In the middle of Dungog’s Dowling Street retail strip, sits a friendly local bar, where you can sit outside on one of the many barrel tables and be welcomed by the local drinkers for a bit of a yarn.
“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name..."
Those of us that recall Cheers – the 80s American sitcom about a group of people from different walks of life that meet in a Boston bar – will see the parallels with Tinshed, a brewpub pumping out beers on a small, two-vessel 500-litre brewhouse.
Run by husband-and-wife team Jimmy and Haley Cox, with the help of brewer Nathan Lake, this is the venue where all the locals meet up after a week’s long, hard graft. On Friday, you'll find local teachers packing the outdoor seating area, supping on a Rustic Ale as they chat about the week. Young families pop in for beers and bowls of chips, while on my visit two older ladies in their 70s were sat enjoying a schooner or two.
It's a bar where the regulars come, often on their own, as they know there will be someone to share a few with. As Hayley puts it: “People often say, ‘I had nothing to do, so I thought I’d come for a chat’.”
Owner Jimmy is local born and bred, and started his career as a butcher before heading into the mines. In his spare time, he tinkered with homebrewing as a hobby and it was a trip to Potters Brewery in the Hunter Valley (now FogHorn Hunter Valley) and a meeting with local legend Keith Grice, that created the spark for Jimmy to contemplate setting up his own brewery.
Sitting down with Hayley, they came up with a 12-month plan and purchased a building that popped up for sale on the Dungog thoroughfare in 2016. The historic town in the Hunter region of New South Wales sits on the edge of the Williams River and is known for both servicing the surrounding agriculture and timber industries as well as operating as a base for bushwalking, mountain biking and a raft of other stunning experiences in the scenic countryside.
In the brewery’s early days, the Coxes found the local community buying in while professing they didn't think it would work, particularly when there were 17 empty shops on the retail strip.
Six years later, the brewery still stands and the team has expansion on its mind – this despite the hardships of bushfires, droughts and COVID. Hayley proudly points out that the retail strip is now thriving, with only one shop remaining empty.
Where they have had immense success is understanding their locals’ beer tastes.
“We didn’t brew an IPA for three years as Dungog locals don’t like hops, they prefer malty beers,” Hayley says.
Tinshed’s flagship beer is their Rustic Ale, which was originally brewed for the Dungog Festival and doffs a cap at the beautiful amber sunsets the area experiences.
Being a rural community, Jimmy also likes to spice his beers up a little, using local produce where he can. Tinshed’s Choc Bunny Beer was a winner with local drinkers and includes not only the chocolate addition you might expect but rabbit too, while Rudolphs Reindeer was brewed with venison.
Tinshed knows the locals are “our bread and butter”; as Hayley says: “I enjoy the people you meet and the relationships you create. I love the community spirit; people are supporting each other working for the greater good.
“A lot of people credit us with rejuvenating the town: we were young, and we backed ourselves. We love this town, and we would never leave."
As their sixth anniversary approaches in October this year, we finally found a chance to ask Who Brews Tinshed beers?
Who Are You?
David “Jimmy” and Haley Cox.
Jimmy was a butcher for many years and then worked in the mines before returning to a job of passion and creativity. Haley worked in local government compliance with a background in vet nursing.
Where do you brew?
109 Dowling Street, Dungog.
Why do you brew?
Why not? We brew to make great beer for great people.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Haley took Jimmy for a lunch date at Potters, the former home of Hunter Beer Co, where a long conversation with Keith Grice lead to many many thoughts, plans and recipes of how we too could make beer.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Tin sheds are pretty iconic in the Dungog area. We wanted the place to have that relaxed backyard feel. Not too over the top but reliable and wholesome.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Rustic Ale best represents our style. It's an amber ale rich in flavour, toffee notes and smooth. It’s the gateway to dark beers.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Well, that depends on what day it is on the calendar, as in stock standard freebie calendars they have days like national days or World Egg Day so we try to match our music to the day. Even if it means listening to Tibetan throat singing for eight hours. Spotify is amazing.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Our Smoked Porter, Colonial Porter, New England Brewing Co IPA and Pale Ale. A bunch of random sours that I'm slowing working through when I feel fruity.
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
Haley: cherry kriek
Jimmy: Bohemian pilsner
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Coastal Brewing Co Manning Quays Lime Pie IPA – it's amazing!
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
Alcohol-free beers. Being in a regional town we really need one.
Where can people find your beers?
Gloucester Roundabout Inn has a beer on tap.
While you'll also find our packaged beers at:
- Lorn Bottle Shop
- Belmore Road Grocer in Lorn
- Morpeth Cellars
- Cameron Park Bottle shop
- Boydells wines at Morpeth
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
To build and complete our new planned brewery just down the road. As a brand, I would like to explore other alcohol and non-alcohol options.
You can pop into Tinshed at 109 Dowling Street, Dungog. And you'll find it alongside hundreds of other breweries and good beer retailers in the free Crafty Pint app.
All past Who Brews...? features are available here.
Photo at top of article by Ready Aim Media.