The year is 2014, a beaming Mark Howes is up on the brew deck at Newstead Brewing Co in Doggett Street, with the brewery coordinating a collaboration brew day with a pack of excitable staff from the nearby Tippler’s Tap and no less than three beer blogs.
Ostensibly, this is a smoked breakfast stout being brewed to fundraise for cancer research at an upcoming charity run, but, for all involved, it’s really just a wonderful excuse to drink beer and hang out with new friends on a Monday morning.
It’s been an eventful seven years or so since, but Mark and his best mate Luke Shield have realised a long held ambition to go out on their own and do exactly what they want to do. With the creation of Working Title Brew Co, the pair seem to have captured the energy of the halcyon days of the early Brisbane craft beer scene. Writing a beer blog might now be punishable by exile, but there’s never been more great venues to collaborate with or a thirstier public gagging to try whatever’s new.
Mark and Luke are familiar faces to many in and around the Brisbane brewing industry. Mark was previously CEO of Newstead Brewing Co and Luke is responsible for the majority of the killer graphic design work at Netherworld and Newstead.
With Mark stepping back from operational duties at Newstead, he was able to secure a semi-permanent brewing home at the Doggett Street brewery for Working Title and once again straddle the brew deck while friends ineffectively shove a mash paddle into the tun.
Without the constraints of a core range to maintain, Mark and Luke are taking the chance to be fearless with their approach to brewing and doing whatever feels exciting. The four launch beers offer a small insight of what’s to come. Brewed in collaboration with Saccharomyces Beer Café (pictured above on brew day), Brewski, Netherworld and The Woods respectively, out of the gate come a choc milk stout, hazy IPA, American double red and a peach, pear and ginger sour.
For their first solo release, however, the lads are taking things back to something a bit more traditional. A simple XPA brewed with shiraz grape juice and 100kg of hand-picked shiraz grapes that have undergone a carbonic maceration. You know, the usual stuff.
Feeling fresh after a four day launch party, we caught up with Mark and Luke and pleaded with them to answer at least a couple of these Who Brews..? questions seriously.
WORKING TITLE BREWING CO
Who are you?
Just a couple of twonks having some fun. Luke Shield, as our Head of Arts and Crafts, loves playing with his pantone books and screaming at his computer screen: “Please don’t crash, please don’t crash!” Mark Howes, as Fermentologist, has low self esteem and enjoys dark corners and self medication.
Where do you brew?
The Brewpub at Doggett Street, Newstead.
Why do you brew?
For the joy of pure discovery, with the only side effect of failed experiments being inebriation. To push boundaries, try something new, every day and ultimately make people smile.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
When we managed to give each other second degree burns using a Grainfather, we really thought to ourselves: “We’ve got this.”
Through pure laziness and a lack of filtration, we also believe we created the first undrinkable hazy.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Loose concepts and flying by the seat of our pants. To be flexible, explorative and novel. Always moving forward, learning from mistakes and improving on successes.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
They all do, and I guess that’s the point. We want to be excellent at everything and afraid of nothing. Knowing that it will always be impossible to achieve our goal makes the concept of working title a journey, like a party bus but with more cocaine.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Radio Hauraki. All the most modern gear from Taranaki, especially Jessie’s Girl.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
I've been painfully culling my beer fridge for a while now. I still have some Stone Beer (each vintage since 2014), a couple of Bridge Road Bombers Mach 8, 3 Fonteinen, Wildflowers, some Newstead v Brewtal Yirg, and a few Zoo V8s and V9s. I think Luke has a couple of Pure Blondes.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Brewtal’s Double Kick, Black Hops Super GOAT and Seven Mile West Coast.
Where can people find your beers?
With all our early collaborating partners: Saccharomyces, Brewksi, Netherworld and The Woods. Black Sheep Bottleshops, Craft Wine Store, Cellarbrations at Greenslopes and Hawthorne and, of course, out of the cellar door at Doggett Street.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Exactly in the same place we are now, but with a permanent home. This would prove both our ideas for what people want and our convictions for what beer should be.
You can keep up to date with all things Working Title here and find other Who Brews...? features here.