“For me, it’s not a trend, it’s a lifestyle.”
Well, that's certainly one way to talk about hazy beers. Some brewers and drinkers may still deride them – though there aren't many of the former who haven't released a few – but, for James McCall and Kevin Mulcahy from Adelaide's Shapeshifter Brewing Co, it's a lifestyle choice that's helped the young brewing company find fans.
They launched in 2019 and have grown a dedicated following in South Australia, particularly thanks to their impressive limited releases such as the Zeitgeist Oat Cream IPA, which we named one of our top SA releases of last year, while also naming Shapeshifter the state's breakthrough brewery.
James says he and Kevin were spurred on by the rise of hazy-focused operations in other parts of the country and wanted to give South Australians a local option.
“People love them, whether it’s hazy pales or all the way up to the double oat cream IPAs,” James says.
“It was always our plan to serve Adelaide with fresh hazies, and we’ve been around now for about two years and it’s always the hazy beers that move the quickest, get people excited and talking.”
That dedication to experimenting and brewing such beers saw them collaborate with Brisbane's Range Brewing last year, and James says Australia’s collection of brewers operating in that realm regularly exchange ideas and tips.
“You share that knowledge amongst yourselves about what you might be trying next or the new products that might be coming out,” he says.
“I spend all my spare time just researching the latest methods on making a good hazy beer. A lot of the time it’s on American-based forums or Facebook groups where you hear rumours here or there about what they do.”
As for when people can try Shapeshifter from the source, James says the pair are closing in on a home; if the constant questions they received at the 2021 Adelaide Beer & BBQ are any guide, people are ready for them whenever the doors open.
“People have been screaming at us for ages,” James says. “So it’s great to hear that demand's there for it.”
We caught up with him to find out more about Shapeshifter for our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Shapeshifter Brewing Co
Who are you?
James McCall (above right) and Kevin Mulcahy (above left). We met in 2016 at the Certificate III Microbrewing course at TAFE here in Adelaide. My day job is in graphic design and Kev has a background in radio and media, as well as transport and logistics.
Where do you brew?
We currently contract brew at Big Shed Brewing Co. We love working with those guys, it's always a fun day when we get to go in and make a new beer with them.
Why do you brew?
As a creative outlet. To make the most delicious beer in the styles that we love. To innovate, push the boundaries and utilise new and exciting ingredients.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
We have both been keen homebrewers for many years, which definitely set the foundation to move into brewing professionally.
Some of the earliest craft beers I personally enjoyed that set me on the path to brewing were Sierra Nevada's Torpedo IPA, Feral Hop Hog and the ever-rotating range on tap at The Wheaty, one of the OG's in craft beer here in Adelaide, and luckily for me it's also my local.
What set us on the path to making the styles of beer we love now was visiting breweries whilst travelling internationally – I'd visit my wife's family in Canada but I'd spend most of my time at Bellwoods in Toronto! Or going to the UK and having fresh Cloudwater, or spending a month in Portland, Oregon, a couple of years back and brewery hopping there with mates.
These modern hazy styles really lit a fire in me and I decided to devote all my time and learning to work out how to make these awesome, crushable beers here in Adelaide.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Shapeshifter – it's a play on the melding together of all the essential ingredients we use in beer, to transform those simple elements like water, malt, hops and yeast into a thoroughly enjoyable beverage.
Our logo also incorporates a werewolf, which is a mythical shapeshifter, and the lupulus in the latin name for hops (humulus lupulus) means "little wolf".
We also hope that our beers might slightly "shift" your perception on what beer can be.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Our lineup of beers is always changing, we don't really have a core range... so I guess in a way that reflects that we ourselves are always learning, tweaking our recipes and changing the way we think about making each beer!
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Smashing Pumpkins... Childish Gambino... 90s alt-rock, grunge, hip hop, dance!
Whatever suits the mood generally.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
A real mix: some Big Shed, Range, Molly Rose, Garage Project, Moon Dog, Tallboy & Moose, Little Bang, Mountain Culture...
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Bender's new Feelin' Fine Oat Cream IPA from Big Shed is a really solid example. Goodieson's Barrel-Aged Cherry Saison was a standout at the Adelaide Beer & BBQ recently. Plus Uraidla's fresh batch of Psychic Mind and any of the Loophole Astral Project series.
Where can people find your beers?
We don't really distribute outside of SA yet, but if you're in Adelaide we are lucky to have a lot of local support from pubs and bottleshops. The full list is here available online.
You can also order our beers online via our website, we ship Australia wide.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
We hope to have our own physical brewery and taproom for one! A place where we can welcome people into our own place and turn out even more limited release, experimental, modern style beers. Watch this space!
To keep up to date with the goings-on at Shapeshifter, head to their Facebook and Instagram. You can find other entries in the Who Brews...? series here and find hundreds of good beer businesses in our free Crafty Pint app.