A man described as “one of the grandfathers of Australian craft beer” and “one of the original real characters in brewing in Australia” has passed away overnight. Geoff Scharer, founder of Scharer’s Little Brewery in Picton, NSW, was a pioneer who was looking into setting up a microbrewery as early as the 1970s before gaining his brewing license in 1981 – the first ever on premise license granted in Australia. A few years later, he opened his brewery at the George IV Inn in 1987, the country’s first pub brewery.
“It was the first brewery I walked into with my boots on,” says Brad Rogers, co-owner of Stone & Wood. “He let me work there for two weeks while I was studying wine making back in the late 1980s. I wrote him a letter in one of my holiday breaks and he wrote back saying ‘No worries at all. But I’m not bloody paying you.’
“[A large number of Aussie brewers] have just come back from the US and the last time we were over there, Geoff was with us as we always dragged him along when we went on tour. A lot of people worked at his brewery and he certainly touched a lot of people in the craft beer industry.”
Among them was Dave Edney, currently head brewer at Mountain Goat. When he was a home brewer back in the 1980s and early 1990s he used to spend time with the home brewing group at the George IV, becoming inspired to become a commercial brewer. When he completed his course, his first post was with Geoff at Scharer’s.
“I was there from May 1996 until the end of 2000,” says Dave. “He could be a difficult man to work with but he was a good laugh too. He had very set ideas on how beer was meant to be brewed as he had worked with a brewing consultant, Otto Binding, who instilled ideas about keeping to the Reinheitsgebot in him. We used open fermenters to brew, producing a lager and a bock.
“He was looking at setting up breweries back in 1976 – almost ahead of the Americans. His ideas were way ahead of everyone.
“As a boss he was a funny guy. He was gruff, loud and opinionated but had a heart of gold and always had brewers work with him for a long, long time. He was a real laugh and one of the original characters in brewing in Australia – one of the real characters.”
For an insight into Geoff’s life in brewing and beyond, check out this tribute piece on Brews News.
Photo above shows Geoff on a past trip to the States with fellow brewers. From left to right: Richard Watkins (Wig & Pen), Brendan Varis (Feral), Geoff Scharer, Dermot O'Donnell (Bluetongue), Dave Bonighton (Mountain Goat), Brad Rogers.