The age old saying goes that, when one door closes, another opens.
For Jamie Chester, his "door closing" moment came in the form of a broken neck, which ended his motocross career. But the new door came in the shape of his introduction to the hospitality industry, one which he quickly embraced.
After spending close to two decades working in a variety of roles, including those in high end cocktail bars and working as a brand ambassador for Campari, Jamie was eventually approached by the family behind a new venue in regional Victoria with the chance to turn his passion for homebrewing into a profession.
“The owners out in Nagambie offered me the opportunity to take the reins at a venue they were putting together,” he says.
“I would have full control over the brewing and distilling process; they had full trust in me, it was a dream come true.”
That new operation was led by businessman and caravan manufacturer Jayco founder Gerry Ryan and his family, who have long had close ties to the holiday town around 90 minutes north of Melbourne. Opened in 2019, Nagambie Brewery And Distillery overlooks the lake with which it shares a name – and to call the venue picturesque would be an understatement, with the back decking practically stretching over the impressive and popular waterway.
The beers Jamie brews include six core range offerings and a rotating mix of seasonals, And, while a beer on the deck overlooking Lake Nagambie might create the perfect holiday moment, it's the venue's popularity with locals that's been most important to the team there.
“They describe the place as ‘our brewery'," Jamie says. "To have the name of the town on the exterior, you have to be mindful that it’s not just us that take pride in what we’re doing.”
To tell us a little more about the operation, we caught up with Jamie to ask Who Brews? Nagambie beers.
Nagambie Brewery And Distillery
Who are you?
We are a very small family-owned brewery and distillery run by a team consisting of a great, whopping two staff members! Jamie, our brewer and distiller, has been in the hospitality game one way or another for almost two decades, and Rob our assistant has just joined the team as he needed a career change.
Where do you brew?
Our site is perched on the edge of the Nagambie Lakes, so the views from the office are quite distracting on beautiful sunny days. We are very lucky to be able to combine a stunning location with a brand new venue and equipment, so it’s safe to say that, while we work some ridiculous hours, most days definitely don’t feel like work at all.
Why do you brew?
We brew and distil for the love of flavour. Jamie’s hospo background, and his experiences as a brand ambassador for some of the world's most prestigious alcohol brands, means he’s incredibly passionate about seeing customers connect with and fall in love with our products. There is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing that the products we are creating are absolutely loved by everyone that visits us.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
I remember about 17 or 18 years ago getting absolutely hooked on drinking whisky and brown ales. It was at that point my partner and I bought our first homebrew kits and began making monumental messes in our house. And, just for the record, she was way better than I was in the beginning!
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Well, the theory is every town should have its own local brewery. Our owners already had a vineyard here in Nagambie, just a short drive down the road, so we were able to jump on and use our town name as the breweries.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Probably the Brown Ale. It’s a somewhat traditional style brew but with some quirky flavour additions that throwback to a misspent childhood.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Man, that question is like asking how long is a piece of string! I’m a rock kid at heart but listen to loads of 90s punk and hard rock, so you could hear anything from The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles to Pennywise, Bad Religion to Tool or The Deftones. It changes up just as rapidly as the Melbourne weather.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
I’ve got some tasty treats from Boatrocker, Hawkers, King River and Tiny Rebel º and there’s always at least a slab of my pale in there.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
I just did a trip down to Lakes Entrance and was super impressed by all the brews from Sailors Grave and Red Bluff.
Where can people find your beers?
Our complete range of beers is on tap at the brewery and distillery and we’re lucky to enjoy local support from quite a few of the wineries and pubs in our surrounding community.
If you’re Melbourne based, the crew at The Prince in St Kilda have been giving us a heap of love and have been rotating our beers through their taps. We are just gearing up to spend a lot of time on the road getting our brews in other venues and stockists so watch this space!
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Definitely bigger, way more efficient, and hopefully without all the heavy lifting!
You can visit Nagambie Brewery & Distillery by heading to 295 High Street, Nagambie. And you'll find it and hundreds of other venues on our free Crafty Pint app. For other Who Brews...? features, head here.