Sydney sometimes feels stuffed to the brim with breweries. But, while the streets of suburbs like Marrickville and Brookvale practically flow with craft beer, there are still communities missing out on a locally-brewed option.
That was certainly the case for the area around the North Shore suburb of Gladesville. Indeed, the entire City of Ryde was lacking locally-brewed beer, a fact that seems a little odd when you realise a convict you might have heard of, James Squire, used to make beer at Kissing Point on the northern bank of the Parramatta River.
But that all changed when Village Days Brewing Co opened their doors. And, as the name suggests, it's a brewery dedicated to serving the local community.
“There’s a lot of parts of Sydney with lots of breweries, but the plan was to open somewhere where we were out on our own,” founder Dan Smith told The Crafty Pint.
As a suburb, Gladesville is growing as young families move into new developments and Dan says, with many of those families moving from other parts of the city, there would be plenty who missed having a local brewery – if not a few of them – on their doorstep
“People from areas like the Inner West have moved out here for a bit more space but do miss the experience of having a local brewery,” he says. “A lot of the response has been, ‘We’re so happy we don’t have to travel to Marrickville anymore.'”
An economist by trade, Dan spent some time homebrewing before opening Village Days, but he brought in Patrick Menschik to head up the brewing side of the business – a man with one of the most unique brewing backstories we've come across.
Patrick grew up in Germany and used to work at Bamberg's famed Weyermann Malting before moving across the ocean to brew. Or should that be taking to the ocean to brew? He secured a job on a German cruise ship where he would make beer for passengers on a 500-litre system. After a few years spent brewing across the world, he ended up in Sydney one New Year’s Eve and realised it was time to put down roots.
“Quite unsurprisingly, he thought Sydney would be a good place to live and settle down,” Dan says. “He was also looking for the chance to brew more creatively.”
Although the brewer behind them is German, the beers he brews aren’t entirely. Sure, you’ll find a Munich-style lager on tap, but they like to keep things flexible, as we found out when we invited Dan to join us for the latest in our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Village Days Brewing
Who are you?
The core team behind the brewery are:
Dan Smith: The founder and a newcomer to the beer industry. Dan is a professional economist and a not-so-professional homebrewer who wanted to combine his passions for business and beer.
Patrick Menschik: Head brewer. Trained and qualified as a Brew Master in his native Germany. Pat gave up his job as a brewer on a cruise ship to chase the Australian dream.
Ben Linsell: Venue manager. Ben is a 20-year veteran of Sydney’s hospitality scene and was previously the general manager of a busy Circular Quay venue. He’s now bringing that experience to bear in delivering a more personal and laidback hospitality experience to our locals.
Where do you brew?
We are located in the Sydney suburb of Gladesville, around 20 minutes northwest of the CBD. Although we are the first modern brewery in the City of Ryde council area, this is the original home of Australian brewing: James Squire opened the country’s first brewery just down the hill on the banks of the Parramatta River at Kissing Point.
Why do you brew?
We brew because the best beer you can drink is a fresh, locally-produced one. We wanted to bring great local beer and a friendly, community-minded venue to the people of Gladesville and its surrounds.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Patrick was always interested in beer and chemistry. When he did an internship at a local brewery, he was fascinated by the biochemical process and decided that's what he wanted to do for a living.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Pretty simple really!
With our beers and our venue we wanted to bring the local community together and create that village vibe. Too many Aussie pubs these days are effectively casinos with a bar attached. People need a new type of "local" that can be the social hub of the community.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Can we choose two?
Our 2111 Lager is a classic malt-forward Munich helles that really showcases Patrick’s skill and background. Our Glades Pale, born from one of Dan’s homebrew recipes, shows off the hops and is all about big citrus and tropical fruit flavours.
They're two very different beers, but with one thing in common: balance. Neither is just about one thing. And that is probably the thing that best represents our approach to brewing.
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Pat: It would be Professor Dr Ludwig Narziß – one of the most famous German brewers. He worked at the Weihenstephan brewing university and wrote many books about the brewing process. Unfortunately, he passed away about a year ago at the age of 97. Clearly, beer keeps you young!
Since 2015, there has been an annual award named after him, which is one of the most important awards in brewing science.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Our tastes in music are pretty varied. The one thing we do like to indulge in when the taproom isn’t open though is a bit of 90s and 2000s punk.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Dan: my fridge is pretty bare so I’m just about to take home a growler of our Märzen – one of two special beers that we launched for Oktoberfest. A wonderful, intense, malty lager.
Pat: My all-time favourite is our 2111 Lager. You can never go wrong with this one, so I make sure there is always one growler in stock.
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
Depends on the island. If it's a tropical climate, our XPA. If it's a little cooler, it’s got to be our Oatmeal Stout.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
We’ve been busy introducing Pat to as many Australian beers as possible over the past few months. In terms of local favourites, he was particularly impressed by White Bay’s Sunny Pale.
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
We haven’t done much yet with some of the newer or more experimental new world hops, so that’s one area we do plan to explore more.
Where can people find your beers?
Right now, pretty much just in the taproom! We are just starting to dip our toes into getting beer on tap at other local venues, so that should build over the next few months, hopefully.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
We want to establish ourselves as "the" local beer for surrounding areas, along with building a reputation for quality beer and a great venue.
Over the long term, we also want to play a role in strengthening the bonds of the community and building a thriving ecosystem of like-minded local businesses.
You'll find Village Days Brewing alongside hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app, designed to help you find the nearest good beer wherever you are in Australia.