Even by Australian standards, King Island is an isolated place. The island sits in the Bass Strait about halfway between Tasmania and the rest of Australia, is home to around 1,500 permanent residents, and is known for its rugged beauty.
It's also fair to say King Island punches above its weight: home to gourmet produce, world-class golf courses, and now a brewery. (It's home to a distillery too – we're really not kidding when it comes punching above its weight).
King Island Brewhouse was opened by locals Sarah and Corey Brazendale last year, and while their island home is remote, it seems fitting for a family with a penchant for a bit of solitude. The pair met while on a ship destined for Antarctica: Sarah was heading there as part of her university studies; Corey was about to begin a year’s stint working as a mechanic. But, as Corey says, while Antarctica is largely uninhabited, it doesn't offer the sort of solitude you might imagine.
“Although it’s very remote, you feel smothered as well,” he says. “You can’t really do anything on your own, you can’t go out into the field, it's a pretty dangerous place after all.”
It’s also a place where making beer was a popular pastime, as we detailed back in 2016. Corey was among the many to homebrew while on a station prior to the practice being banned last year.
“You could take a certain amount of beer with you but there was a limit," he says. "When I went down, you could also take homebrewing stuff and we’d brew about 100 litres at a time that we could share around.”
There's no such ban on King Island, of course, and when Corey and Sarah decided to make the move there seven years ago, Corey started all-grain brewing. The move saw Sarah returning home – she is a sixth-generation King Islander.
“My however-many-great grandfather came over to work in the lighthouse and brought his family over,” she told The Crafty Pint.
“It wasn’t until [Corey and I] got married and thought about it that we decided to come back. But I love the place and am glad we got to come back.”
The quiet pace of life and the close-knit community are part of what Sarah and Corey both love about living in the Bass Strait. Indeed, it was at one of many neighbourhood barbecues that they started to feel that locals would embrace a brewery of their own.
“I did notice after a while that people would stop bringing their own beers,” Corey says. “I felt if some of these farmers that had been drinking VB for 30 or 40 years would be happy to drink what I’d been making, then that was a pretty good sign.
“But it’s also been working everywhere in Australia, so why wouldn’t it work here?”
Together, the husband and wife team run the brewery full-time, and while the 500-litre system and manual canning machine doesn't allow them to produce a huge amount of beer, their focus is brewing beer to be enjoyed on the island.
According to Sarah, providing locals with a community hub and family-friendly taproom is what drives them, although the tourists that visit – many of whom are on the island to play at one of its two golf courses – also enjoy the ability to try a beer made there.
“The locals are our bread and butter and the tourists are the icing on it,” she says.
A few weeks on from celebrating the brewery's first birthday, we caught up with them for our long-running Who Brews...? series.
King Island Brewhouse
Who are you?
Corey and Sarah Brazendale. We met in 2010 while sailing to Antarctica for work and study. Corey was heading down as an expedition mechanic and Sarah was studying the Antarctic marine ecosystem.
Where do you brew?
King Island, on the western edge of Bass Strait. It is Sarah’s family home and is quite remote and rugged.
Why do you brew?
We love brewing traditional styles and enjoy educating people that what is now considered "craft beer" had actually been around for hundreds of years.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Corey: It’s been a gradual process, from drinking "commercial beer" and brewing Coopers kits in my early 20s, then trying my first Sierra Nevada Pale and moving to all-grain in my late 20s, and now modestly upscaling to make it our career in our mid-30s.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Pretty self-explanatory but we went with Brewhouse to signify that we are more than just a brewery: we have a cosy, family-friendly taproom for people to relax in while they look out over the pastures of King Island.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why
We are happy with our Irish Red; the recipe has not changed from the first time we brewed it. It’s a traditional, easy-to-enjoy beer.
We are developing a bit of a cult following for our Three Blind Mice. A friend from Devonport (hey, Mat!) helped us brew it to commission our new brewing gear. We wanted to try brewing a strong pale just for a laugh but it actually turned out really good.
I think of it as a bit of a homage to a Belgian tripel as it's 8.5 percent ABV and has some esters going on. Oh, that poor yeast...
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
A Trappist monk springs to mind but I don’t know what the conversation would be like...
In all seriousness, I would love to pick the brains of Chuck Hahn, especially about those early days of Australian craft brewing and brewing beer to Australian tastes.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Rocksteady, ska, reggae with a bit of toasting and singjay. It’s impossible to be in a bad mood with music like that in your ears.
Punk tends to take over toward the end to make the cleaning go a little quicker.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
An awesome selection of brews from Ballistic Beer – thanks Tom and Laura! That barrel-aged stout is *chef's kiss*.
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
Bad Shepherd Hazelnut Brown could sustain me indefinitely.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Little Rivers Brewing Co in the Tasmanian northwest have a fantastic range of easy-to-enjoy beers. Especially after a day on the trails at Derby!
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
While we were constructing our brewery, a local farmer mentioned his family had hops growing on their homestead for over 100 years. We went and checked them out and found masses of them growing wild in a tea tree gully. We have no idea of the variety but know they have been growing completely isolated and unassisted for over a century.
We have done two seasonal fresh hop brews with them now and both beers have had an amazing honey-like taste to them.
Where can people find your beers?
Currently, only on King Island at our taproom, local restaurants and golf courses. Occasionally, a keg or two might pop up along the north coast of Tasmania but we want to prioritise our local market.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
We have modest goals. Maybe a slight upsize to cater for demand but we want to keep the family atmosphere.
You'll find King Island Brewhouse at 36 Lancaster Road, Pegarah. Find it and hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app.