What could possibly possess someone to turn up to a homebrew competition with nothing but a couple of flannels, a homemade, lumberjack-themed jockeybox, and a keg of 9.5 percent ABV white stout? White stout for God’s sake.
Who does that?
Nathan Moran and Will Symons, that's who. The pair, who have been mates for 20 years, entered their Beyond Reasonable Stout into the Brewer’s Got Talent homebrew competition run by Frenchies Bistro and Brewery last year and amazingly snagged the top spot.
On one hand, entering such a rarely seen and understood style of beer into a competition seems like abject insanity, but if you talk to the boys from Wooden Axe it’s quickly apparent their brewing habits aren’t exactly conventional.
The pair have always been passionate about brewing beers they wanted to drink but couldn’t easily access.
“We could count on one hand the number of times we’ve brewed a pale ale,” Will says, before Nathan adds: “When you’ve only got so much time to brew together every month, I want to brew something fun, something that’s always going to be exciting to pour a schooner of.”
Their competition-winning recipe wasn’t a one-off fluke, either. Amazingly enough, this was a beer Nathan and Will have brewed multiple times to try and master every aspect – and it shows. Indeed, for a couple of mates who’ve been homebrewing together for five years, they show a remarkable commitment to quality.
“We’ve tipped kegs of beer down the drain if it wasn’t good enough” Will explains.
Being their own harshest critics meant that, while they were confident their beer was good, they’d never served it to strangers before and didn’t know what to expect; the rest, as they say, is history.
Since being named the winning beer at Brewer’s Got Talent, Beyond Reasonable Stout has been slightly tweaked once again and brewed on a commercial scale at Frenchies. Even after their success in the competition, and with their freshly-canned nitro white stout in hand, the pair are still eager for feedback from the general, beer-loving public.
“We’ve had so much positivity from everyone so we’re almost excited to get those Untappd reviews in” Will says with a laugh.
For schoolteacher Will and bar manager Nathan, being able to have their beer on the shelves of their local bottleshop and pouring at their favourite pubs is not only a dream come true, it’s also given them a firm push towards taking seriously the possibility that Wooden Axe could one day become a full-time job. After all, it’s not as if this track hasn’t been trodden before. Gold Coast brewers Black Hops started with a single keg of eggnog stout…
So, with cans and kegs of Beyond Reasonable Stout out in retailers and venues throughout Sydney since late last year, it’s the perfect time to find out just Who Brews Wooden Axe beers?
WOODEN AXE BREWING CO
Who are you?
Nathan and Will; been best mates since the start of high hchool. The early years of our friendship were forged on the baseball field – we grew up playing baseball together – and against each other – and for the last six-ish years we have been home brewing together.
Nathan manages the Greengate pub at Killara and Will is a high school teacher. Whilst our day jobs are fun, our goal is to make brewing/running a brewery a full-time job.
Where do you brew?
Apart from in the garage at Will’s place, we have just completed our first contract brew out for Frenchies. Vince and the team at Frenchies have been amazing to work with and we are looking forward to throwing down another brew soon.
Why do you brew?
Not only is brewing a way for us to catch up and drink some beers as mates, it is also a bit of a creative outlet for us. We both have a passion for weird and wonderful craft beers; like most craft beer drinkers we started out drinking a hopped-up pale ale or an IPA of some description, but once we realised there was so much more beer could be it became a bit of an obsession.
The science, chemistry and artistry behind making a beer has kept us coming back each and every time in our quest to perfect or create the next great beer. As our tagline states, we are trying to encourage people to “give boring beer the axe”.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
We’d like to say that when we cracked our first homebrew it was the catalyst for us, but from memory it wasn’t really that great. However, the feeling and the excitement of tasting that beer after four weeks of waiting was what got us hooked.
To this day, we still get that giddy feeling tasting one of our beers for the first time … it is that feeling that got us started and will keep us going!
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Our baseball team was named “Woods” and our logo is actually the original logo for that baseball team. When we started brainstorming names for our brewery, we wanted to pay homage to where our friendship began … on the baseball field.
So with the Woods/Woodsman theme in mind we started coming up with names. For us, we always though that great breweries have oxymoronic or enigmatic names and we just went with that. We tried to come up with the most useless object we could think of – an axe made of wood, and thus Wooden Axe Brewing was born.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Beyond Reasonable Stout, our flagship beer. This is our first born, or first love, and the beer we believe best represents everything we stand for: Giving boring beer the axe. The white stout was a bit of a white whale – excuse the pun – for us; we really worked hard to perfect this beer.
White stouts aren’t a beer that you find out on the market regularly and we want to be a brewery that stands out from the rest; like our bold logo, this beer is something that you don’t expect to see in the fridge at the bottlo but there's something about a white stout that just makes people confused and curious.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Whilst we have very differing taste in music, brew day we can both agree on a bit of 60s and 70s pop/rock – we enjoy the golden oldies mixed in with some modern beats.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
A few Beyond Reasonable Stouts… You’ll tend to find a few One Drop sours as well as the latest release from Range. And, of course something dark, like a Bacchus pastry stout or a Deeds imperial stout.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
One that we can both agree on is Frenchies Smorgasvein: it’s the perfect amalgamation of wine and beer. It's something that we just have never experienced before and think it is the perfect harmony of beer and wine.
Where can people find your beers?
Our beer will be available on tap at:
- The Beer Bar, Alexandria
- Mixtape Bar and Brewing, Marrickville
- The Hive Bar, Erskineville
- The GreenGate Hotel, Killara
And in cans:
- Beer Barrel
- Bucket Boys (now Local Drinks Collective)
- Amato's Liquor Mart, Leichhardt
Our website and socials will keep people up to date.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
A bricks and mortar venue that is accessible to the average punter and craft beer lovers. We started as a couple of blokes looking to brew craft beer for ourselves to enjoy, and now we want to share that passion with other like-minded people. If we get the opportunity to share our craft and passion with others, then we have achieved our ultimate goal.
All we've wanted is to share that passion and excitement for unique and flavourful beers with others. If we happen to provide a positive perception of what beer can be, then we've achieved what we set out to do.
You'll find other entries in the long-running Who Brews...? series here.