Gareth and Megan Parker had been following their Brightstar for years, as it took them across oceans to live and work in different countries, where they would soak up the local beer scenes, absorbing new experiences and valuable knowledge along the way.
Now, in 2022, they've reached their destination, with the culmination of their journey on show at Brightstar, the latest brewery to open in the Adelaide suburb of Thebarton.
They first welcomed guests last month, inviting them into their lager-focused operation in the back streets of the history-rich suburb. Inspired by Gareth’s time in Germany, Brightstar brings with it a focus on European styles, with drinkability front of mind.
“I spent a lot of time in Germany," Gareth (pictured below) says. "I was in Düsseldorf and Cologne but travelled all over the place; plenty of time in Munich.”
He adds: “I have been very fortunate working for 22 years in software, working for mostly American software companies. Most of them were NASDAQ-listed companies, so I spent some time in the States.
“For me, it’s been a long, long road of craft beer obsession. It goes all the way back to '98, where I spent two years in Maine, Portland, and visited Allagash regularly, tasting all their stuff.”
Not only did Gareth immerse himself in the various cultures of the beer world but he also dabbled in homebrew.
“It’s always been like a hobby and just tinkering with my homebrews and stuff. I am not an experienced brewer and that is why we got the right people in to run the front and the back.”
Running the back of house and steering the brewhouse is Steve Brockman, a man who brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge in the brewing field. He started his career in beer at Little Creatures in Fremantle, where he worked on the packaging line before he moved over to The Monk just down the road.
From there, Steve and partner Steph then moved to America, working at dozens of breweries as they jutted around in their van. Their time in the US included assisting in the building of a brewery from scratch in Vegas and a spell with White Labs Yeast. Once back home, they moved to Adelaide where Steve picked up a role at Mismatch in the Hills and became one of the leaders of the Independent Brewers Association's SA chapter.
Leading the front of house is Kat Travis, a local who has been in the hospitality industry for many years and has set about imprinting her bright, bubbly character on the venue, as well as an extensive knowledge of all things hospo.
As for Brightstar co-founder Megan, who previously worked in marketing for several large companies both in Australia and overseas, she is insisting all beer servers at the brewery undergo Cicerone training to ensure visitors are welcomed by good people with good training. There will be a nominated Cicerone on duty every shift; “We are big into the explaining of our beers to customers and the history behind the style,” Gareth says.
The building Brightstar occupies has a past story involving production of a rather different kind. It was built in the 1920s by pharmaceutical company Faulding & Co. Faulding's laboratories, established in 1845 and best known for producing and packaging penicillin in the 1940s, initially worked with soaps and barrier cream, and later, in 1983, were listed in the British Pharmacopeia after developing a test to determine the eucalyptol content of eucalyptus. The floorboards of their former home are stained with stories from yesteryear: a deep mahogany colour with old rustic staples still embedded throughout the venue.
That's where the historic ends and the modern begins, however. Walk into Brightstar today and the bar and service area is the first focal point, occupying the centre of the space with a clean, sleek and simplistic design. Large, German beer hall style wooden tables and chairs provide the bulk of the seating, with more modern, tall benches completing the picture.
There is a veranda around the front of the property overlooking a patch of grass that's proving popular with families, while gracing the back wall is a colourful, playful mural. The painting is by Canadian artist Cécile Gariépy, who is well known for her contributions for the New York Times. Another standout feature is the large window looking into the brewery, where Steve can usually be spied checking ferments or moving kegs.
The beers are served in regular South Australian pint glasses unless drinkers choose to go large with traditional steins to be filled with one of Brightstar’s foundation beers which, at the time of writing, consisted of a pilsner and Helles served from their 2400L serving tanks.
The idea at Brightstar is to keep beers on the approachable side.
“Our philosophy here is, if you can’t have five of that beer in a session, then we probably won’t be brewing them. Having said that, we plan to dabble in a nice smoky rauchbier down the track, Steve loves them," Gareth says. "But very European inspired, we won’t be doing American styles."
Other beers in the pipeline include a Schwarzbier, an altbier set to undergo six to eight weeks of lagering, and an Irish stout, with the latter due to be tapped in the first week of winter.
As for food, large German pretzels take care of the snacks, while food trucks roll in on the weekends. Annual events including Christmas in July and Oktoberfest in late September are already being planned, as well as something kid-friendly on the lawn.
For many years, lager was something of a dirty word in craft beer circles, but has been enjoying a fine renaissance in the past couple of years. Brightstar have decided to make the style their focal point, joining the likes of Heads of Noosa and The Albert Brewery in Hobart as brewers with a passion for lager styles and creating a point of difference in a predominantly hop driven world.
As a result, by drawing upon their life experiences, Gareth and Megan, with help from their friends, have succeeded in bringing a little slice of Europe to the Adelaide 'burbs.