Who Brews Beereratne Beers?

February 28, 2024, by Benedict "Benny" Kennedy-Cox

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Who Brews Beereratne Beers?

It turns out The Crafty Pint team had run into Ben Weereratne long before he started his career as a professional brewer. Furthermore, we'd used a photo of Ben and his mates on the site too.

The occasion was a bar shout outside Ladro in Prahran with the Spanish brewers from Naparbier during Pint of Origin. Ben's group were among the most avid of Pint of Origin Crawlers, even creating their own footy-themed #PoO tops for the day.

His involvement in beer has come a long way from that Saturday in 2017, as Benedict Kennedy-Cox discovered.


Ben (centre) and friends on their 2017 Pint of Origin crawl, complete with themed footy tops.

 

“The whole point of research is doing something that’s never been done before,” stated Beereratne owner/brewer Ben Weereratne in a decade-old YouTube video I found while researching for this article. 

“I gave up my PhD after two years and got a job in the industry,” Ben told The Crafty Pint, perhaps a little flattered I'd dug up the video. “I worked in polyethylene manufacturing as a chemical engineer for ten years.

“The work isn’t inspiring but the money’s great. It’s the complete opposite to brewing in some sense!”

Seeking a career change, Ben enrolled to study brewing and cut his teeth as a trainee at Stomping Ground. And, while he doesn’t formally work as a chemical engineer or research direct ethanol fuel cells any more, he reckons his career as a brewer provides him with plenty of opportunities to do things that haven’t been done before.

“I thought being a chemical engineer I could just get a job in the brewing industry, but it was only once I started doing the TAFE course that I realised needed industry experience," he says.

“The gig at Stomping Ground happened because I lived in Balaclava so I was in their taphouse all the time. It was still COVIC times when I started and they kept having people getting knocked out [by COVID] so they needed people to fill in so it was all in the deep end.

“I never worked so hard in my life; I was doing 20,000 steps a day in a small brewery.”

Now working permanent part-time so he can spend Thursdays with his kids (and answer a phone call from a beer journo) Ben is a brewer / designer / bartender / keg cleaner at Hop Hen Brewing in Lilydale, where the craft beer footprint is less worn than it is 34km down the road in Melbourne.

 

Seven years on and he has his own branded beer gear.

 

He has his own line of beers now too: with the immediate blessing of Hop Hen owner Mike Leonard, Ben began brewing on Hop Hen's kit, choosing to hop-ify his last name in order to release beers as Beereratne Brewing & Blending. If you're wondering how to pronounce the business name, he informs me it's “Beir-e-rat-nah”. 

Even as a family man with two brewing jobs, Ben still makes time for tap duties on Wednesdays and Fridays when he gets to geek out with other beer passionates.

“People who come to breweries are beer nerdy and they love to geek out about beers which I love. Talking beer is a lot fun.”

Importantly, Ben has retained his love for experimenting and brewing something new.

“One of the things about being tiny is you do whatever the fuck you like," he says. "I try not to make a beer that someone else bigger can do or does. It has to be something special but aren’t so out there crazy.

“All the beers are approachable and if you like beer you should like both the beers I make. My mum and dad can both drink this beer.”

His current core range features a pale ale-inspired saison and a pilsner with a twist, which are testament to the inner scientist who still sees the benefit in doing something new. And, given brewing is somewhat easier to understand than ethanol fuel cells, we asked him if he wouldn’t mind taking part in our ongoing Who Brews...? series.


Ben Weereratne

Ben on the brew deck.

 

Who are you?

I’m Ben Weereratne and I run Beereratne Brewing as a one man operation. I used to be a Chemical Engineer – technically still am, I reckon) – before starting my professional brewing career at Stomping Ground in 2022.


Where do you brew?

I brew in Lilydale, using Hop Hen Brewing’s equipment, which is convenient because my day job is the brewer for Hop Hen.


Why do you brew?

I think of brewing beer as a creative science. It allows so much opportunity for creativity, while needing scientific and process understanding to extract the best results. 


Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?

A fortuitously-timed redundancy and the generous package it came with gave me the luxury of pursuing brewing professionally while still being able support my family. This led to me enrolling in the newly formed Cert III Microbrewing at Kangan and getting my first job in the industry.

And, before all that, I was a member of the Ale Stars at the Local Taphouse for years, listened to countless brewers talk about their journeys, and was inspired.

What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?

Ben Weereratne ---> B’eereratne!

I’m proudly part Sri Lankan – my dad was born there – and this was a way to honour that. A rough literal translation from Singhalese would be “Precious Beer”.


What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?

I’m a proud Victorian, so it would have to be The Garden State: a pilsner made in Victoria, by a Victorian, using only Victorian ingredients (pictured below). 

It's also a reflection of my beer journey so far: by meeting grain suppliers I learnt about single origin malt, I got to visit the hop farms where the hops in the beer are grown, and it's in a style inspired by my go-to beer while working at Stomping Ground – the Czech pilsner.

 


If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?

I love learning about brewing techniques, and I’m really keen on understanding ageing and blending, so I think Ed from Dollar Bill Brewing would be the person. Not only is the brewery an incredibly successful and inspiring story, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him once before in a brewery setting and he was very open and a super nice guy! 


If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?

It depends what's brewing. I like to match the music style with the beer style: a lot of Split Enz and Crowded House when making the NZ-hopped saison, then the Avalanches, Living End, Cut/Copy for the Victorian Pilsner.


What beers are in your fridge right now?

I was recently gifted a bottle of Village 2022 by Wildflower x Mountain Culture. I also have a few bottles of vintage Boon Geuze Mariage Parfait. 

Everyday drinking... I’m loving the Alpine Lager from Bright Brewing at the moment.


What would be your desert island beer of choice?

Guinness. I could drink it in any weather, for the rest of my life. Even if it's poured out of a can!


Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?

Sobremesa False Narrative 

One Drop’s Worm Hole: a Sour Worms sour ale from the Canvent Calendar.


Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?

I really want to try ageing and blending beers.

I also had a great conversation with a New Zealand hop producer the other day who told me that the same hops picked at different times during the harvest can produce vastly different flavour profiles – I don’t know what to do with that just yet but I want to explore it!

 

"A physical brewery and taproom up in the Dandenong Ranges amongst trees..."

Where can people find your beers?

I only just got my license in the middle of December 2023, so at the time of writing: 

  • The Local Taphouse, St Kilda
  • Olinda Cellars, Olinda
  • Harvest Cellars, South Belgrave

Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?

A physical brewery and taproom up in the Dandenong Ranges amongst trees and steam trains.

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