WA's Indie Brewers Aim To Keep The Bird Flying

January 12, 2024, by James Smith

WA's Indie Brewers Aim To Keep The Bird Flying

Tame Impala, Methyl Ethel, Spacey Jane, Little Creatures Bright Ale, Feral Hop Hog, Gage Roads Single Fin... the list goes on.

And what unites them is the William Street Bird, a venue not too many craft beer drinkers – especially outside Western Australia – will know, but which has been at the forefront of the state's live music scene for years, while helping kickstart growth for some of WA's independent brewers. 

Known by locals as The Bird, it was opened in 2010 by Brenton Grove and Mike O’Hanlon, two guys with a low budget fit-out build but a solid investment into WA's live music culture. 

As Steve Finney (pictured above left with Good Drinks Australia's Aaron Heary in The Bird's backyard), these days found at the helm of FOUND. but who worked with them during stints at Little Creatures, Feral and Gage Roads, puts it: "They were two guys keen to change the entertainment and drinking culture in the middle of Perth's notorious at the time nightclub precinct, Northbridge."

They did so by creating what became an unassuming institution: a suburban bar, in a nightclub precinct, with a focus on the artist, combining good acoustics with good drinks and good times, a legacy that continued when the business was passed on to Kabir Ramsley in 2017.

“I first met Brenton and Mike early during the build," Steve says. "I was working at CUB for Matilda Bay at the time; the guys politely told me they were not interested in my wares, but a friendship was born.

"In later years as an independent brewery manager, The Bird became the largest national draught customer for Creatures Bright Ale, then the largest draught customer for Feral. The Bird was one of the original Tusk launch venues in 2013, and became one of the quickest venues to ever blow a keg off an 11 percent IIPA."



He says the beer remained secondary to the live music, with the venue hosting some of the best bands in WA as they rehearsed, played, and sank good beers.

Steve adds: "I will never forget my Tuesday sales calls in Northbridge at the time, where you could wander in and catch the likes of Tame Impala, Pond, Methyl Ethel, Stella Donnelly and so many more. To be honest, this mostly led to an afternoon smashing schooners of Hop Hog in the backyard and generally calling it a day!”      

As has been well-documented, the global pandemic hit the beer, hospo and live music industries hard, and The Bird hasn't proven impervious to the unprecedented challenges, and the lasting impact on late night culture.

James Legge, co-founder of Triple-1-Three, which operates Otherside Brewing Co and Freo.Social, says: “Live music venues like The Bird are critical breeding grounds for emerging local musicians to hone their talent. We have seen long-lasting effects on the music and arts scene since the pandemic; however, there are signs that is changing.” 

With the future of The Bird in doubt, WA's indie brewers have banded together in support, getting behind a weekslong festival of gigs at the venue which kicks off tomorrow (January 13). Ten breweries – some of whom have never poured a beer through the venue's taps – are donating kegs with the aim being to pump $10,000 of revenue into the venue's coffers.

Mathew Dzodzos from Shelter Brewing says: “I have seen some unforgettable gigs at The Bird and have enjoyed so many more schooners on a Wednesday. The Bird has been part of my life for the last ten years.

"They've been great supporters of Shelter, and it would be to the great detriment of the WA live music industry if we were to lose them."


Good times at The Bird.


The breweries that have donated kegs are FOUND., Shelter, Froth, Eagle Bay, Otherside, Rocky Ridge, Phat Brew Club, King Road, Gage Roads and Nail. The Keep The Bird Flying festival kicks off with Vol.1 on Saturday, featuring Gia Como, Sarco, Tomas Ford and Rituals DJs, with a fundraising afterparty following from 8pm.

"The independent brewing Industry is going through some tough times, as are many of the venues that passionately contribute to our country's economy," Steve says. " But as an industry, we band together, work to keep our hospitality alive, and unwaveringly support those who contribute to keeping our nights alive, enjoying good beer and building culture within our state."

As the fundraiser for The Bird kicks off, he adds: "As a consumer keep your spend local. Choose where you drink and choose who you support because, without that, your dollars will be sent offshore, institutions will close, local breweries, distillers, winemakers, farmers will not survive, jobs will be lost."

Keep The Bird Flying runs from January 13 to February 4; for details of the gigs starring WA artists, head here. You can read about a similar effort to support independent live music in South Australia here.

On February, people all over the country will be able to show their support for Aussie beer on Local Beer Day, a celebration of local beer from local brewers at the best local venues.


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