How would you define the term “gypsy brewer”? Essentially, gypsy brewing is a form of contract brewing in where a brewer with no premises or equipment of their own rents fermenter space with an established location to be able to produce their product. But that definition is pretty dry and doesn’t really delve into the complexities the practice entails.
Gypsies have their problems, ranging from a lack of space for them to rent, unfamiliar equipment, and unpredictability. This however, is offset by some pretty great bonuses. The simple fact that they can get their product to market without the risk of financial ruin allows them to keep the creative juices flowing and really bring something different to the people.
This feature will showcase a few of our gypsy brewers here whom will also be peddling their wares at the upcoming “Tipsy with the Gypsy” event at the Mill on Constance on October 17th this year. Who better to describe the ins and outs better then the folks who live it?
Next is a man we all know and love. Ben Hetherington of ‘Beans Brew’ has been a staple in the Brisbane community for years, working at the Scratch, repping for The Rocks Brewing Co based out of Sydney, and now the face of Green Beacon.
How long have you been brewing?
I have been home-brewing for two years now (actually three, but I don’t like to include the time before I went all-grain. Those were some pretty awful beers). As “Beans Brew” though, I released my first commercial beer “Bad Beans Black” in October of last year. That was a huge batch brewed at Rocks Brewing Co in Sydney, we made 80-something kegs. I have been doing occasional 50L batches since then – apparently no-one trusts me with large scale equipment anymore.
Where do you mainly brew out of?
Newstead Brewing Company. Mark is an absolute legend and the best failed jockey turned assistant brewer I have ever met.
I think it would have to be the Sucker Saison I brewed for Tomahawk’s gypsy brewer event during Brewsvegas 2015. It’s a sessionable saison that has been dry-hopped liberally, and is super refreshing on a hot day, but has depth of flavour if you look for it. I like that in a beer.
I’m a big advocate for local produce, and taking a page out of the book of the saison brewers of old, I collated a number of native herbs and spices to add to the beer. I sat down with a mate of mine who is a chef, and whose palette I respect and we sat down in the kitchen for hours testing different ratios of a number of spices until we found the winner. I had never brewed a saison prior to the event at Tomahawk, and I guess I was just extremely happy to see that it resonated with people, despite my inexperience in brewing that style.
Getting to spend time with brewers who know a lot more about beer than I do. Also, as I brew very small batches, I am able to brew some pretty wacky beers with little financial consequence if I mess it up. Have you ever tried to brew a Cock Ale? I have. Botulism is not a thing to mess with.
The obvious one is not having many options when it comes to brewhouse/tank space to use. The other struggle I have is that there can be variations between batches of the same beer. This is an inherent problem in brewing in such small quantities. It’s also an inherent problem in me not having a clue what I’m doing.
Be sure you can still keep creative control. It’s hard to be picky in a small city like Brisbane, but make sure that you are happy with the process of the brewer brewing, or helping you brew your beer. Some brewers will be very stuck in their ways and won’t make any exceptions if you want to brew your beer in a different way. And rightfully so, it’s their equipment. Their tanks and their babies. Just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. I would rather make less beer and only use tank space at a brewery that I trust rather than just throw my recipes around to every brewery that has empty tanks.