“It’s a different kind of business,” says Sam Haldane, one half of the two-man team behind Shenanigans Brewing Company. He’s referring to the point of difference between the small-scale brewers of Sydney and the big guys. “Big brands have to make a consistent product because that’s what their customers expect.”
Haldane and business partner Dan Beers, are currently brewing monthly out of Marrickville’s Batch Brewing Co. The two connected on a craft-beer forum after Haldane moved north from Melbourne.
Beers and Haldane are thankful that small-scale production means they can get a little bit creative. “Even our two batches of Winston [Shenanigans’ second brew] are slightly different,” says Haldane. “We aren’t afraid of changing it, it’s all a bit manual but that means we have a lot of control over it.”
For the team at Batch Brewing Co in Marrickville, collaborations have grown fairly organically. “People come in and start having a chat, they’re talking about things that they are passionate about and connections just happen,” says Chris Sidwa co-founder of Batch. He is hinting at a recent customer interaction which led him and business partner, Andrew Fineran, to working on an upcoming brew with Campos coffee.
That aspect of local community is extremely important to Fineran and Sidwa. It’s the reason the duo ensured they had a physical brewery before starting the business. “We talked about doing contract brewing,” explains Fineran, “but people want to have a local brewery. It’s like a badge of pride.” Sidwa agrees the brewery itself is the heart and soul of their business.
Although ideal, a dedicated brewery isn’t always feasible for smaller brewers. Taking up a fairly small percentage of the beer market in Australia, many of the city’s craft brewers are opting to contract brew while they get their brands off the ground and into their local pubs.
The Grifter Brewing Company is currently brewing out of Young Henrys. “We’ve been doing this for about two years,” says brewer Matt King. After a year of sharing tanks in the Newtown brewery, King and partners Glenn Wignall and Trent Evans, purchased their own single tank. This means more flexibility, and turning batches slightly faster, eliminated the need to constantly work around the Young Henry’s schedule.
“It’s still difficult because we all have day jobs,” King says. “We’ve been brewing at capacity for a year and a half, so it’s more frustrating knowing what we could do in our own brewery.”
Finding a space and the flexibility to make brewing into a full-time job will all come in time. The most important thing for all three teams is that pubs and their customers know that the beers are brewed by hand. All three companies had their origins in their brewers’ backyards.
“We like getting our hands dirty brewing,” says Sidwa of Batch. “We don’t want to do anything that will take us away from what we originally set out to do.” A sentiment matched almost word-for-word across the board.