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?
Semi-Pro Brewing are three guys with varying levels of brewing experience. They’ve been putting out some pretty cool gear as well lately, and are really gaining some traction in the Brisbane beer market. Daniel Angus just got back from Victoria, and has answered some of my questions:
How long have you been brewing?
I’ve been brewing for 10 years, Mick has been brewing for 4 years, Lachie for 2 years.
Where do you mainly brew out of?
We mainly brew at Bacchus, however I have done a one-off at Brewhouse in West End for the Witches of West End Brewsvegas event. We experiment/homebrew at each others houses.
I think we all have our favourites, but the American Rye IPA we did for Brewsvegas this year got a great response from the people who tried it. It’s Mick’s recipe and I think it really captures the tropical fruit character that we love in some of the classic West Coast IPAs. It was our first commercial beer so it will always have a special place in our catalogue I think.
Starting a brewery costs a lot of money. Gypsy brewing allows us to experience the day-day operations of making and shifting beer without having to mortgage our houses, sell our first born children, and promise our souls to the beer gods. So far the response to our beers has been more than we could have hoped for, and the support we’ve been shown from brewers and venues has been really special. We’re going to keep brewing as much as we can and will be looking to creative ways to grow our venture to a position where we can become a bit more self-reliant and meet the welcome demand for our beers.
The biggest hurdles are the excise and legal aspects to producing beer, and that you are limited in how you can use someone else’s equipment. On the first point, excise licenses are a big fixed overhead that makes it somewhat cost prohibitive for starting a small time brewing operation. The legal frameworks are complex and don’t encourage nano-scale brewers, as I understand it it’s really all-or-nothing, unlike other businesses that can grow a bit more organically. With regard to equipment, it’s awesome being able to use professional equipment and churn out really lovely beer. You do need to be mindful about what beers you produce though as not many breweries would like you taking up room in their brewery for 8 weeks to pump out a lager, and you need to know how to adjust your recipes for various brewing setups you might encounter.
Respect your breweries. The owners and operators of these venues work incredibly hard and it is a real gift that they allow a few of us in to get a start in this game and see how we can to take it to the next level. We appreciate their generosity and would hope that future gypsy’s would do the same.