How does one get into brewing? For simplicity’s sake let’s say there are one of three ways without prior experience or education. Number 1. Perhaps the most monotonous is to get a job on the packaging line at a larger brewery, with hard work and luck, maybe, move into the brewhouse. Number 2. Get a job in brew pub, work hard, show interest and eventually, hopefully move into brewhouse. Number 3. Getting a job at a Brew on Premise, a good way to build a basic understanding of the fundamentals of brewing and can be a great stepping stone to bigger and better things. Though these days further education outside of the workplace is still a requirement, the most important thing in the road to becoming a brewer is the passion for beer. However, if you don’t happen to have a background in chemistry, food science or wine making there are brewing courses available at Federation University in Ballarat, TAFE SA’s Regency Campus and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling UK, to which offers an internationally recognised certification.
Like many in the industry, I now hold at least the General Certificate in Brewing through IBD and am currently working towards the Diploma, prior to that, Brew on Premise was my foot in the door. I had a couple of brewery jobs, in my home town of Albany and then for a while in Busselton, but it wasn’t until after that that my understanding of the craft grew beyond extract and yeast. Flash back to when I was working at Billabong Brewing in Myaree, the pioneers of the Brew on Premise in Australia, who when I began employment, were installing a brand spanking, Premier Stainless, 12 Hectolitre brewhouse. As well as the new on site bar, and commercial range, customers can choose from over 100 quality recipes to brew themselves, hence the term “Brew on Premise”. Under head brewer, Rob Murphy, my work mostly consisted of BOP duties but grew to involve some commercial production of ginger beer, and occasional packaging of the gluten free and other great beers like the pilsner and wheat.
Enter some random guy that had come to do some recipe development for a new project he was consulting for by first trailing 4 different strains of yeast on the same recipe using our BOP facilities. These recipes use a combination of malt extracts, specialty malts and hops, to replicate a multitude of styles, however one must understand that when upscaling to a larger brew, say 50L BOP to a 12 Hectolitre plant, malt replaces extract as the beer base and the flavours produced are different. So the stranger bought a 20L Braumeister for wort production, an all in one mashing, sparging and boiling vessel, and continued to use our facilities for fermentation, filtration etcetera. I came to know this man as Ken, later as the man on the EB can, and now the Braumeister on the bench at Northbridge Brewing Company.
So after over three years at Billabong a lot was learned, but I was looking for more commercial experience, I had just come back from holiday and gave Ken a call, and on NBC’s third day open was there lending a hand to put a lager through the brew house. I started by cleaning tanks, gradually taking on more duties, and as my responsibilities grew so did my confidence. More than 2
years on, between cleaning, filtering, and some brewing, I exercise my creative freedom on the pilot brewery, you may remember my contributions to such beers as the Japanese Porter and the returning Session Ale. We’ve also produced a series of single keg releases, Oud Bruin, Rauch Bier, Weizen Bock, Rye IPA and Munich Dunkel, but in essence, anything we brew on a full 1200 litre scale, we’ve tinkered with at a more moderate 20 liter volume first. Recipe development begins with an inspiration, mine usually comes from a fond memory or a newly discovered style, sometimes its just the latest trend that you may wish to present in your own way.
Once inspiration sets in I take to the interwebs, gathering other peoples thoughts, picking a few preferable attributes and adding a few of my own, like leaning less on crystal malts and changing the hops up for something more balanced. When our current Beerland IPA was in development, I was fascinated by the Nail Gareth Skywalkerâ€™s Golden IPA approach, to use all pale malt, which managed to back up the hops and hide the alcohol quite nicely whilst keeping a delicate gold hue. I was also trying to make a beer with hops from five different countries just for fun, and Ken was looking for something with more tropical fruit and perhaps less pine, leaning towards Mosaic which I found to be on its own a little one dimensional as he felt the same about all pale grist. The final result is 300kg of predominately pale malt with a little Cara Pils for added complexity and low colour. Centennial early and late to the kettle, a relic of Saaz in the whirlpool for a little grassiness if you can detect it behind the massive punch of Mosaic with some Galaxy to round it out. A little resinous, moderately bitter, lightly hazy fruit salad in a glass essentially.
As the IPA joined our core range the possibility of more interesting names for bigger batches was pondered upon, much like Rauch the Casbah, In Vitas Veritas or In the Rye of the Beholder of our single keg series. Though ultimately we landed on a plainer route to better fit the permanent lineup, a few gems were suggested to me by my good friend Shaun Williams, a shame to waste them, I began development of some recipes to fit the names instead of names to fit the beer. Not only did this concept give more flexibility in creating a beer for a pop culture reference, because it could literally be anything, but also brings personality to the product. As a bonus, if they deliver on balance and flavour you might just see something like a Calvin and Hopps American Blonde, or a Mosaics Beard XPA as a seasonal in the future.