First published on 16 May 2012. Updated on 24 May 2012.
So if you’ve been watching the craft beer scene at all, you’ll have felt the rise of brew-mance. Breweries, far from being competitive, are falling all over themselves to collaborate and create special edition beers. Everyone’s doing it, but the three pals who started laid-back BS-free brewery Stone and Wood (Brad Rogers, Jamie Cook and Ross Jurisich) have taken a different approach to team brewing.
“The trend of getting a Scandinavian brewer in, and taking the rock star line isn’t really us,” Cook tells us. “We’re more about the community that you build around beer.”
Hence why Cook and Rogers took to the Court House Hotel in North Melbourne on a Good Beer Week Tuesday. The pair were hosting an event called 'The Pitch', the aim of which was to select an amateur brewer to join the Mash Collective – their take on beer collaboration.
Cook explains, “Coming from Byron, there’s a really strong local community up there and a lot of creative people. We decided, rather than going from brewer to brewer, to look around the community and meet people from all walks of life. People who love beer so much that some of them actually brew it themselves.”
From this community they pulled together their first crew, who then democratically created a beer from the ground up, label and all. “The first Mash Collective consisted of a concreter, a magazine editor, a guy who mixed paint for a living, and a cartoonist,” according to Rogers. You can see the influence of the cartoonist in the gamer style logo of a viking/pirate/octopus smoking a pipe that graces their limited edition Amasia bottle. It’s pretty awesome.
It was an informal night, for all but a group of extremely nervous looking amateur brewers. They came to present their brew, and pitch their case to the audience and panel of judges, (including a member of the American Beer Association – which is probably on par with being told that you have to rap for the Sugarhill Gang). The aim of the night was also, of course, to get sideways on Stone and Wood's full contingent of brews while the Court House presented a parade of delicately arranged proteins from pork belly with prawns to platters of charcuterie, all spiked with local Byron produce.
In good news, nobody bombed, and there was so much mutual appreciation that the brew-mancing almost got awkward. Pete “the pirate” O’Donovan summed up the spirit. He had the nervous energy of a racehorse, with an enviable passion for all things beer. He paced up and down the room dropping beery anecdotes and technical know-how in equal measure. He works in IT. He doesn’t like it a whole heap, and opportunities like this represent a bridge that could possibly link a favourite pastime to a future.
Duncan followed, quieter in disposition, but killing it at the end as he ripped open his sweater to reveal the title of his ‘Fuck Yeah IPA’ scrawled across his t-shirt. He also quietly dropped a few heartfelt bombs. "Brewing is something that now, as the lives of me and my mates go in different directions, still brings us together. Something that we all love, and we can all share together." At the time, having reached our 15th beer, it was an emotional statement.
Paul took a more relaxed approach. He had bought a ticket to the event, thrown his beer together – which was black as hell, but clean as a whistle thanks to acidulated malt – and just hoped it would be ready on the night. It turned out bloody well, but he was ousted, as were they all, by the final entry which was a 10 percent liquid candy of a brew – almost approaching a liqueur.
Far from an amateur, Richard Grant has been doing his home brews for 23 years. He’s got two kitchens – one just for making beer.
But that’s the thing. The distinction between being an amateur and a pro' doesn’t lie in your skill. It’s the difference between being able to share your brew with a handful of mates, and being able to share 500 cartons with the country.
And if you've been to anything at Good Beer Week, you'll have seen that this is what it's all about. Making the beer is a process. Sharing it is the point.
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