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It might not sound particularly unique but William Buckley’s name is one that's sure stuck around. In 1803, the English convict escaped from a camp in an area on the Mornington Peninsula that would one day become Sorrento, after which he spent more than three decades living with the Wathaurong people in modern day Melbourne's west.

Over that period, Buckley is said to have forgotten his first language and his tale of survival is the source of the classic colloquialism "Buckley’s chance" or, alternatively, “You’ve got Buckley’s.”

His name even found its way into the contemporary beer world, with Healesville’s now-closed brewery of the same name inspired by the convict’s journey against the odds. Now, local beer and Buckley’s life will align once more when The Beer Pioneer premieres tomorrow night (April 27) on Channel 31.

The show is hosted by Melbourne comedian Matt Stewart, who sets out to trace Buckley's route from the Mornington Peninsula to the west of Port Phillip Bay, then on to his final destination in Hobart.

“Buckley’s journey was basically walking around Port Phillip Bay,” Matt says. “He thought he was walking to Sydney but didn’t really know how to; he just sort of followed the bay because he thought it was the coast.

"But I don’t think he had much of an idea of geography because, apparently, his plan was to walk to Sydney and then to walk to China – so it was an ambitious plan.”

The Beer Pioneer is part history lesson, part travel show, and part beer program, with season one running for seven episodes in which Matt visits eight breweries, including St Andrews Beach Brewery, Bad Shepherd, Salt Brewing, TWØBAYS and Hobart Brewing Co. It's not just about time spent in breweries, however, as Matt also takes time out to go fishing with cricket legend and the man behind the moustache, Merv Hughes. 

 

Matt leaning in to learn with Jetty Road's head brewer Blake Bowden.

 

Matt’s an award-winning comedian and podcast host who regularly performs as a standup, but he says it was his love of beer that scored him The Beer Pioneer gig, one largely been driven by Channel 31's general manager, Shane Dunlop.

“I think [Shane] had me in mind from the start because we’ve worked together for a few years and I’m always talking about craft beer,” Matt says.

It’s a love that goes back some way too. As an 18-year-old, Matt’s obsession with James Boag's Premium Lager saw him email the Tasmanian brewery with his thoughts. 

Deeds is probably the brewery that’s taken over but, back then, I was barracking for Boag's like it was a footy team,” Matt says.

“I don’t know what you’d think when you get an email like that. They sent me a big package of posters, keyrings, bottle openers and hats, which was really cool.”

Matt says his passion for trying new beers has long been part of his life but, having grown up in Moorabbin, it was the opening of 2 Brothers in the southeastern suburb that really cemented things.

“Looking back, I think I was always on a journey of sorts,” he says. “Even when I was younger, my dad would bring back any interesting beers he could find, which back then would be like [Matilda Bay’s] Beez Neez or different kinds of stouts.

“Then, when 2 Brothers started, they really helped me understand there was a whole other world out there.”

 

Not all breweries but still mostly beer: Matt goes fishing with Merv Hughes

 

Matt says The Beer Pioneer taught him a lot about the local beer industry, included how interconnected and collegiate small breweries are – and how diverse different operations can be.

“There’s such a wide range of motivations and businesses plans,” he says, adding that he wants people who tune in to come away with a greater understanding of the rich nature of the independent beer industry. 

“I hope that people find out that in every community you’ve got an independent brewer nearby,” he says, “and rather than just having the same beer you have your whole life from some big multinational, why not support the local brewer down the road?

“There’s so many of them now, especially in Melbourne – no one would live more than ten minutes from a good local brewery, I reckon.”

While he says he's learnt plenty on the Pioneer journey, Matt hopes one type of viewer won't be too harsh on him: beer nerds.

“I’m not that knowledgeable,” he admits. “But the point is I spend the time chatting with experts for their knowledge.”


The Beer Pioneer kicks off at 9.30pm AEST on Tuesday, April 27. As well as being available wherever Channel 31 is, it can be viewed live through the channel's website or watched on-demand via the Stupid Old Studios YouTube channel.

Matt recently appeared on The Chosen Brew podcast so, for further tales of how the comedian fell for craft beer, head here.

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