TWO breweries from opposite ends of the craft beer spectrum in Adelaide are making waves on the national stage.
The rise of Pirate Life Brewing continues as its production heads towards 3 million litres a year in the wake of its Champion IPA award at the Australian Craft Beer Awards. The arrival of new tanks at its Hindmarsh brewery next month (August) will help double its number of export countries to eight by the end of the year. It is also looking to build a new brewery to sustain its long-term growth.
A little closer to the Adelaide CBD, in the edgy suburb of Thebarton, the Wheaty Brewing Corps was born in the backyard of the Wheatsheaf Hotel in 2014. The brewery was crowned Australia’s Best Small Brewery at last night’s awards where the Dainton Family Brewery’s Cherrywood Smoked Baltic Porter from Victoria was named overall Champion Beer.
Unlike the booming production of Pirate Life, Wheaty Brewing Corps makes beer almost exclusively to be sold and drunk in the Wheatsheaf Hotel and it doesn’t plan to change its business model anytime soon.
“If someone wants a beer they give me money and I put it in the till, I’m not chasing customers for three months to pay their bills,” head brewer and co-founder Jade Flavell said.
Former Exeter Hotel staff Flavell, Liz O’Dea and the late Emily Trott bought the rundown Wheatsheaf Hotel, below, in 2003 and spent 11 years driving the South Australian capital’s emerging craft beer scene. The trio decided to start brewing their own beer and the Wheaty Bewing Corps was launched in July 2014 in the form of a 600 Litre Brewhouse with three single-batch fermenters.
“It had always been our plan to build a brewery and we had to make a decision whether we would put in a kitchen or a brewery – we made the right decision,” head brewer Flavell said during the Australian Craft Brewers Conference at the Adelaide Convention Centre yesterday.
“The brewery was part of the evolution for us.
“I’ve got plenty of dubious beer theories that I’ve been testing out over the past 14 years and to be able to subject paying customers to them is a lot of fun.”
The Wheatsheaf, known as The Wheaty, has 13 taps in its front bar, of which at least six are typically pouring their own brews. It has recently installed a shipping container bar for weekend use featuring a further six taps of house beers. The bar also still features many authentic pub attributes such as a pool table, dartboard and regular live music.
“We also have a beer truck on the way, which we hope to be on the road by summer,” Flavell said.
Since it opened three years ago the brewery has produced 80 different beers from about 170 batches.
Some of the more off beat brews produced alongside regulars such as IPAs, Stouts, Saisons and Bitters include an anchovy IPA and a whisky barrel aged breakfast stout.
Flavell said the in-house retail model was the only way a brewery of its size could be profitable and took the complications of logistics and distribution out of the equation.
However, she said while there was no intention to enter the wholesale market, the brewery is looking to add a couple more fermenters to stabilise its own supply.
“If we like them and if the punters like them then we brew them again – market research is the front bar,” she said.
“We figure it doesn’t get much fresher than drinking it in the shadow of the brewery in which it was brewed.”
Pirate Life also began brewing in Adelaide in 2014 with father and son team Michael and Jack Cameron and their brewer mate Red Proudfoot.
Their hoppy West Coast style beers in a can proved an instant hit and production reached 2.3 million litres in 2016/17. It is expected to hit 3 million litres this financial year.
Released in 500ml cans nationally in June, Pirate Life’s Mosaic IPA has quickly become a regular in the stable and took the hotly contested IPA category at last night’s awards.
Pirate Life CEO Mick Cameron said the IPA, made using Mosaic hops, displayed a defined intensity that showcased the variety.
“We’ve got a rockstar team of brewers and to be able to be able to produce a single hop variety like Mosaic with such balance and intensity of flavour is fantastic,” he said.
“Two and a half years ago we started with Jack, Red and myself and we’ve now got 41 staff on the books and we are planning on building the new brewery in Port Adelaide so there’s a lot going on.”
Pirate Life last week launched Pirate Dog Red IPA – a collaboration with Kiwi brewery Parrot Dog Brewing – during the Australian Craft Beer Conference in Adelaide. It is also looking to release a pilsner in time for the Australian summer.
Cameron said market share had grown steadily over the past two years and Pirate Life Brewing aimed to grow again from its current 6 per cent to capture an 8 per cent slice of the national craft beer market by the end of next year.
“We are positioning ourselves as a premium craft beer brand – as do three or four other producers around Australia – and I think there’s a real good opportunity there at the premium level as there is with the premium wine and spirits industries,” he said.
“We’re still growing – we’ve got new tanks coming in the week after next, which will give us a 40 per cent capacity on that and it will allow us to open up some more markets within Australia and focus a bit more on export.
“We’re currently in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK and we look forward to launching in Sweden and Norway before Christmas and Taiwan and Vietnam about the same time.”
The Pirate Life team celebrating their Champion IPA win.
Pirate Life’s philosophy of putting its beers in cans centred around keeping the product fresh, cold and making it easier to transport and export.
“We’ve had containers going off to the UK now for six months and we go over to taste the beer as it comes off and we’re not pulling up any issues at all,” he said.
“We ship at 2C – the container sits in the bottom of the boat and when it lands in the UK it is stored in a refrigerated warehouse.
“We do a lot of work in the brewery to keep our dissolved oxygen levels as low as possible and the beer has been really well received in all markets – it’s a testament to how the boys brew and how we treat the beer from brewery to warehouse to customer.”