Nail Brewing, pioneers of the Australian craft beer industry, have spoken about their future plans following the acquisition of another of WA's longest-established breweries, Billabong Brewing in Myaree. The former was founded by John Stallwood in 2000 (above right with national sales manager Tim Milroy and brewer Rob Murphy), while Billabong launched as a brew-on-premise business in 1993.
Speaking to The Crafty Pint, John says Billabong's owner, Alan Proctor (who took over in 2009), had long been a mate of his.
"Alan is my mate and is 71 now and wants to retire," he says. "So it worked out well for us because [Nail] needed a home base, office and place to do product development."
The acquisition represents a significant step for John, who has played a major role in the rise of craft beer, especially in his home state. A number of his beers have become WA icons, with Nail's VPA a common sight in the state's beer venues. John and long-time mate and former Feral owner Brendan Varis formed Brewcorp more than a decade ago, and he's continued to brew Nail beers at the site they moved to a few years later even after Feral was bought by Coca-Cola Amatil (now Coca-Cola Europacific Partners) in 2017.
While the Nail team has been quietly working on the Billabong site for a few weeks, the space will remain known as Billabong Brewery, even with Nail moving in.
“The Myaree site is still Billabong, so it doesn’t have Nail on the front," John says. "It has Nail's office there and product development.”
The venue features a 1200-litre brewhouse which Nail plan to use to produce limited releases and for future product development. They will also recommence their barrel program and bring back beers such as Clout Stout, last brewed in 2017.
The intention is also to use the taproom for beer education and hospitality beer training while opening it to the public from Tuesday to Saturday. Billabong head brewer Rob Murphy is remaining in position at the new operation too, with Rob having started there in 1996.
John said in a statement: "With a focus on innovation and quality, [Rob's] skill is instantly shining through in the beers on display at the Billabong Tap Room in Myaree. Along with the Nail + Feral Brewcorp relationship, our quality and consistency has already lifted to another level.
The announcement comes off the back of the breweries winning a major trophy at the Royal Queensland Beer Awards for Billabong's Wheat Beer. John says even though wheat is often referred to as a "forgotten market", he wants that style to continue to be a focus for them, particularly given Rob's skill at brewing them.
"It didn’t surprise me it did so well," John says. "I've had so many good brewers come up to me and say, 'This is a winner.'"
Nail are no stangers to award success and while this might cause arguments, we'd suggest that John has a heavier trophy cabinet than nearly any other Australian brewer. Alongside the most reception addition, they also secured a gold and three bronze medals at the Royal Queensland Beer Awards. John says while Nail has never stopped brewing, he's excited to be closer to the action on the brewery floor and there's one beer he's particularly excited to see return too.
“When Brewcorp was sold, I was pretty exhausted and stressed," John says. "It gave me a break but I did lose my hands on the tank. I wouldn’t quite say my hands are on the tank now but I do have new energy because it’s so exciting ; we have Clout Stout on the brew schedule too.”
You can read all about the incredible story of John and Nail in this feature we ran for their 20th anniversary.