There was a time not too long ago when the term “contract brewer” was deemed an insult by many in the Australian beer world. And, in fairness, there was a time when many of those choosing to take that route of getting beer into the public’s hands – by paying someone else to brew it for them – were doing so in a way that did insult many of those who had chosen to build their own breweries: demanding cheap, ordinary beers and spending money on marketing campaigns or labelling that was, at best, loose with the truth of the beer’s origins. Read a label and you’d get an inspiring tale of the people that brewed it; delve deeper and you’d find it was brewed at a contract facility with nothing to do with said tale.
As in every aspect of the beer world today, however, things are changing. There are brewers choosing the contract route but doing so in an open and honest way and attempting to create quality beers. There are those that choose to call themselves “gypsy brewers” and use friend’s or associate’s breweries when they’re free to create their beers. Then there are brewery share type operations springing up, such as instances where brewers buy a tank or two to install at someone else’s brewery so they don’t tie up their host’s own equipment.
In fact, when we carried out our most recent Blind Tasting last week, four of the top five beers were brewed using one of the above methods. What’s more, several of them have brewed beer at Cavalier in Melbourne’s West, while the beer in fifth (which was yesterday named the People’s Choice as best beer at the Australian Hotel Beer Festival) was brewed by Wayward at Riverside Brewery.
We’ve already spoken to Dan Dainton, of the Dainton Family Brewery, but what of the story behind the Amber Ale that came a close second? It is the first release from Killer Sprocket, a Melbourne based brewing company formed by husband and wife team Sean and Andrea Ryan. Sean is a handsomely bearded stand up comic when he’s not brewing beer and has answered a few questions for us about this new addition to the brewing scene.
Who is Killer Sprocket?
Killer Sprocket is a Partnership between husband and wife team Sean and Andrea Ryan. Steph Tanti also lent her skills in the launch phase of the business and recently Matt Lick has joined the team taking on the Sales Manager role.
Where does the name come from?
I previously worked in operations for a leading Australian insurance company. One day, while talking to my manager, I found out that all reporting databases required government registration. The impulse to create a new database with a silly name was far too strong so the next day I wrote a database called The Killer Sprocket.
Within six months it was used by every manager and eventually was formally registered. The database was eventually decommissioned after it grew too large and kept crashing various other systems. When deciding on a name for the Brewing Company the original concepts were all taken so on a whim Killer Sprocket was selected.
Why this style of beer?
My first epiphany beer was an Amber Ale from James Squire, and since that moment every time I saw an amber ale I needed to try it. So when it came time to launch the business it was the obvious choice.
Will there be others to follow?
Yes. We already have the recipe worked out and just need to find some tank space and a break in the Amber Ale sales to get it brewed. It will be another malt driven ale with a Vienna malt base and some Peat Smoked Distillers malt and a good amount of hops. We would like to have at least four regular beers by the end of 2014.
Where is it brewed?
Our first batch was brewed at Southern Bay, subsequent batches will be brewed where ever we can find a free tank.
Any plans to start your own brewery?
We would love to start our own brewery. The goal is to have our own set up within five years. We have already had some offers for investment, however we would like to grow organically and maintain control.
Tell us about the comedy.
I’ve been performing stand-up for five years and two years ago started a regular comedy night with a comedy producer friend. Most of the places I perform also stock Killer Sprocket.
What got you started drinking good beer?
Sean: James Squire and my friend Brad. I have competitive friends so we would always compete to see who could try the most different beers, Brad also got me into Home Brewing and we have attended plenty of beer events together.
Andrea: Sean bought me a Hoegaarden on a sunny day at the Belgian Beer Café about 10 years ago.
Your top beers
- 2 Brothers Grizz
- Brewdog 5AM Saint
- Rogue OREGasmic Ale
- Kooinda Black IPA
- BrewDog Punk IPA
- Red Hill Imperial Stout
- 2 Birds Sunset Ale
- Rogue Juniper Pale Ale
- Kooinda Black IPA
- Coopers Pale Ale