If the team behind Aether Brewing could go back in time and give themselves a word of advice, it might be this: build a bigger brewery.
Soon after Dave Ward and Jimmy Young opened the doors to their Milton brewpub in 2016, demand outstripped supply. They began running out of beer.
Now a 500-litre system turns over enough product in their two-storey venue to keep Aether beer pouring through seven taps. The remaining five taps are taken by guest breweries. Now the issue of demand has been solved, focus is turning to fine-tuning their five-beer primary range.
“We’ve actually put a hold on new beers to focus on our core beers and get them perfect,” says Ward. Those beers are a pilsner, pale ale, IPA, saison and a porter.
This doesn’t mean experimenting will stop. Recent efforts include an Italian white truffle wheat beer, and an Espresso Martini stout. Ward says they’re also planning a “fairly crazy” beer for the upcoming Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular festivals in Sydney and Melbourne, but he’s staying tight-lipped in case it doesn’t work.
Creating weird beer is a leap from the co-founders’ previous careers as oil and gas engineers. While in their old jobs the pair spent five years planning the brewpub, and though it wasn’t easy, Ward says there was never an inkling to give in.
“That’s one of the joys of having a business partner,” he says. “You push each other. You never want to be the person to say you’re giving up. But there were sleepless nights. We tried to do as much of the venue build as we could on our own. Which means having a half-hour nap in your car at 3am before going back inside and getting stuck into it again.”
Now Ward says from the moment he wakes up he can’t wait to get into the venue to make beer and chat with customers. This ethos of small-scale brewing drives everything they do, including making a deep bond with the local brewing community.
“Coming from oil and gas – where it’s very closed off – to this other community where you can’t go to a bar without being bought a beer, it’s a lovely place to be,” says Ward.
A highlight for the team is being included in the Milton Trail project, where drinkers can get four schooners for $30 at Aether, Brewski, Newstead and the Scratch Bar. Ward says the support from others as well as the opportunity to share their own, continues to inspire Aether.
“At the end of the day, Jimmy and I are just two guys who jumped head first into this,” says Ward. “We really want to support anyone else who wants to as well.”
This article produced by Broadsheet in partnership with James Squire.