What do you get when you mix a small, tight-knit community of creatives and food lovers with the beautiful scenery of the Northern Rivers hinterland? If you know the area, this potent concoction could easily be describing Bangalow, a small village with a huge character that these days is also home to Common People Brewing Co.
Run by a small team of beer lovers who’ve travelled the globe yet found themselves drawn back to the magic of their hometown, this is one brewery that’s unmistakably run by the people, for the people. So, what do they bring to the table?
Well, given the village’s love of craft products and experimentation, it’s no surprise that Common People host a mean selection of rotating beers to which terms like "pecan nut" and "barrel-aged" are frequently applied. They’re definitely not afraid to get adventurous, but that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten the foundations of a solid philosophy that caters to all tastes.
“We have really well-balanced beers,” is how co-owner Sam Tourle puts it. “We love the big, fruity sours and crazy stouts, but it takes real knowledge and craft to make a nice clean lager.”
That's a good thing too, because they encounter a huge variety of tourists from across the world each year who stop by this gem of a village as part of their pilgrimage to neighbouring Byron Bay. So, as you’d expect, hospitality is valued highly here.
“People keep mentioning a feeling of warmth when they walk in,” Sam says, proudly repping that classic Aussie egalitarianism.
Their beautiful copper brewhouse and oft-burning log fire provide this feeling literally, but the friendly faces, classic soundtrack, and vintage leather sofas will surely warm your spirits too.
Whether you live locally or are planning a trip to the north coast of NSW, they'll be ready with a welcome. And in the meantime, here's a chance to learn more about them as part of our long-running Who Brews...? series.
COMMON PEOPLE BREWING CO
Who are you?
A couple of childhood friends and their partners. We're a pretty mixed bag of backgrounds – a live sound engineer, music festival publicist, nursing manager, small business owner – each with our own skillset to form a pretty amazing team, all bases covered.
The brewery has been developed and is owned by: Jay Kempnich (general manager/director) and Sophie Kempnich (bar manager), Drew Tourle (brewer/operations manager) and Janelle Morse (communications manager). I (Sam Tourle) am the head brewer.
Where do you brew?
At our production facility and tasting room in Bangalow, in the beautiful Northern Rivers hinterland.
Why do you brew?
I love the process of beer making: it’s a biological system and, when you delve into it, it is incredibly complex. When you nail that process, you get to enjoy a fantastic beer. It’s so satisfying.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
I made some fairly rubbish beer as an assignment in the uni days.
My first foray into craft beer was a particular Amber Ale produced at The Malt Shovel in Camperdown. It was an incredible step up in flavour compared to the mass-produced swill which was all that was available at the time.
I ended up cutting my teeth as a brewer at that very same brewery, The Malt Shovel, some ten years later.
What's the inspiration behind the brewery name?
There are a couple of angles to it. The obvious one is Pulp and that song – one of the owners is a crazy fan. But it’s more that it sums up who we are: we’re friends and family, and likeminded people.
It also really sums up who we are... by the locals, for the locals, but we also welcome anyone walking into the brewery to feel at home, like one of us.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Our Dubbel Drunk Monk! A 7.6 percent ABV Belgian Dubbel.
It’s not that I’m always drunk, but it’s a complex beast...
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
It’s always a very diverse playlist! Anything from some 70s, 80s and 90s throwbacks to now. We’re also partial to the odd banger.
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Neil Whittorn from Matilda Bay, an absolute legend in the brewing game who I’ve brewed with in the past at Stone & Wood, and who knows it all. You just know you’re up for great day on the brew deck – he always has a good story about his horse Charlie from WW1… He also made some of the best craft beers I had in my early days.
But also my brother; I’m teaching him the art of brewing and loving every minute of working with him – he’s made some cracker beers too. We’ll make a brewer out of him yet!
What beers are in your fridge right now?
A few New Belgium doubles and triples. I have kept every Stone & Wood barrel-aged Stone Beer for the past six years or so. I’m looking forward to that vertical tasting.
What would be your desert island beer?
Our Helles Hole Lager... an entire fermenter's worth should do it!
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent times?
Sam: Madocke Brewery’s Belgian Honey Blonde Beehive
Drew: Moffat Beach Brewing Co’s Trilogy Best Coast IPA
Jay: New England Brewing Co Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
Anything Belgian; you’re left thinking about that last sip for a full ten seconds. They have been doing it right there for a long while now.
Looking a lot into what is being done with yeast strains that have been modified to give just about every characteristic going.
What beers have you released to date?
We are only quite young but have managed a few. Our three core range beers are:
- Back Beach White Ale (4.6% ABV)
- Villagers Pale Ale (5.1% ABV)
- Protesters IPA (6.2% ABV)
Then we have rotating special batch brews:
- Ankle Biter California Common (3.5% ABV)
- Dubbel Drunk Monk (7.3% ABV)
- Moonless Midnight Stout (5.9% ABV),
- Moonless Midnight Barrel Aged Stout (6.6% ABV)
- Happy Sour Berliner Weisse (3.5% ABV)
- Helles Hole Lager (4.5% ABV)
- Pecan Nut Barefoot Brown Ale (5.1% ABV)
- El Sabro Hazy IPA (6.0% ABV)
- Billycart Belgian Blonde (7.6% ABV)
- Oktoberfest Märzen Lager (5.8% ABV)
Where can people find your beers?
All our beers are on tap in our tasting room in Bangalow. We’re starting to ramp up distribution and our core range beers are available at a range of local bottleshops. We’re also on tap and in cans at a bunch of popular watering holes and restaurants across the Byron Hinterland.
The venues are expanding rapidly, so we try to keep everything up to date on our website. You can also order our beers and merch there too.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Hopefully we are known as the place to get quality beers in an amazing setting. And I hope our tanks have grown in number and are a little bigger in size!
You can visit Common People Brewing Co at 9 Dudgeons Lane, Bangalow, find them alongside hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues in The Crafty Pint app, and check out more entries in our Who Brews...? series here.