closer to home,” he says.
“Living in Geelong with a young family, it’s a lot easier commute to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
“I wasn’t even looking [for another job], I just became aware of the role and put my hand up… it’s going to be a change of scenery and a new role which is always exciting.”
Set to take shape at the former headquarters of Quiksilver, which moved to Queensland in mid-2018, Sou’West promises to focus on classic, sessionable beers. Construction of the brewery is scheduled for November, with the aim being to start brewing in December. The bar, however, is unlikely to open until February 2021.
When it does it will help cement Torquay as a mini-hotspot for craft beer. Reigning AIBA champs Blackman's have been brewing in town since 2016, Bells Beach Brewery is pretty much across the road from Sou'West, and Salt Brewing just down the road in Aireys Inlet, while one of 4 Pines' growing empire of venues is found above the Boardriders store a hop and a skip away.
Luke says the prospects of brew primarily for on-site consumption is exciting; most of the beer he produced at Prickly Moses sold through their venues – Great Ocean Road Brewhouse and Queenscliff Brewhouse – and other retailers.
“It’s an exciting project… it’s going to be a large, venue-based brewery, so the majority of the production will go to the bar and not as much emphasis in selling the beer off site,” he says.
“For a brewer, if you can sell most of your beer on site it’s a lot easier than all the challenges of selling to a wholesale market.”
As for what the Sou'West beers will look like, Luke says: “It’s certainly going to be a fun time.
“Initially, the lineup of beers that are planned are quite easy-drinking, non-offensive, proven beers that we think people are going to enjoy. We’re definitely looking at sessionability when it comes to this first lineup.
“The lineup will likely include an Aussie lager, an easy-drinking IPA, a hop-driven golden ale, as well as the more unique kellerbier, which will be a German style fresh lager from tank, and a dark beer as well.”
Moving into a market already occupied by a pair of craft breweries, Luke is confident Sou’West won't clash with their peers in terms of the style of beers they're set to produce.
“We’re literally 200 metres away from Bells Brewing, and Blackman’s Brewery is obviously close by with their real strong hop-driven focus, as well as their sours,” he says.
“We certainly won't be stepping on toes... I think we’ll be complementing what they’re doing.”
While the Sou’West team looks forward to welcoming all-comers once their doors are open, Luke says they plan to put a particular focus on serving the local community and forging a strong connection within the region; he points out his sense of community has only grown stronger through the unique challenges of COVID-19.
“This year has been difficult for everyone,” he says.
“Over the next few weeks it’s going to be interesting to see how people from Melbourne respond to being able to travel to the regions. In saying that, the growth of housing and people between Geelong and Torquay has been great over the past few years, so we want to be able to deliver for all the locals in our market and hope they support us.”
Speaking of community spirit, the decision to depart Prickly Moses wasn't an easy one. Having been part of the team there since 2007, he says it was painful to leave his brewing family.
“It was certainly a tough decision. It’s a small business at Otway Brewing Group and Prickly Moses... a pretty close-knit family. It was a decision that wasn't made lightly.”
Moving forward, he believes his departure will only help drive his old home forward and is confident his replacement, Mattias Isaksson (pictured above), is up to the task.
“Giving opportunities for other people at Prickly to step up and take over is also going to help drive innovation. It’s all in good hands and there’s been no animosity with the move. We didn't want to leave on bad terms and everyone has been amicable with the change.
“Mattias is very prepared, he’ll do a great job across all his roles.”
Looking back over his own career, he marvelled at the changes he's witnessed over his brewing journey.
“There's been a lot of changes since 1999 when I started at Foster's and since I started at Hunter Beer Co – Potters Brewery in 2002 in the Hunter Valley. It wasn’t even known as a craft brewery back then, more of a boutique brewery,” he laughs.
The constant innovation that has marked the past two decades, and continues to accelerate both here and in craft brewing markets the world over, is something he believes is only going to benefit both brewers and consumers going forward.
“It’s good for beer and it’s great for the consumer,” he says. "I think the consumer has become a lot more discerning, which has in turn forced brewers to be better in terms of their product.
“In the past people would put out beers with a lot of faults… now brewers have had to adjust, drinkers have developed an evolved taste. If you don’t adjust, you can't stand the test of time.”