Brew & A: Jared Palu

August 6, 2023, by Mick Wust

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Brew & A: Jared Palu

If you’ve spent any time in the Brisbane beer scene, you’ve probably encountered the boyish charm of Jared Palu.

With a majestic mane atop his head* and a cheeky smile never far from his face, Jared has been around the best of beer in Brisbane for more than a decade, Peter-Panning his way from 20-year-old glassie to senior brewer at Felons Brewing. 

Along the way, he’s made some shocking homebrews and won a trophy for his brewing, has raised thousands of dollars for charity, and has prepared himself for a career change in a post-apocalyptic dystopia.

For this (admittedly extended) Brew & A, Mick Wüst joined Jared to talk about his career as a brewer, but also his years of running bars, running a beer festival, and just plain old running.


From Polishing Glass To Top Of The Class

Not sure if they did any actual work at the Mill or just raided the costume box on the regular.
Not sure if they did any actual work at The Mill, or just raided the costume box on the regular.

 

Like many brewers, Jared first entered the beer industry as a hospo worker. And, like many who enter hospitality, Jared is a university-educated chap, having started a chemistry degree before shifting across to psychology. It’s always good to see people putting their tertiary education to good use: what other jobs would incorporate chemistry and psychology as much as brewing and running a bar?

His first job in the industry was polishing glasses at Tippler’s Tap shortly after it opened in Teneriffe in 2012. Despite making a poor first impression with owner Carl Rhodes (Jared missed his job interview), it didn’t take Jared too long to move from glassie into the world of venue management. Carl told him: “You polish glasses fast enough that I trust you to do everything else,” and put him in charge of their next venue, Tomahawk Bar in South Brisbane.

At some point along the way, Jared met Gillian Letham, who owned Fortitude Valley bar The Mill on Constance. When she offered him a job, he jumped at the challenge.

“Gill was an insane person, is the best way I can describe her. They were still running The Mill kinda by the seat of their pants," he says.

“I remember the first time I went. I’d never actually been to The Mill on a Friday or Saturday night. Front bar was pumping, there was a dinner in the back, the entire place was bananas. Gill was running around, the guys up the front were off-their-chops busy. I thought, ‘This place is chaos. Let’s go.’”

After a few years – and more than a few shenanigans – at The Mill, Jared made the bittersweet decision to move on. He’d been in hospitality for around six years by this point, and felt the pull to move into another sector of the beer industry.

 

Mill shenanigans back in 2016, with Jared doing his best Kipling-esque "keep your head" to the left of the photo.

 

He got the chance to work as the Queensland sales rep for Moon Dog, but working remotely for a brewery based in a different state, he soon missed being part of a close-knit team team.

“People who do that a long time, power to them. Wags [late Moon Dog sales director Mark Waghorne] was good at making you feel like a team, but you’re still out on your own and only talk to people [you work with] on the phone.”

After a year, Jared decided repping wasn’t for him, and went back to wondering where in the beer industry he wanted to be.

It was now October 2018, Felons were about to open their brewpub beneath the Story Bridge, and Jared found himself with the opportunity to step into a job there. It was on the hospo side – which Jared had intentionally drawn back from – but the position was as one of the venue managers running a team of 200 people, a hospo challenge unlike anything he’d known before. And it came with the potential for moving over to the production side of the business when the brewing team would need to expand in six months.

“There wasn’t a TAFE course yet. Ballarat wasn’t doing a course any more. Part of me was like… how do I even do this?”

But the idea of working under Tom Champion, who’d spent almost a decade with Little Creatures, and Lincoln Gibbs, who brought his experience from Stone & Wood? This excited Jared. He thought: "Those are two people I’d like to learn from."

 

Jared has thrived as a brewer as part of the Felons team.
Jared has thrived as a brewer as part of the Felons team.


So Jared took the venue manager role, thinking it might one day lead to a job in brewing… and within a month Tom asked if he wanted to move over to the brew team. Felons had absolutely blown up from day one, more than anyone had anticipated, and the production side was scrambling to keep up with the demand for beer. 

Jared opted not to dive into the deep end just then – which may have been a wise move, since December is a mad time for any brewery – but they held the spot open for him, and once Australia Day had passed they welcomed him into the brewhouse as general dogsbody.

Unsurprisingly, once he put his hand to the stainless steel, it didn’t take long for him to climb the ladder into a senior brewer position. (Deja vu? "You clean kegs fast enough that I trust you to do everything else…") 

Under Tom and Linc’s tutelage, and with some formal study through the Institute of Brewing & Distilling, Jared’s skills kept on the up-and-up, which was recognised in 2022 when he claimed the trophy for Best New Brewer at the Royal Queensland Beer Awards (photo above).


A Hands-On Approach

Taking part in a brew day with Gavin Craft at Newstead Brewing in 2016, and home brewing in 2020.
At a brew day with Gavin Croft at Newstead Brewing in 2016; home brewing in 2020.


It’s worth noting that, while many brewers start out as avid homebrewers, that wasn’t Jared’s path. In fact, he didn’t start homebrewing until he was working on the brew team at Felons, and only turns to it a few times a year.

“I don’t know what makes me do it. I just get an urge. Whenever I have a half-cocked idea and I don’t have a way to do it [at Felons] in any meaningful way.”

And Mr Best Emerging Brewer is very different when he brews at home than when he’s at work.

"Most of my home brews are not very good. They’re pretty shotgun, pretty seat of my pants. I’m meticulous in this brewery, but when I leave these doors, it’s bit-of-this, bit-of-that. I don’t know if it’s going to work, but just how I homebrew apparently.

“Not going to say I’ve never had any successful homebrews! But the ratio’s definitely not high.”

So what is he does like about brewing?

“I like the hands-on side quite a lot. A part of me almost regrets not getting a trade after high school – the physical part of it.

“Even doing hospo and repping and stuff, I like serving customers, but the part I really like is when you strip down your tap system and clean it, or pull apart your glycol cooler and see why it’s not working. Maybe I should’ve been an electrician or something, and streamlined this entire situation!”

While the creative side of brewing appeals to many, that’s not necessarily what gets him excited. He’s perfectly happy making lager twice a week. He enjoys making new recipes well enough, but he prefers to overcome production challenges rather than simply choose different hop varieties.

As an example, he spoke about the blueberry IPA they made, and how the team had to invent an entirely new process to make it work.

“We don’t have a pasteuriser, but we put a lot of fruit into that beer… it was a bit concerning! Really, we made it work in a way that we trusted that we self-pasteurised that product before we got it out there, without having the proper equipment. And it worked. The beer was great.”

 

Jared Enjoying The Hands-On Aspect Of Brewing: A Triptych.
Jared Enjoying The Hands-On Aspect Of Brewing: A Triptych. (Photos by Dean Swindell.)

 

Jared says it came as a bit of a surprise to him that this is what he loves about his job – he didn’t get into brewing thinking he was going to enjoy the hands-on aspect of it – but, in hindsight, it highlights what he’s always enjoyed and been good at.

He cites troubleshooting the beer taps at Beer InCider festival when he was repping for Moon Dog.

“Thirty minutes before [the festival opened], the tap system totally broke down. Basically, for the next 50 minutes, I just pulled the whole thing apart and rebuilt it, and got us pouring beer only 30 minutes late.

“I remember at the time Wags was like, ‘How did you do that?!’ And I was like, ‘I dunno. Start at the start. Keep going.’”


What Happens In Brewsvegas…

Brewsvegas - celebrating the wonderful weirdness of Brisbane's good beer scene.
Brewsvegas – celebrating the wonderful weirdness of Brisbane's good beer scene.

 

It’s been lying dormant since the onset of COVID-19 cut the 2020 festival short, but Brewsvegas, the annual city-wide festival of beer events, is one of the ways Jared gave back to the local beer scene that welcomed him.

Brewsvegas was started in 2013 by a handful of Brissie beer industry stalwarts; it started small, and grew to a ten-day festival that encapsulated more than 100 events celebrating good beer across the greater Brisbane region.

As he became entrenched in the beer scene, Jared got more and more involved in the festival, moving from punter to helper to coordinator. He was close to the epicentre when he was at Tomahawk, as Carl was one of the festival founders, but was really sucked into the vortex when he worked at The Mill: Gill was another founder and all but strong-armed him (in the nicest possible way) into helping. In time, Jared became part of the Brewsvegas furniture: the hard-working, heart-and-soul-pouring furniture that is the Brewsvegas committee.

“Brewsvegas is purely run by volunteers. Every year, I think we were all so shocked that we got it out the door and it all happened. And everyone loved it. Then six months passed and it would start again. And we’d think, ‘Why are we doing this again?!’”

It may come as no surprise to hear that co-ordinating a 100-plus event festival is no small feat. It requires a herculean effort from the committee, and Jared found that each year it resulted in the festival itself being a bit of a blur.

“The week before and the week of was a whirlwind. It’s a whirlwind when working it, and more when you’re running it.

“I know I had a great time between pool party and end of Brewsvegas [each year]… but I couldn’t tell you what happened. Not because of drinking. There’s just no order in my brain. A lot of things happened at once.”

Speaking of the pool party – the yearly event that marked the release of the Brewsvegas program – Jared tells a story that captures something of the personality of Brewsvegas, and of the Brisbane beer scene itself.

The event was the realisation of a dream that Kieran Ryan (another BV founder) had had for years: good people, good beer, a surf rock band, giant inflatable flamingos – what’s not to love?

Unfortunately, it’s not something that’s easy to get through liquor licensing.

“[In 2020] someone came down and did an audit. They were walking towards us, with this look on their face like, ‘We’re going to shut down this rowdy, alcohol-fuelled party.’ But it’s a craft beer event at 7.30pm – people sitting around having a beer, having a chit-chat, no beers in the pool…

“I think they’d thought they were walking into a pool orgy about craft beer. And it just wasn’t that. That’s not what this industry is.

“So they didn’t shut us down. But they asked us not to do it again.”

If that isn’t a microcosm of the Brisbane good beer scene, I don’t know what is – good people just trying to have fun, and The Man doesn’t know what to do with us.


The Good Beer Running Club

Not all running outfits are created equal.
Not all running outfits are created equal.

 

As we spoke and Jared looked back over his time in the beer scene – from his first step into the industry, through his hospo jobs to repping to brewing, and his time volunteering for Brewsvegas – he realised something unexpected.

“Run club’s been going for longer than any of these things!” he says. “It’s probably one of the most stable things in my life. I’ve gone for a run almost every Tuesday for the last ten years. At Brewski. Which is a strange thing to say out loud, but it’s true.”

Almost a decade has passed since Jared and Jimmie Gold (owner of the calves pictured further up the article) started what became the Good Beer Running Club. But, at the beginning, it was just an attempt for two hospo workers to combat a less-than-healthy lifestyle.

“Jim and I working at Tippler’s, eating wings and Italian roast beef sandwiches for two meals a day, drinking beers like we were 20. And at some point we had the realisation that we will become absolutely human pieces of garbage if we keep doing this!”

They were each already running a bit. They were already in a habit of going to the pub together on a Tuesday night. So they thought: "Why won’t we go for a run beforehand?"

“We never set out to make a run club,” Jared says. “Just going for a run and having a beer with friends is fun.”

It started as a few friends going for run before going to the pub. It led towards inviting others to join them for City2South, a Brisbane running event. And slowly, organically, the group grew. It developed some loose formality when they signed up as a fundraising team called Blood, Sweat and Craft Beers for the City2South, working together to raise money for charity. In 2015, the team raised $15k for RUOK?, winning the trophy for highest fundraising team in the running festival… then they went on to raised $30k for BeyondBlue in 2016.**

Jared and Jimmie were as surprised as anyone at how the group snowballed. As of 2023, there are around 500 people in The Good Beer Running Club group on Facebook, although they’re not all active in the weekly run; Jared says they see somewhere between a dozen and 25 people rotating through on the regular.

Why? Because, at its core, the club is still just friends going for a run and hanging out at the pub. There’s no sense of pressure or competitiveness. Some people take their running seriously, while others amble together in clusters and chat. Then the group meets back at the bar for beer and dinner after their run. They mingle, they laugh, and over time they inevitably become mates. I’m actually speaking from experience here: how do you think I got to know Jared and Jimmie, along with a bunch of other beer-loving runners?

Many friendships have been formed in that group and lasted over years, even as the group waxes and wanes over time.

“Everyone has lives,” Jared says with a shrug.

He understands that people’s life situations change: people move away, get pregnant, go through their own work drama. But those changes can also bring people back. The GBRC has been around long enough that people know they can return to it after a hiatus if they want.

“A guy has come back recently, a couple that used to come five or six years ago. They had a kid, then we didn’t see them for two years; now [the husband] has started coming again… his wife doesn’t come yet because their kids are too young, but [she] will probably come again in a year or so too.

“They come in waves. People moving in and out of their life, coming for a run club. It’s really nice to have new people join, but nice to see that happen too.”


Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years’ Time? 

The venue changes. The combination of faces changes. The vibe remains the same.
The venue for the GBRC changes. The combination of faces changes. The vibe remains the same.

 

Before I spoke with him for this article, I found an interview Jared had done with a beer blog 250 Beers in 2015, back when he was a fresh-faced venue manager. He was asked: “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” and at the time he responded: “I honestly couldn’t tell you. I was so far away from the beer scene five years ago. Hopefully alive, with a beer in my hand, it’s the best I can do.”

So, when I caught up with Jared this time, I reminded him of that interview and asked him the same question: where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

After a quip about being a concubine in some Mad-Maxian apocalyptic hellscape, he said: “I reckon I’ll still be brewing in some way. Definitely still attached to a brewery.

“I always had this thought of having [my own] brewery. But, in my mind, I don’t see opening a brewery in the next five years as something I want to do. People who open a brewery in the next five years are in for a hell of a fight. I don’t necessarily want to be in that fight.”

As a kind of follow-up, I asked Jared what he’d do if he could design his own job. He thought for a moment before giving an enviable answer.

“I’m pretty happy with what I do currently. I have a lot of freedom right now. I design a lot of my job. I write the roster for the team, so if I want to do something I can write myself into it!

“I wrote a few recipes. I get to do the barrel stuff as much as I want to do. I get a lot of freedom here. Both Tom and Dean [Romeo] will ask my opinion on stuff of greater importance; it’s always nice when people trust your opinion on greater business decisions. For someone to ask, care about your opinion in that way, is really cool.”

It seems, for a while at least, Jared has found his place in the beer industry. And, after what must be the longest intro section to a Brew & A in Crafty Pint history, we've found the start of the Q&A...


Jared Palu

 

Why are you a brewer?

It was the last thing left to do in the beer industry?

That’s half a joke and half true. Hospitality and sales had gotten me some broad industry perspective. The beer industry is where I knew I wanted to be for a long time; I’d achieved a lot of what I wanted to in hospo, and ultimately repping wasn’t for me.

But, in that time, I realised I had more desire to learn the technical side of it all than most of my peers. And it doesn’t hurt that I get to reignite some of my languished chemistry knowledge and skills from university.


What would you be if you weren't a brewer?

I think I might have gone back to uni and kept on with chemistry a bit more and finished a food science degree. It was something I was considering before getting into brewing.


What was your epiphany beer?

I think it was a very early Hop Hog. At the time, I’d tried international beers you find in a Dan Murphy's and found them interesting. But that was the first fresh, big hop beer I recall. And I remember it feeling revelatory at the time.


How did you first get involved in the beer world?

A few friends and I had been going to The Scratch, and someone had told us of a new bar opening called Tippler's Tap. So we went on the opening night, had a great time, and I asked Brian and Carl for a job (after a few beers).

I then missed my first interview due to a bus not showing up. Fortunately, Carl called me a week later and gave me another chance to interview. I showed up pretty early to that one.


What's the best beer you've ever brewed?

Blueberry IPA is top tier for me right now. We've done it a couple times. It's a bit of a pain to make because of the processing of all the fruit and hops. But I think it's worth it every time.


What's your single favourite ingredient to use in beer?

Munich malt. It should be in every beer. It is king.


Are there any beers you’ve brewed that might have been better left on the drawing board?

So far I'm lucky enough to not have anything that I consider a complete mess professionally. I've made some questionable homebrews, but that's more to do me being a pretty lazy homebrewer. I don't do much measuring when I brew at home.


If you could do a guest stint at any brewery in the world, which would it be?

Firestone Walker, Rodenbach, Pilsner Urquell.


Which local (Aussie or Kiwi) breweries inspire you?

Grifter's approach to beer, branding, and growth is pretty special. They’ve always seemed to have just done what they want, how they want to, and not feeling like they have to take over the industry.


What inspires you outside the world of brewing beer?

Nature, music, my stunning partner? Take your pick.


What's your desert island beer – the one to keep you going if you were stranded for the rest of your days?

Does the beer stay magically fresh on my island? I could drink a well-balanced six percent West Coast IPA 'til my last day.

If it can't stay fresh, bring me lager. Oxidised hops have no place on my island.

 

Jared preparing for his desert island.
Jared preparing for his desert island.

And what would be the soundtrack to those days? 

Queens of the Stone Age, or maybe The Beatles.


If you couldn’t have beer, what would be your tipple of choice?

Coffee is my next biggest liquid vice. Maybe I would have gotten really into coffee if I wasn’t into beer. Been the same sort of annoying but about a different liquid.


What's the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a brewer?

I think I had plenty of advice and context about what becoming a brewer would be. Maybe wish I was more prepared for waking up at 5am regularly.


And the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering a career in craft beer?

It feels like the industry is in a transition at the moment. It doesn’t feel like it's enough to just open a brewery with nothing but passion, and I think that's extending to becoming a brewer, as education becomes more accessible.

I don’t want to seem like an industry gatekeeper, but with competition for breweries and brewers higher than ever, you need to have a point of difference or reason for existing.


You can find other entries in the Brew & A series here.

*I spent the last five minutes of our interview asking him about his hair, but haven’t included any of my findings here. You’ll have to wait to buy his biography, "Hair of the Dog: The Jared Palu Story."

**I’ll proudly admit I was in the team by that point. That was also the year members of the running club decided a 14km run wasn’t enough, and followed it up with a 14-venue bar crawl that lasted the rest of the day. I was one of those smart enough to bow out before the end!

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