Charles Dickens once wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief ... it was the winter of despair.”
If the famous line from A Tale Of Two Cities doesn't resonate with the team at Yard Kings Brewing Co, perhaps nothing will. Their story is one for future generations: how a group of friends conjured up an idea to start a brewery and then picked potentially the worst year in living memory to follow their dream.
When COVID had settled in across much of Australia, Scott and Kim Robertson decided they’d had enough of the constantly changing restrictions and extended lockdowns impacting their fitness business. So, over a beer with a bunch of their friends and partners they'd met at school 20 years ago, they pitched the idea of building a brewery and running it together.
To say 2022 has been an odd year – even compared to those that preceded it – is a serious understatement for the team at Yard Kings. You name it, it's probably happened, with the first hurdle they encountered the actual building of the brewery.
As with many embarking on a construction projects across the country, they had to deal with building material shortages, huge delays that made it hard to gain any momentum, prices going through the roof, COVID still prevalent and, to top it all, one of the worst winters in many generations, not least in NSW where seemingly incessant rain and freak storms lashed the state.
“Every day we were flying by the seat of our pants, problem-solving and putting out metaphorical fires," Scott says, before adding how things have taken a turn for the better.
“As the space comes together, our dream is coming to fruition in front of our eyes and that view makes it all feel so worth it. It’s an incredible feeling."
Yard Kings also found themselves in the right place at the right time with Morisset identified as a key economic growth area within the Lake Macquarie region. The Cedar Mill entertainment precinct will host up to 30,000 people at live events, and sits a mere 400m from the taproom front door.
It means punters can grab a schooner of Yard Kings’ popular Pacific Ale or their Czech dark lager to accompany some smoked, BBQ meat from the onsite smokehouse, then relax in the 120-seater taphouse for which no expense has been spared.
The journey has been an unrelenting one with the team – alongside the Robertsons are the Alderding, Davies, McEwan and Shiach-Wise families – navigating a steep curve as they transition from neighbours and mates to business partners.
“Feeling out each other’s strengths and working styles and finding our groove as a collective; We’ve never worked together and the stakes are high!” Scott says.
That said, the Yard feels very much like a taproom to put on your to-do list, showcasing how friendship, hard graft and passion can help overcome one of the most challenging times in living memory to instead embark on an exciting new path.
There's also no guillotine awaiting the team, unlike Carton at the close of the Dickens novel above, rather an invite to take part in our long-running Who Brews...? series.
YARD KINGS BREWING CO
Where do you brew?
Why do you brew?
It is a great balance between science/data entry, manual labour, and creativity. No two days are ever exactly the same, and it is such a welcoming and exciting industry to work in.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
The beer was Franziskaner weissbier. I remember the first time I had it in Europe I was blown away that beer could actually taste like that. Once I tried it I started seeking out other beers, which led me to pour beers at a craft beer bar. Then pouring beers at an actual brewery which led to helping out in the brewery.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
I think the Pacific Ale best represents the brewery. It is just a really fruit and citrus focused beer and best enjoyed in the sun.
I think for myself the Czech dark lager does. This is one of my favourite styles, and I remember having it for the first time in Prague. It is everything I want in a beer. Bold malt profile but drinks so clean that you can session on it, no problem.
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Anyone who is willing to clean out the lauter tun that day. But actually, I’d love to go back in time and have a brew day with Josef Groll when he was first making Pilsner Urquell. Triple decoctions, multiple hour boils, fresh whole cone Saaz, trolling around in the cellars checking wooden barrels. Sounds pretty cool.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
I’d probably say most often being played is Fleetwood Mac or some form of blues / Motown.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
BentSpoke Red Nut, Balter NZ Pils, Omen Oatmeal Stout.
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
Schumacher Altbier, hands down. Could drink that beer everyday for the rest of my life.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Balter's NZ hop range they put out recently has been solid. Method Brewing in Hamilton, Newcastle, is making a Bohemian ale (kolsch) that I also found quite balanced and had a great malt presence.
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
I just want to continue to work with lagers. There are so many small nuances and techniques you can apply to make each batch better and better. I love learning more about them and trying to put it to practice.
Where can people find your beers?
Right now just at the venue, The Yard, but in the coming months we hope to be canning and selling kegs to local pubs and bottleshops.
You can tuck into Yard Kings' beers and smokehouse meats at 32 Accolade Avenue, Morisset. And you'll find them alongside more than 1200 breweries and good beer outlets across Australian in the free Crafty Pint app.