When it comes to brewing beers, it helps to be smart. Sure, for the most part, there's just four key ingredients to play with, but once you start digging into the science, the techniques, the possibilities, it's a rabbit hole seemingly without end.
Luckily, brothers Ben and Matt were born smart; or, more accurately, Smart. And they've lent the family name to their contribution to the brewing scene on the Mornington Peninsula.
Having started homebrewing at the age of 18, opening a brewery had always been a dream for Ben, even though he took a winding road to get to this point.
“It’s been a wild ride," he says with a laugh. "I went from brewing extract kits so I could drink as cheaply as possible to spending thousands on equipment.
“I went to uni and worked for a few years to save money, but it really came to a point where I decided engineering was not for me.”
After coming to this realisation, he partnered with brother Matt, an avid enjoyer of craft beer, and pushed forward with the creation of Smart Brothers Brewing, ultimately building a small brewery on their own property and a Taproom in Somerville.
Having grown up in England, Ben says they wanted to create a taphouse that echoed the feel of their local on the other side of the world, while adding a uniquely Australian atmosphere.
“We only ever wanted to create a small, locally-focused venue, similar to brewpubs we could go to with the family in England,” he says. “We wanted to open up, brew in small batches, and have the vast majority of our products running through our taps.
"We wanted to create a really special community vibe, and we think that’s what we’ve done.”
The brothers started brewing commercially in early 2019 before opening the doors of their Taproom in April of the same year. Having survived the craziness of 2020 and celebrated their second birthday, Ben says he's excited to see how Smart Brothers can grow post pandemic.
“We love what we’re doing and we love what we’re brewing,” he says. “We’re surrounded by an awesome community and we can’t wait to get more and more people through the door and enjoying our beers going forward.”
We invited them to take part in our long-running Who Brews...? series to tell us more.
Who are you?
The Smart Brothers are Ben and Matt, two brothers with a passion for all things craft beer.
Where do you brew?
We built our brewery on our property in Somerville. We have a 200 litre brewhouse with three 200 litre unitanks that produces beer exclusively for our Taproom bar and restaurant in Somerville.
Why do you brew?
Craft beer is our passion. We love everything about it – we love that the process is a blend of chemistry, biology and mechanical systems. We love that the finished product has almost infinite possibilities – despite being made of
almost entirely the same key elements. We love that our beer brings people together and, well, we just love drinking it.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
That first batch of Coopers homebrew. It was rubbish but the process had me hooked.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Pretty simple really, we’re brothers and our last name is Smart.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
This is a tricky one, but I’d have to say our Best Bitter. It's not our most standout or innovative beer, but i t probably best represents who we are and our general approach to brewing.
We grew up in England where your local country pub is more of a family affair and a pint of Best is still king. We love classic English and European styles and they’re at t he core of why and how we brew.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Jeez, could be anything. Our usual playlist has got everything from Queen to random indie bands I've never heard of. Gets a good rap from most people, though.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
I’ve got a couple of Wolf of the Willow’s Pups and some Ocean Reach IPA currently.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
The Watts River and Sailors Grave Horse to Water Pineapple Farmhouse Ale. I love a good farmhouse ale with Brett and this one was excellent.
Where can people find your beers?
Right now our beers are almost exclusively available through our Taproom, but a great little winery in Baxter called TreAnd stocks our Pale Ale and Pilsner in their restaurant. For now, though, the rest of our beers are only available on tap or in cans through our Taproom. Although hopefully this will change later in the year.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Still brewing and living the dream! Hopefully we’ll have expanded production and our venue. We’d love to bring the brewery and the taproom together in the near future and create a great space for craft beer on the Western Port side of the Peninsula.
You can visit the Smart Brothers at 4/1071 Frankston - Flinders Rd, Somerville.
You can find them and hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues across Australia in the free Crafty Pint app.
All photos (c) C McConville.