They say hindsight is 20/20, and while that can be true, 20/20 vision is not perfect, only clear. Learning from our past, we look forward to the year, knowing our vision may not be perfect, but it should be clear. Strenuous internal reflection, catalysed by a few cans of Heartacre, has encouraged us to see some aspects of Newstead Brewing Co in dire need of clarification. From production, to the stories of our people, right through to what’s on the taps in our pubs.
Newstead is about community. The community of the Gas Works, of Lang Park, of Brisbane, and of Queensland, definitely. But more broadly, it’s about that sense of place and belonging to something greater than ourselves; the global community. I have always greatly admired the Germanic village-style brewery paradigm, which places the brewery at the centre of town. Providing jobs, a place to come together for sustenance and a physical product that embodies the local community. And so we begin our search for clarity with the physical product of our enterprise, being the design and personality of the beers themselves.
When we first started Newstead, you know, before the flood, we engaged with a local, Brisbane-based branding company, Nous. Nous were pivotal in the early days of Newstead; the ode to Brisbane’s history, the larrikinism, the photos of trams. As Newstead has grown, however, so has its purpose, its conversation and engagement. Authenticity seems to be something we struggle with and so for the past 18 months I have been really privileged to embark on just being real, or at least actually doing the things we say we do. In our suppliers, our staff, and our products. This also includes our design work. So, for the last year, we have been simplifying all the design through a single mate, Mister Luke Shield. A punter of no credible feature, he loves a beer and cares about gear that is important to me and Newstead; like community, helping those where we can and slick 70s style pinball machines. Luke has an impeccable eye, a great sense of humour and turns a design around at frenetic pace. More importantly, he is just a bloody good bloke and has been an unspoken keystone of the Newstead story for years. He has also been pivotal in driving a brand refresh…
Spit-balling loads of utter garbage, we came close on a design that we called the “textures of Brisbane”. All of the Newstead core range beers are named after titbits of Brisbane history, a tongue-in-cheek hat-tipping to local lore. The textures were captured on my phone, at the exact locations where the stories took place. Ultimately, the textures were crap, so we scrapped them. Instead, we looked to the very core of things that are important for Newstead. Brisbane, fun, and stories. We engaged with the original illustrator, creating more line drawings for Heartacre, Polar Opposite and Windmill, cleaned up the cans, including the Brisbane river, which ran through multiple cans when you lined the up in a certain way, and just put the river on every single can, front and centre. The beers speak for themselves, each evolving their own personality, with no desire or need to force them into preconceptions or groupings. The look is simple but colourful, like skittles. The beers are a collective, but more independent than ever before, allowing a little bit of something for everyone (and a big f**k off DIPA for good measure).
Being clear in our purpose has also allowed our Executive Chief, Taita Olsen, to absolutely nail new-look menus at both brewpubs. Tay has fastidiously emulated the brewing ethos of clean, local products with no corners cut and the best flavours. Embarking on a Clean Food revolution, with 0% refined sugar used, all hand-cut fries, all 100% free-range meats (including our iconic buffalo-wings) and all local products where we can. The menus are gob-smackingly tasty, ever so slightly more healthy and will leave you feeling great on the inside and out. Our mushrooms come from West End, brownies from the Valley, our eggs from the very farm our spent grain goes to, our cheese is all aged in Brisbane, veggies from Loop Growers, potatoes are fresh, not frozen with preservatives. Beyond all of this, Tay has brought a joyfulness into the kitchens like has never been seen before. You will 100% hear her laughing from the kitchens on any visit to our two pubs. All class, and all heart, it has set up the kitchens to be pushing out the best food, by far, from any Newstead brewpub.
Our quality piece extends in 2020 with significant capital investment in the brewery. A spanking new canning line for both breweries, to hide the sins of poor original planning on my behalf, with counter pressure filling and a liquid nitrogen doser. This will drastically reduce our oxygen pick-up in the cans, improving the shelf life of the beer and preserving, in particular, the hop flavours we spend so much effort trying to get into the bloody beer.
We are going to be having some fun across the board this year, from 250mL retro cans, to nitro-IPAs and everything in between. March will also see us install a centrifuge for beer clarification, literally taking us to the last 5% of efficiencies, improving quality and supporting the sanity of our brewers.
And so in the face of ever increasing competition, and anti-competitive behaviours from the macro-breweries, we have recommitted to the zeitgeist of independent brewing, shunning the race to the bottom, and price-warfare in place of innovation and product development.
Finally, our community aspirations have driven the renovation of the attic at our Castlemaine Street, Milton brewpub. My uncle (a builder from Melbourne) was up for a visit and got solicited into helping with the renos. Working through his holidays and weekends he has created something we didn’t even realise we were lacking; a clean, blank canvas for 400+ patrons a mere two kilometres from Brisbane’s CBD. A unique venue to facilitate the exposé of local artists through exhibits like The Art Series, through market-day pop ups and through things like the Brisbane Arcade Collective 2020 Showcase; a 10-day pinball tournament with over 100 machines this August. We have created a space, in the centre of our town, for people of every inclination to come together and be part of something greater than ourselves. Our own village, with our own skills and expression, being supportive and exploratory together. And what a privilege that is.
Mark Howes, CEO.