Starting a craft brewery in Australia today may well make you feel like a tiny fish in a vast ocean; however, when it's done with a bunch of like-minded mates, there's a good chance taking that leap will be a lot more enjoyable.
And that's the case with South Australian contract brewers Tiny Fish: a bunch of mates with a common goal to make their own beer and bring it to the people.
As with plenty of local brewing company origin stories, this one starts at home, specifically that of head brewer Brett Whiting. Word quickly spread among his friends that his brews were pretty tasty and, before long, he'd been coerced into taking his recipes to a grander scale.
To bring this dream to life, however, Brett needed to enlist a crew. Over time, the Tiny Fish team grew to include friends bringing expertise in engineering, design, manufacturing, business, marketing, sales and, most importantly, feedback during the tasting process.
The first Tiny Fish spawned at Little Bang's brewery, before they moved to Big Shed; at time of writing, four core range beers have hit the shelves. A pale ale, hazy session, black IPA and session stout were the first to venture from Brett’s recipe book into the fridges of Adelaide's retailers, while there are plans to expand upon that quartet and fire out a few limited releases along the way.
Beyond the brewing, selling and drinking of beer, the long-term plan is to locate a coastal site for a brewery and taproom within the next two to three years. For now, however, the plan is to focus on spreading the word and growing the brand.
The success of their first tap takeover at the Franklin Hotel in Adelaide's CBD bodes well for a year in which they plan to hit beer festivals. If you'd like to learn more in the meantime, you can as we invited them to feature in our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Who are you?
The Tiny Fish Brew Co team is a group of like-minded individuals that all share the same thing: a love of good beer. That love has become a passion for brewing and marketing our own.
Brett (above third from right) is our head brewer and where it all started. With a homebrewing background, his recipes and homebrewed products had mutual consensus between friends that they were too good to be kept hidden. After beginning to get more people asking for "tasters" than he was able to brew for on his small kit, he asked himself the question: “Could I do this for real?”
Brett engaged Max and Alex to start the conversation, which occurred over many a homebrew day. Max brings a wealth of design and manufacturing experience to TF, given his background in product design, Alex provides insights across multiple aspects of the business as well as reminding us all to keep our minds open, and both give critical feedback on Brett’s brews.
Another budding beer enthusiast, Scott, had been keen to get involved in the brewing industry in some form since he undertook a self-guided beer tour through the US at the end of 2019. Fair to say his arm didn’t require much twisting when approached about the possibility of joining the group. Currently employed as a mining engineer, Scott spends most of his time in the compliance, spreadsheet and socials side of the business but loves getting out there on the sales rep side of things as well. His soon-to-be-wife Lyn brings experience in the community engagement perspective area, another important aspect going forward for Tiny Fish.
The final piece in the TF puzzle is Rowey (Adam), who is the man behind the brand. That eye-catching TF logo? Rowey. How about the sweet merch designs? Yep, that’s him too. Throw the website design in there, and Rowey has all our Tiny Fish graphic design needs sorted.
Between the whole team we have many different skillsets and backgrounds that complement each other well, which has been helpful as we navigate ourselves through an industry that we are all new to.
Where do you brew?
We have been contract brewing out of a couple locations here in Adelaide, taking opportunities wherever we can while we don’t have the capability to brew large volumes ourselves. With the aim to eventually have our own venue established to brew in-house.
Why do you brew?
Brett: My grandpa always brewed beer, mainly stout, but I never paid attention as a kid. Later, after he passed, I found all my grandpa’s old brewing notes rolled up in old Coopers tins. That planted a seed and, a while later, I had my first simple brew kit. The rest is history.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Brett: I've always loved beer, all my adult life. But it was sitting with my wife at Augustiner-Keller, in Munich, drinking a Helles. German beer blew my mind and it's still my favourite to this day. If I had to pick a local beer, it would be Feral Hop Hog – unbelievable beer.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
There was plenty of discussion and thought when coming up with our brewery’s name, but we kept coming back to Tiny Fish as it just rolls off the tongue well, and has a great story behind it too. It’s a combination of two of our head brewer's nicknames. Brett’s brother-in-laws love to call him Tiny (as he is fairly tall), and with a last name like Whiting he’s always gone by Fish to close childhood friends. As the brewery wouldn’t exist without Brett and his knowledge of beer, it just felt right.
The term "Tiny Fish" has now taken on a whole new meaning. So, actually nothing to do with fishing at all, but we are sure some beer drinkers out there can relate to spending the whole day on the water and only having a few tiny fish to show for it.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
The first beer that we contract brewed was our Session Stout (pictured below left), and it represents us perfectly. We are all lovers of a good dark brew, but too often the commonality of what's available on the market is always big, big, big when it comes to stouts: usually high ABV, heavy on the palate and not something you can have more than one of.
We wanted to go against that by brewing a stout that’s still high in flavour and body, but lower in ABV. A stout that you can have a session on, as well as enjoy year-round, not just in the cold weather. This relates to our desire for our beers to be inclusive of all tastes, with our range aiming at eventually having something for everyone.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Having a decent sized team, our music tastes are wide, with the playlist depending on who is in charge of it on the day. Give us any decade from over the past 50 years and we’d be able to find handfuls of songs we could chuck on to enjoy while standing around the brew kit. From Green Day to Beyoncé, most things on Triple J and Double J. Honestly, we wouldn’t count anything out really!
What beers are in your fridge right now?
The better question might be what beers aren’t in our fridge right now! Any thing from crazy sours to single, double and triple IPAs, red ales… you name it! All of us will usually have a four-pack or two of a random assortment of the latest craft releases from across the country.
Brett’s got a couple of Weihenstephaner Helles bottles – surprise, surprise, a Fox Hat Red Pelt and a six-pack of Rover.
Max and Alex always has a very random selection in their beer fridge, but also have a Molly Rose 750ml sour sitting in the fridge door waiting for the right occasion to crack into it.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
South Australia, along with the rest of the country, has been the home of some great breweries over the past ten years. The Little Bang Brewer's Series has had some absolute crackers over the last couple months, as well as their Face Inverter spin off, the Face Berserker, which was genius. The Uraidla Mana is such a beautifully made beer, and Bowden continue to release limiteds that are really pushing the boundaries.
Where can people find your beers?
Our online store is the first port of call to find yourself some Tiny Fish, with free hand delivery within a 20km radius of the Adelaide CBD as well as postage available for other locations around Australia.
Our stockist list has been growing rapidly recently, which has been fantastic. We currently have around 20 to 25 stockists, including OG Hotel Star Liquor in Klemzig, Old Spot Cellars in Salisbury Heights, Parade Cellars in Norwood, Angas Park Cellars in Nurioopta, West Beach Cellars and even Enjoywine Chargrill & Bar in Mildura, as well as many in between.
We're sure many readers will be familiar with popular craft beer spot, The Franklin Hotel in the Adelaide CBD, who have been massive supporters of us, so you can often find a Tiny Fish brew on tap there. Or else, The Oxford Hotel, NOLA, and Treasury 1860 are other venues where you can currently grab a pint of TF. Check out our current stockist list on our website.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
The aim is to have our own brewery and taproom venue for all to be able to join us in our love for craft beer. To be able to sit back and watch people enjoying themselves on a sunny day in a beer garden with a few TFs in hand, that would make all the hard yards worth it.
You can find other entries in the Who Brews...? series here.