One of the most wholesome things in life is seeing traditions passed down through the generations. The enjoyment one can take in helping out your parents with their hobbies when you’re younger can often push people years later towards their greatest passions.
In the case of Green Gully Brewing, owner and head brewer Luke Smith's drive to enter the world of beer came from brewing with his dad. Luke (pictured above right with his band rather earlier in his beer journey) got his first taste for brewing – not for the beer, let's make that clear – when he was seven, working with his dad on kits at their property in Montrose. When his parents upped sticks for Phillip Island, Luke had those childhood memories sparked by a chance find.
“When my parents moved, I found an old bottle of beer that I brewed with my dad in 1976, so it’s fair to say I’ve been doing this for a little while,” he says with a laugh.
From those first experiences, Luke continued to push forward with his love of brewing. He started to brew on his own under the skate ramp in his backyard, listening to punk and honing his skills.
“I was really a bit of a skate punk,” he says. “I would just spend days listening to punk and brewing... It’s not too different to what I do now, although I don’t actually skate anymore.”
Travel overseas and greater access to what brewers were doing around the world via the internet enabled Luke’s passion and knowledge to expand and, slowly, his all-grain brewing hobby outgrew being a mere hobby, leading to the birth of Green Gully Brewing at his new home in Phillip Island.
While it's now more than a hobby, it's not yet a full-time gig – “As much as I would love it to be," he says.
“This started very slowly and has progressively gotten bigger and bigger. I’m confident it will continue to grow. All good things take time, I’m not feeling the need to overcapitalise at the moment.”
Ultimately, a taphouse on Phillip Island is the goal, one he hopes to fill with locals and tourists alike. For now, he's here to tell us more for our long-running Who Brews...? series.
GREEN GULLY BREWING
Who are you?
Green Gully Brewing is a family run brewery, a farm-based business operating eight – yes, eight – days a week with a current day job while brewing and everything else. But I am lucky to be in a great community and helped out by family and friends all the time.
I am also blessed with access to our great industry and association that help this little fish produce great quality craft beer.
Where do you brew?
The brewery, well, she has evolved over the last two decades from three 100 litre converted stainless hot water tanks to our current setup.
About five years ago, we moved up the road to the farm in the heart of Phillip Island and set up in the farm shed.
Why do you brew?
For the love of quality over quantity, artistic expression and independence. And I can turn up the tunes.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Yes, there's been a few:
- Helping my Dad in the late 70s bottle beer from his Olinda kit.
- Being a hardcore skate punk in my misspent youth and brewing under our skate ramp or in the jam room.
- Traveling to the US with a couple of mates in the 90s and doing the West Coast Chino to Seattle thing on Amtrak and visiting something new to us all called brewpubs.
- The birth of online access to all the global legends and all the old forums talking beer with a fair few who are now the leaders in the Australian craft beer movement.
- Getting my manufacturer's licence and equipment, which would have happened earlier if it weren’t for a certain charlatan that took me and a few other brewers for a ride a few years back. Although, in the end, it led us down our current path.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Down the back of the property there is an area filled with tea trees and abundant wildlife. To protect the penguin population, Philip Island Nature Parks ran an extensive feral eradication program a few years back and thus created an “Ornithology Utopia”. Looking out the brewery window at any one time I can see kookaburras, geese, swans and purple hens – and a large resident mob of wallabies relaxing in the shade.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Our Natural Farm Ale. It’s a specialty saison with local honey and a keep it simple approach that I enjoy to suit the novice but inquisitive craft beverage drinker. Yet, having won a bronze medal at the Independent Brewers Awards in 2019 and 2020, it can be enjoyed by a true connoisseur of the European style.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
I am an old school muso/rock dog and that’s how I work, so anything from my broad analogue and digital collection right thru to the kids' latest Spotify mix.
Buddy Guy, Bad Brains, Buena Vista Social Club, Beastie Boys, Black Flag, Branford Marsalis, Body Count, Bob Dylan and the Black Eyed Peas have randomly played today under artists starting with the letter B.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Not a lot in any fridge after a crazy start to the silly season. Here is the little drinks fridge minus a few:
- A fermented berry fruit ale that has its first blend and packaged to see if the ratio is right.
- Island beer (batch #43) with a kviek isolate.
- Phillip Island Brewing Company Summer Ale with lemon myrtle.
- Watts River Nipper as I am doing something with our Bluestone Yeast house strain and I like the look of the 330ml bottles for a 3.5 percent ABV grisette.
- Our too-easy-to-drink 5.5 percent Dark Lager – a mid-to-late 2020 batch of Munich-Victorian Dunkel.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Anything from the West Gippsland locals.
Where can people find your beers?
On our website with local free delivery on Phillip Island and to San Remo and Aust post rates everywhere else. You can check Facebook and Instagram for special releases and one-offs, and all the good liquor retailers on the island when you come down to visit.
When we get back to some kind of normal, we will do a few of the beer festivals again as they are great for exposure and to meet and greet other breweries.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
That’s 40 more seasonal releases and a few more to our core range, how good!
The business will continue to organically grow and we will get our tasting room and cellar door up and running with a focus on this beautiful part of Phillip Island.
I'll be pushing retirement age so I'll ease up on the lifting of heavy things.
You can find other entries in the Who Brews...? series here. Luke asked us to point out that one of his bandmates in the photo at the top of the article has since passed away.