Young Henrys has a modest story. Its approach has allowed the business to grow organically. Put simply, the brewery was started by a bunch of dudes who just really love beer. Their plan wasn’t devised around a boardroom table – it was born in the backstreets of Newtown, Sydney, where they’ve been brewing since 2012. Over the past few years it has been expanding, collaborating and traveling all over the country – and its down-to-earth, DIY spirit has stuck.
Dan Hampton, head of sales and “alcohol aficionado”, has been with the company since its early days. Coming from a family with strong ties to the Salvation Army, Hampton moved around every couple of years when he was growing up. He lived all over the place: Queensland, Canberra, New Zealand. Now he’s planted his roots in Coogee, where he lives with his partner and 15-month-old daughter.
Beer is his work and life (and he has the beer-related tattoos to prove it), but his past career was as a police officer. Most of the other staff at the brewery “came from being in bands and stuff on the side, and I was out there arresting people,” he says, grinning.
After six years with the police, he re-entered hospitality, which he’d initially done throughout school. “When I got back into it, it was at the really early stages of the craft-beer boom in Australia. I started managing bars and restaurants and really got passionate about craft beer,” he explains. This passion landed him a job with Little Creatures and inspired him to start a side project called Beer Snobs, a group that ran events to celebrate craft beer.
Hampton met Young Henrys founders Richard Adamson and Oscar McMahon through Beer Snobs. “They opened the brewery and from almost day one I was hanging out at the brewery and using their beer in beer talks,” Hampton says.
A couple of months later, he bought into Young Henrys and jumped on board full-time. “They’d started to get some good traction, and I just really felt a strong affiliation with the brand and what it stood for. I also got along really well with the guys. Most of us at Young Henrys are hospitality first and foremost; we’ve all come from similar sorts of backgrounds.”
While these days Young Henrys is steadily “growing into a nice-sized family” with more than 30 staff across the country, Hampton says that in the early days everyone just pitched in and did whatever needed to be done to get the business off the ground. In the past 12 months the team has streamlined its processes – it’s even got a 10am Tuesday-morning WIP meeting, like the rest of us.
“I don’t think I could have learned from a better company than Little Creatures,” Hampton says. “I learned a lot about being humble and being part of a team that believes in a product, puts the product first and is very aware of who they’re representing. I guess I was able to bring that into how we run Young Henrys.”
Aside from a bit of structure, what are the other ingredients for running a successful craft-beer business? “The beer has to be good, first and foremost. The brand has to be strong; the truer a brand is (the less it’s a sort of made-up thing) the easier it is. Our brand is virtually us, so that’s probably why I fit in, too. As well as that, you’ve all got to be pushing in the same direction.” Timing has also played a massive part; opening when Sydney was on the verge of fully embracing craft beer.
Basing themselves in Newtown didn’t hurt. Hampton says it is, “one of the biggest beer-drinking suburbs in Australia”. Known for its vibrant community, Young Henrys has become a part of Newtown’s scene. Because it doesn’t have a target demographic or market, it’s been able to be inclusive in its approach. “It’s as simple as opening the doors and inviting everyone in,” Hampton says. “By everyone I mean literally everyone. You look around the tasting bar, and there’s one of everyone – including cats and dogs. It’s awesome.”
Its collaborative approach and willingness to support other local businesses has also cemented its value in the community. “You can see yourselves in other people; you can see that these other guys are just having a crack. It’s like, ‘Let’s do what we can’. It’s amazing how much you can get done when that’s everyone’s attitude.”
From cop to craft-brewery co-owner, it seems community is always part of Hampton’s work. Maybe the two careers aren’t so different after all.