Little Bang is a big deal. Since launching in 2015 founders Filip Kemp and Ryan Davidson have moved from Kemp’s garage to a tiny premises on Union Street in Stepney to a grand, 1000-square-metre warehouse around the corner on Henry Street. It's testament to the thirst for their growing stable of experimental and exciting beers.
Their current digs are impressive in the way drink-in breweries tend to be: metal boilers and fermenting tanks towering over picnic tables, a tin-foil roof, Edison bulbs and a generous bar with enough taps for you to linger all afternoon. Little Bang is vast but feels warm thanks to Kemp, Davidson and their team’s natural charm and wry sense of humour. When Broadsheet arrives the room is filled with the yeasty scent of beer brewing. “We’re boiling the wort for a new kettle sour,” explains Kemp.
But there’s also another smell in the air – burgers. Because as of last week, the brewery opened a permanent kitchen, replacing the rotating cast of food trucks that once fed the tipsy punters here.
“We just put an ad up on Seek,” says Kemp of how they found head chef John McFarlane, “And if you’d seen his CV you’d have hired him too.” No doubt. McFarlane, who moved here from Tasmania to work at Little Bang, has form in the game. He used to own his own catering company (Fat Quoll Catering) and has cooked at Dark Mofo festival and Fat Pig Farm.
But despite his pedigree, McFarlane is keeping things pretty simple at Little Bang offering a menu of beer-friendly food, fries and sides with a broadly Asian accent. It’s street food really, an in-house reincarnation of those food trucks. So there are things like meat or vegie burgers (ideal to eat one handed while you drink), Korean buffalo cauliflower – still the vegetable of the moment – and, somewhat incongruously, ice-cream.
Of particular interest is McFarlane’s pickling and fermentation program, which he’s launched in a bid to reduce fresh-vegetable waste. “I was so frustrated with how much fresh produce gets thrown away in kitchens, but also saw it as an opportunity to save money,” he says. You’ll find his pickles and ferments turn up frequently: a side of tom yum lacto-fermented peppers here; vegan kimchi there. There are only two chefs, McFarlane and his sous, to feed up to 290 people at a time, so these pickles are their way of adding a chef-y touch to the otherwise low-maintenance menu.
And there’s a prize for anyone who can work out what’s in McFarlane’s signature barbeque sauce – a condiment worth its own paragraph – because McFarlane is keeping that recipe under his hat. “I’ve come from Hobart, the land of apples, to Adelaide, the land of citrus,” he says. “So you’ll notice it [the sauce] smells of a late summer afternoon.” But beyond “garden herbs” Little Banger beer (the brewery’s session ale) and South Australian blood oranges, what’s inside is a mystery.
There are more changes, too. Kemp and Davidson are extending their opening hours to Wednesdays and introducing a stacked midweek events schedule. There will be Mario Kart tournaments, comedy nights, tap takeovers and the brewery’s own TED-style talks. And, after having listened to Davidson and Kemp ranting over a beer for an hour, let me say, you should be excited for those.
No one’s trying to reinvent the wheel here, which makes sense. McFarlane has designed a menu, and Kemp and Davidson an events schedule, in keeping with what people want when they’re a bit boozed. Because who really wants anything other than a crunchy plate of fries, a sloppy burger and a laugh when they’re having a drink?
Little Bang Brewery
25 Henry Street, Stepney
Wed & Thu 4pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–10pm