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?
If you have this years ‘Brewed Nude’ calendar, this next brewer would have adorned your wall the past month with his cover-friendly photo. Gavin Croft of, aptly named, Croft Brewing is one of the nicest, most humble guys you’ll meet. He’ll also talk your ear off about beer, and took some time to answer some questions for me.
I began home brewing 7 years ago, professionally brewing 3 years ago and started my own brand as a gypsy brewing business 16 months ago.
Where do you mainly brew out of?
Newstead, Beard and Brau, and Bacchus
My 3.0% Biscuit Blast is probably the one I’m most proud of. I’ve been brewing some version of it for many years now. It’s not easy to make a low alcohol beer with flavour, depth and balance, and I was pretty stoked to pick up a Silver for it at this year’s Australian International Beer Awards.
Apart from getting onto the front cover of a nudie calender you mean? Surely that is reward enough. Obviously, you don’t need to fork out a million bucks to get started this way. It has allowed me to establish my brand in a very low risk fashion. Working in multiple breweries, with brewers from different backgrounds has been a great learning experience too. Seeing production from many perspectives has given me great ideas about how I will build and operate my own brewery.
Unless you charge exorbitantly for your kegs, you’ll be operating on a tighter margin than everyone else out there. Also if you aren’t doing serious volume, you’ll be required to wear multiple hats, probably more than you are comfortable wearing, because you won’t be able to justify employing others. Not only are you a brewer, but also a salesperson, delivery driver, book keeper, debt collector, empty keg collector, social media manager, brand ambassador and the person who answers all your emails from enthusiastic drinkers, home brewers and venue operators. Don’t get me wrong, it’s rewarding, but it’s a lot of work.
Although it is a cheaper alternative to building a brewery, it is still a business and will certainly cost you more cash than a hobby, so you may want to consider keeping your other job part/full time. Make sure you’ve got enough money to launch the brand properly. If you are using this step to test the waters and do a half arsed job, people will see you as a half arsed brand. Also, I’m sure it doesn’t need to be stated but being a good brewer is necessary too. Making excellent beer is perhaps the only thing that will excuse half arsed branding. Having a good brand and faulty beer won’t get you nearly as far (and can potentially damage the image of ‘better beer’ that most small producers are striving for). If you excel at both, well you may just be on to something. Most importantly, be a good person, and you’ll be alright.