“Life’s too short to drink crap beer.”
Many of us talk about our bucket list beers and breweries, but we’re usually just being flippant. Tim Eggert’s Bucket List Beer Trip holds more weight. Tim has ALS, a terminal disease with no cure.
Tim's enjoyed a wonderful life. He has a wife named Michelle and five children. He’s served as a police officer for more than 20 years. He was a gifted footy player, and went from playing for the Newcastle Knights' rep team to captaining the Australian and NSW Police Football team. He was the original founder of The Beer Shed, a brewery southwest of Sydney.
Then, in 2022, with his 50th birthday coming up, Tim was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease (MND). There was nothing to warn him that his life was about to change.
“I didn’t see it coming," he says. “I just thought I was getting old.
“I went to go for a run… and my right leg just wasn’t doing what it should’ve been doing.”
Tim turned to Google and typed in "weakness in one leg no pain". Within five minutes, he was seeing all the symptoms of MND. He visited his GP, who referred him to specialists and physiotherapists, and in December 2022 – almost 12 months after that first issue with his leg – Tim was officially diagnosed with the disease.
There’s no known cause or cure for MND; a diagnosis comes with a two-and-a-half year life expectancy, with a steep decline in physical capability before that as the brain slowly stops communicating with the body. Faced with such a harsh prognosis, Tim spent months dealing with both the realities of his own declining health and a lot of hard conversations with friends and family.
“The last 12 months of my life have been very hectic trying to deal with that,” he says.
But among all of the difficulties Tim was left with a strong desire to savour the good things in life. And one of the things he loves?
“I’ve always been a fan of craft beer,” he says. “I’d been a homebrewer for a long long time… and I opened up a craft brewery [The Beer Shed] in 2007.
“Now I’ve had this diagnosis, I thought, ‘Life’s too short to drink crap beer.’ So I want to search around and try and find the best beer I can, and enjoy it with my friends.”
With so much on his plate, Tim may not have expected much to come of this desire. But then he shared his dream with Bianca Adkins.
Bianca and Tim live in the same small community of King Creek near Port Macquarie. Their sons are best friends and in the same footy team, which Tim coached. And, just a few months before Tim’s diagnosis, Bianca lost her husband Matt to MND.
She now works to raise awareness of the disease with her merch business LeMoNaDe Crew, so named because Matt lived his life by the saying: "When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade."
Through LeMoNaDe Crew, Bianca encourages people to "live their zest life". Since she's all too familiar with Tim’s plight, and keen to help her friend squeeze good times out of his remaining time, she took his love of beer seriously.
“I felt compelled to help in any way I could,” Bianca says. “He is super passionate about the craft beer industry and follows it very closely. We were having coffee one day and I asked him what his top bucket list item would be, he said, ‘I would love to drink the best craft beer in the best locations all whilst promoting awareness for MND.’
“I don’t think he expected anything to actually eventuate, but as you can imagine I know all too well what he is about to be up against and life is just too short and precious.”
Armed with Tim’s zest for life, family and good beer, and powered by Bianca’s organisational skills, they got to prepping: setting up a GoFundMe page to raise money, making connections with breweries they wanted to visit, and starting a YouTube channel where they could share videos from the trip.
With his family and crew along for the ride, Tim started the journey with a small step – to South Kempsey, in New South Wales, just 50km from where he lives in King Creek. There he was welcomed by Sam and Amanda Preston, owners of the aptly-named Bucket Brewery, which is set up in an old power station overlooking the Macleay River. Even the tap list is headed up with the words: The Bucket List.
While Tim sipped from a schooner of Vern’s IPA, named after the dragon sculpture in front of the brewery, and Sam drank a Hot Dog Chilli Lager, the two chatted about the brewery, the beers, and eventually Sam ran through the whole brewing process. But their conversation also turned to MND, since Sam is no stranger to the disease.
"We’ve been touched by it in our family as well,” he says.
When Sam’s mum was young, her mother died from MND. Later, her uncle also died from the disease, and so did her brother, Sam’s uncle. With this personal connection, Sam is firmly on board with Tim’s cause to increase awareness of the disease.
“It’s a crappy thing that needs to be figured out,” Sam says.
From there, the crew visited the Seabreeze Beach Hotel on Sam’s recommendation for a cheeky beer before heading up to Darlington Beach, where Tim’s been holidaying with family and friends for the last ten years, and Bianca last visited shortly after her husband Matt’s diagnosis.
The next leg of the journey was a bigger one, taking the crew from the east coast to the centre of Australia: Alice Springs. Here, Tim caught up with Kyle from Alice Springs Brewing Co for a chat and a tour of the brewery. When he and Bianca finally sat down at the bar with a tasting paddle each, Tim had his first sip of Alice Springs’ Smashing Passionfruit Sour and nodded.
“Worth the trip already.”
As the the disease progresses rapidly, Tim’s health deteriorates. But, while Tim’s use of an electric wheelchair increased as the journey to Alice Springs wore on, he didn't let that stop him from enjoying different outback activities. From swinging golf clubs to swimming in canyons with his family, from flying in a helicopter to flying his drone (and getting some gorgeous footage as a result), Tim made the most of the trip – all done with a collection of tinnies to choose from when it was time to pause for a drink.
All through his trip, Tim felt the warm welcome from breweries and support from his community, with $10,000 raised from the GoFundMe after their friend Emma ran 160km to the top and through Mount Kosciuszko, then a whopping $60,000 raised during a fundraiser lunch at Wauchope RSL thanks to the generosity of Family of League, local businesses and community groups.
After returning home from Alice, Tim doesn't yet have a plan of where to go next. But he has a burning desire to keep traveling to interesting breweries and spreading the word, and Bianca's still right there helping it happen.
“Obviously time is precious,” she says. “The sooner we can do things, the better. [Tim's] still okay to fly at the moment... At some point we’ll have a van, so do some local stuff.
"We just want to see where the adventure takes us. But definitely want to keep getting out on the road and keep promoting MND."
Because, of course, beer is just one part of Tim's journey. He and his crew are pouring energy into spreading the word on MND, and encouraging everyone – including his kids, who were along for the ride – to live their best life. Tim’s resilience is admirable, as is his determination to make the most of every moment.
“Focus on the positive side of things," he says.
Or as Bianca puts it: “Squeeze those lemons.”
If you're a brewery keen to welcome Tim to your brewery or support him in any way, please contact Bianca via email - they'd love to hear from you.