Chuck Hahn Returns To Beer With Chuck & Son's

May 6, 2024, by Will Ziebell

Chuck Hahn Returns To Beer With Chuck & Son's

Sydney’s Inner West has become one of craft beer’s busiest beer precincts, a situation that can make it hard for a new brewery to stand out. That's unlikely to be an issue for Chuck & Son’s Brewing Co, however.

The brewery is being launched by one of Australia’s most experienced and best-known brewers, Chuck Hahn, who, two years after calling time on more than five decades as a brewer, has been tempted back into beer by the other half of the brewery's name: his son Scott.

“Normally it’s the father trying to get the son to join the family business,” he says with a laugh. 

Chuck’s time in the Australian brewing industry is the kind that acquires legendary status, although his career in beer stretches back to the 1970s and his native America. It was there that Chuck started working at the Coors Brewery in Colorado, where he played a key role in developing Coors Light. From there, Chuck migrated to Australia, working for Lion both here and in New Zealand before founding Hahn Brewery in the Inner West in 1988.

After selling the brewery to Lion in 1993, Chuck spent the following decades playing a key role within the business, with the Camperdown brewery he'd founded relaunched as Malt Shovel Brewery in the late 1990s, becoming the home of James Squire beers.

During his time at Lion, Chuck in starting many of its brewpubs and brands, including the James Squires brewhouses founded in various parts of the country, Eumundi Brewery on the Sunshine Coast, Tiny Mountain in Townsville (which has since closed) and Kosciuszko. He also acted as a highly-regarded beer judge in awards competitions across the planet and has been a mentor to people at breweries both large and small.

 

The Chuck & Son's Tap Room.

 

As for Scott, it will come as no surprise to learn his life has been one surrounded by beer and breweries; his career has led him down that path too, even if he didn’t take up brewing like his old man. He worked at a major accounting firm before moving into food and drink via Woolworths then joining Lion with a focus was on sales, business strategy and risk management.

“For me, it’s almost this natural convergence through my career,” Scott says. “But beer’s also in the family and I saw an opportunity that Dad was never going to retire – he’s still got that spark and passion, and still brews a damn good beer.”

Over a couple of years, Chuck & Son’s started to take shape, their search for a home leading them back to the craft beer heartland where Chuck had first made his name in Australia. The St Peters warehouse in which they've built their brewpub dates back to the 1960s but sits in an industrial area from the 1930s filled with history. It's a short stroll from Willie The Boatman and Future Brewing, and a quick cab from the many breweries of Marrickville and Chuck's old stomping ground.

“What really struck us was the site,” Scott says. “We wanted a site that had its own heritage and bit of character to really complement our brand.

“We’re also really excited to be joining the community of inner-west independent breweries, and it’s also not far from where [Chuck] started.”

 

Some of the beers forming the opening lineup at Chuck & Sons.

 

The taproom is filled with reclaimed timber, old posters, and used furniture, as well as some brewery memorabilia, including solid brass railings from the old Resch’s brewery that Chuck used on a staircase at Hahn before they were replaced by the team at Lion.

“They were getting rid of them, so I took them back,” Chuck says. “There’s a whole lot of old stuff collected in the brewery besides myself.”

That includes parts of the brewery, which features two copper dome kettles from Germany that formed part of a brewery in Albury before being used at the Knappstein Brewery in the Clare Valley, home of the sadly-departed, ahead-of-its-time Knappstein Reserve Lager. [Presumably – hopefully – there's a Nelson Sauvin-laced lager destined for the taps of Chuck & Son's – Editor]

“Then, with the closure of the brewery at Knappstein, they moved it out and ended up storing it at West End,” Chuck says.

“When they had to get it out of there, they were going to scrap it and I said, 'Just give it to me'.”

The 15-hectolitre system has been adapted to be entirely electric, while the other parts have been custom-built to fit the copper setup by the team at Bespoke Brewing Solutions.

As for the beer, the approach is being described as “classic craft”; the initial core range is made up of the Two-World Pale Ale, American Amber, Touring Radler and Original Pilsner. There are also more beers to come to fill the 12 taps at the bar. They will include a lower carb option that taps into Chuck’s long history working in that space.

They aren’t looking to push boundaries, focus on sours or load up on lactose; instead, the intention is to create what they view as quite timeless beers.

“It’s about not trying to offer everything to everyone but a select style and a total package with that,” Chuck says.

 

Head brewer Richard, who previously worked under Chuck at Malt Shovel.

 

The taproom will also be home to a permanent food truck, while they’ve also put a lot of thought into the backbar and wine selection which features entirely independent producers.

The fact that Chuck and Scott have chosen to start a brewery now, supported by a small group of investors, at a time when the beer industry is struggling and many indies have closed or entered administration isn’t lost on the pair. Indeed, due to his long history in beer, Chuck is one of the few people working in beer today who has past experience of weather soaring interest rates as a brewery owner.

He believes craft breweries today are better able to connect with customers directly, something he couldn’t do while running Hahn.

“I think craft breweries have a lot going for them now that we didn’t have,” he explains. “Of course, back then, what I had going for me was I was pioneering that craft beer revolution along with the Lord Nelson. We were the only two small breweries in Sydney.”

The plan is to start slow, focus on their taproom and online store, and sell directly to their customers whenever they can.

“It is a rocky time,” Scott says. “We did focus on investing in a strong taproom offering to really lean into the challenges we could control.”

Given Chuck’s successful, half-century association with craft beer, they can guarantee their story will stand out – and are already seeking input from future generations too. They might be too young to drink beer, much less brew it, but Scott's children have been part of the process too.

“They’ve been inputting a lot in terms of the design of the kid’s area," he says. "And they’ve been stealing some merch.”

So, who knows... give it long enough and Chuck & Son’s Brewing could become Chuck & Son's and Sons' Brewing…


Chuck & Son's Brewing Co will open to the public at Unit 3E-3F, 1-7 Unwins Bridge Rd, St Peters, on May 18. You'll find it alongside hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app.

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