Chase Saraiva’s journey to become head brewer of Sydney’s Wildflower Brewing and Blending is a tale as old as time. He travelled 12,500km for a two-month working holiday only to be caught in the middle of a deadly global pandemic two weeks in. Thus, with no way of returning to his pestilence-riddled homeland, or continuing his travelling holiday, Chase kept turning up at the Marrickville venue and Wildflower co-founder Topher Boehm kept putting him to work.
Now, almost twelve months on, Chase has braved the Sydney rental market and Australia’s crushing immigration and visa apparatus to take up the head brewer role. In the process, he's given up his prior quaint life as head brewer for former Ratebeer Best New Brewery in the World, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co, for the big city life of brewing and transporting a few hundred litres of wort on the back of a ute to a shed in Marrickville.
Not only does Chase bring a wealth of brewing experience, however, but he is a passionate proponent of utilising local produce and native ingredients. At Wilderness, he presided over an extensive barrel and foeder program while utilising Arizona grown malt, fruit, vegetables and even the likes of sycamore leaves and prickly pear cactus. It’s almost as if Chase’s life was engineered in some sort of Truman Show type arrangement to ensure he'd join fellow US expat Topher at the helm of Wildflower.
Topher’s quest to showcase the natural abundance of NSW through the medium of impeccably-structured Australian wild ales has made Wildflower’s beers some of the country’s most lauded and could not be a more ideal place for Chase to find himself embedded, amid an otherwise grim set of circumstances.
Like the rest of the close-knit Wildflower family, you’ll hopefully find Chase slinging beers at the cellar door on a weekend or, failing that, roaming the countryside in the trusty Wildflower ute preying on any unsuspecting orchard or vineyard that catches their eye.
Given his unique backstory, we invited Chase to take part in our long-running Brew & A series.
Why are you a brewer?
There are a variety of different angles which factor into this question for me. When you start to pull the layers back and get a glimpse as to what exactly this industry is composed of, you can get addicted pretty quickly.
Brewing is incredibly multidisciplinary and there’s just this perfect mix of science and fermentation, experimentation, agriculture, community, preservation, food system exploration, and flavour-making which keep me loving it day in and day out.
What would you be if you weren’t a brewer?
Well, if I would have followed the path I had originally mapped out in college, most likely a dentist, but if I had to pick anything else at the moment I’d go professional surfer, not that I have any real talent for it – honestly, I can barely even stand up on a board – but I can dream, right?
What was your epiphany beer?
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron. I nabbed one from a buddy’s fridge during my early days in university not really knowing what it was. I had just started sticking my toes in the non-macro beer world and, at 12.5 percent ABV, this unfiltered and wood-aged brown ale pretty much sealed the deal.
How did you first get involved in the beer world?
There are a lot of events that led to me getting into beer, but really I think the most pivotal was landing a job at East End Brewing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While I had worked in some great Belgian and American beer bars before this, the opportunity at East End grounded the first few steps of my journey in the maker's side of the industry and allowed me to understand what professional brewing was really about.
What's the best beer you’ve ever brewed?
During my time with Arizona Wilderness I made a collaboration beer with Creature Comforts Brewing called Tiny Wooden Ships. It was my first dive into foeder fermentations and a project involving mixed cultures from both breweries, a cereal mash, open fermentation and a sprinkle of aged hops.
It was a stunning little saison and I can’t wait to crack open the last bottle waiting for me back in the States.
What's your single favourite ingredient to use in beer?
Are there any beers you’ve brewed that might have been better left on the drawing board?
A taco saison, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
If you could do a guest stint at any brewery(s) in the world, which would it be and why?
Ironically enough, the answer to this question just about a year ago is what brought me to Australia in the first place. If we are just talking about beer-making breweries then, in no particular order, I’d say 3 Fonteinen, Pen Druid, Pilsner Urquell, Antidoot, de Garde, Scratch, Orval, Cantillon, etc. There are really too many to list but these are a few that come to mind at the moment.
Which local (Aussie or Kiwi) breweries inspire you?
Not really a fan of picking favourites. ?
What inspires you outside the world of brewing beer?
Agriculture/food, fermentation and process, but more precisely when these parallel and weave a line with preservation and food-system sustainability.
What's your desert island beer – the one to keep you going if you were stranded for the rest of your days?
Grisette. Quite possibly the perfect beer – convince me otherwise.
And what would be the soundtrack to those days?
This is impossible to actually narrow down but most likely a random assortment of funk from around the globe and lo-fi bedroom pop.
If you couldn’t have beer, what would be your tipple of choice?
Amaro, rum and low intervention wine. Well made, but the weirder the better.
What's the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a brewer?
I would never actually find a good pair of work boots that would reliably last more than six months. I’m constantly on the hunt, but maybe the pair I have now will make the cut?
And the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering a career in craft beer?
Another question I’m having a tough time narrowing down to just one item so here are a few!
Avoid and resist becoming complacent, question everything you read and are taught, be organised, clean, and honest, work as a team as much as possible, and, lastly, alcohol is ubiquitous in the industry...respect it.
You can taste the fruits of Chase's labours at 11-13 Brompton Street, Marrickville, and find Wildflower and hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues around Australia in the free Crafty Pint app.
You'll also find other entries in our Brew & A series here.