Five years can feel like a lifetime in craft beer, but when you throw in a global pandemic and the current economic malaise, you might be better off thinking of it as several lifetimes.
Wind the clock back to early 2018 and your favourite brewery might not even have launched yet – particularly if you were a beer drinker unable to consume gluten.
Since the end of that year, however, TWØBAYS have dramatically increased the breadth of gluten-free beer available to coeliacs like founder Richard Jeffares. Not only is their taproom a popular stop on the Mornington Peninsula but their range of GF beers can be found in bottleshops and bars across the country.
Richard says there have been many highlights over the years, including the collegiate nature of craft beer and the excitement that comes with working within such an ever-shifting market.
“It's a brilliant industry to work in and it’s definitely not dull,” he told The Crafty Pint. “It’s so vibrant and it changes, good or bad.”
A particular standout moment arrived earlier this year when TWØBAYS Pale Ale arrived at the MCG in time for the AFL season, something that was particularly welcomed by this Geelong Cats supporter.
“I didn’t have a beer at the football for seven years,” Richard says. “So it’s cost me a fortune going to the footy this year.
“I go with my daughter and son who are mad Geelong supporters and we sit there watching what we call ‘TWØBAYS in the wild’, where there are people all over the place with a can of your beer in the hand.”
Those TWØBAYS sightings are the only time you’ll see indie beer at the MCG – where their flagship has been joined by the Indies trophy-winning Session Ale. But while their beer sells well in the stadium and at other major events spaces at which it's stocked, including the Melbourne Arts Centre, Richards says it's proven to be a slow crawl persuading other places to range them, thus giving gluten-free beer drinkers a genuine choice.
“We’re at the MCG and AAMI Park, but if you go to Marvel and you can’t have gluten, you can’t have a beer,” he says.
“My view is that, if I go to a concert, I’m paying the same price as anyone else, so why can’t I have the same choices?
“The opportunity is still in front of us and it is a massive opportunity.”
As an example, he points to restaurants promote entirely gluten-free kitchens yet don’t put any thought into selling a broad selection of beers that coeliac or gluten-intolerant drinkers could enjoy.
“I just don’t get it,” he says. “Everything you’re doing marketing wise is to get gluten-free consumers in and offer them a safe experience, why wouldn’t you give them a good range of beers?”
In part, growth to date has been coming from their success on tap: they've picked up a couple of dozen across the country. While he admits to getting jealous of friends in the industry who brew with barley and easily eclipse those numbers, the team has found that when a TWØBAYS beer goes on tap, it tends to stick around.
“If we can convince the pub to make one of the 20 taps gluten-free then it works really well,” Richard says. “Young and Jacksons have got us on tap and they wouldn't do it if it wasn’t working."
Having just marked their fifth birthday, we invited Richard to join us for a walk down Memory Lane via five of the beers that mean the most to him.
This is where it all began. We – AG, really – spent nine months trying to get a good beer out of these malts and eventually created this brew. The taste and quality of this beer set us up for where we are today, taking us from an unknown brewery on the Mornington Peninsula to a national brand in no time at all – and delighting so many customers on the way through.
It’s the beer that a lot of consumers try first and have that realisation: “Wow, gluten-free beer is actually pretty good!”
For many reasons, this beer has to be on my top five list. Besides the fact it is one of my personal favourites to drink, it’s the beer that is really changing public perceptions of gluten-free beer.
We never thought it would be possible to win an Indies trophy brewing with alternative malts, but Kristian and our brewers did it with this beer. Gluten-free beers sit under the Specialty Beer category at the awards, so we are up against "barley beers" as well.
It’s grown to become one of the biggest, and most hotly contested, categories at the Indies – this year had more gold medals (22) than any other – so it’s a really tough section to compete in, even if you are not using millet, rice and buckwheat!
This will be the first summer it is available at the MCG, so we are hoping cricket fans will be discovering just how good it is on Boxing Day as well, no matter if they need to avoid gluten or not.
Mosaic Session IPA
March 2020 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. We were only just entering our second year of trade and, all of a sudden, we had the rug pulled from under us. But this was the beer that got us through those first months of COVID lockdowns and was by far the most successful release we did through e-commerce to that point.
I had really wanted to try Pirate Life’s version, but I couldn’t – and everyone was raving about Mosaic hops – so I asked AG to make one from gluten-free malts for me.
We’d brewed a couple of batches for the taproom, and it had been a real winner with the public, so it became one of our first limited releases in cans. It was a cracking beer, full-flavoured but a sessionable ABV, especially for an IPA.
I was keen to see what the fuss was about with Cold IPAs – and the brew crew were keen to try one as well. Kristian brewed one for me and we put it on in the taproom last summer. I loved it and the customers in the taproom loved it.
About 95 percent of our taproom visitors are not gluten-free so can drink any beer they want, and the feedback on this one was so good we decided to put it in cans for this summer.
Like myself, there are over 300,000 Australian Coeliacs that had never tried this style, so we are really excited to offer everyone the chance to experience a different style of beer. The feedback has been brilliant – so we figure plenty of others are really enjoying this style too.
Ball Park Bloom – Belgian Witbier
This was our ninth limited release, from back in 2021. A couple of the band members from Ball Park Music are gluten-free, so it made perfect sense to collaborate with them on a beer for a good cause. Our goal was to raise awareness for coeliac disease while raising funds for Support Act, so we launched this one for Coeliac Awareness Week and ended up raising over $10K for Support Act.
We can’t use wheat, so the brewers had to get creative to try to replicate the style using millet, rice and buckwheat, which isn't a kind of wheat despite its name. The beer turned out great, and our packaging designer, Tim Wilson, did an outstanding job on this can.