Everything about Pirate Life’s new home is vast. The enormous warehouse has a 25-metre-long peacock mural emblazoned on the outside and 10,000 square metres of floor space. Inside, a customised, energy-efficient, 50-hectolitre brewkit is dwarfed by the former Dalgety Wool Store’s 14-metre-high ceilings.
Once it’s producing at full capacity, Pirate Life Brewery will be able to produce over eight million litres of beer annually. Combined with the output of the existing Hindmarsh brewery, that puts Pirate Life’s total capacity at 11 million litres per year. That’s about half of Cooper’s annual production – not bad for a brewery about to celebrate its fourth birthday.
Unsurprisingly, it’s been a busy 18 months for founders Michael and Jack Cameron and Jared “Red” Proudfoot since Pirate Life was sold to the world’s largest brewing company. In that time, they’ve been working non-stop to move production of their most popular beers to this new facility and get the on-site taphouse ready.
Studio-gram looked after the design for the venue (which can accommodate 300 people), and it’s predictably slick. Lights and fans hang from steel girders that acknowledge the Port’s industrial history and help to separate the taphouse from the vast warehouse surrounding it. Twenty-four taps gleam behind the polished concrete bar, which is 22 yards long (the same length as a cricket pitch). But “the centrepiece is all the stainless steel behind us,” says a grinning Proudfoot, pointing at the huge brewkit rising over the bar.
The entrance is flanked by a merch store that will also sell takeaway beers and a space that will house a second outpost of Robbie’s Chop Shop. The traditional barbershop will be open every day, just like the taphouse. And the main space is still evolving – during Broadsheet’s visit, a 22-foot shuffleboard was delivered for the “rotating arcade”, where punters will also be able to play pinball machines and other games.
Carlton & United Breweries (Pirate Life’s new owner) will have offices within the building, but the three founders are adamant their corporate bosses won’t decide what’s pouring. As Proudfoot says, “If it's good beer, we'll put it on tap.” The initial line-up will feature Pirate Life’s core range as well as eight new beers including an Oktoberfest-style festbier and a whisky-barrel-aged stout.
The increased brewing capacity means the team can also bring back some popular one-off releases such as the Vanilla Malt Thickshake and the 13 per cent ABV triple IPA Loose Lips Sink Ships, which will be served in “very small glassware”.
Pirate Life made its name on bold, high-alcohol beers, but for visitors who want to enjoy an extended session there’s the brewery’s debut sour beer, a passionfruit acai number that clocks in at 3.8 per cent, and an “almost nothing” 0.5 per cent beer.
Patrons can also expect to see local non-Pirate Life brews that impress the brewers, as well as a number of American beers “that have never been seen in Australia before”. These kegs are currently in transit and the team is hopeful they’ll arrive in time for Pirate Life’s fourth birthday party, which will also serve as the new brewery’s launch. The event on Saturday March 9 will feature a range of local musicians and Fringe acts, culminating with a set by the New Orleans-based Hot 8 Brass Band (who performed at WOMAD last year).
While beer is undoubtedly the focus, there’ll also be a selection of mostly South Australian wines and spirits. As for snacks, the bar will have charcuterie, cheese plates and toasties; punters are also welcome to order their own food in. “It was all a bit easier than building a kitchen and worrying about that at the moment,” says Jack Cameron, though space is already set aside for an on-site restaurant that is “a next year project”.
In the meantime, the trio will encourage patrons to visit nearby restaurants after a few beers, seeing their venue as an avenue for increasing visitors to the Port, just as the Little Creatures brewery helped rejuvenate the Fremantle port and encouraged local business development. The Pirate Life push will gain momentum when the Port Dock Railway Station opens just outside their front door in April 2020 – they’re already calling it “Pirate Life Station”.
Pirate Life Brewery opens on Wednesday March 6 and launches officially on Saturday March 9. It will be open from 12pm until late, seven days a week.