Contract Brewing: The Devil’s Beer

"We are money hungry, we are jumping on the craft beer bandwagon"

We proudly brew our entire bottled product and a proportion of kegs at Brewpack in western Sydney. Their system is the same as ours (DME), except bigger, they use exactly the same malts, from the same suppliers, they use exactly the same hops, at the same times and in the same manner, they use exactly the same yeast and they even use the same filtration system for their water (Dowdens). They do not add any preservatives, there is no tetra-hops or hop extract, there is no added colour, there is no malt extract added, there is no sugar, nothing different to the very recipes we brew at Newstead, except hop concentrations, more on that later. So what’s all the fuss?

I’ve heard it all. We are money hungry, we are jumping on the craft beer bandwagon, we are corporatized, we don’t really “care” about craft, we are sell outs, we are less passionate, we get other people to do our work, we are not as crafty. If that is your opinion then I’m ok with it. I just hope you are aware that we are 100% Brisbane owned and operated. As a director I work full-time in the business, I brew twice a week (capacity) at Newstead. My parents are the financial backers, it’s a 100% family owned business. We provide space for gypsy brewers, we put other peoples beer on tap and in the fridge, we lend out equipment to fellow breweries. We have been nothing but open and honest about what we are doing and why. We employ two other brewers, one of whom (Gavin) has his own brewing company that we support. We constantly teach our staff about beer and we pay for their college education should they wish to learn more.

So lets get down to the big difference, it must be the taste and quality, right? Or is it perception? At the recent CBA awards three of our six bottled products scored a medal; Session, IPA and Amber. Session and IPA scored lower then the draught but Amber scored better. The biggest problem was oxidation, always an issue when bottling product. Not flavour, not fermentation faults, not brewhouse issues, just packaging. These samples were judged completely blind, by experts in the field.

What probably did not help with the perception of what we are doing at Brewpack was that the first batches were a simple scale up of the Newstead recipe. What we, subsequently, found was that we had to add more hops in the boil and more dry hop to hit a similar flavour on the Brewpack system. So the first run was probably a little tame in comparison. From the beginning of Newstead we also slightly update our recipe every batch, constantly changing and playing around with things. The never-ending pursuit of a great beer I guess you might say. So the Golden at Newstead is now very different to 12 months ago, or 6 months ago. The change at Brewpack goes slower as there is a longer time between batches and we are brewing to specific specifications.

So the next time someone tells you that the quality is somehow inferior at Brewpack, don’t simply take their word for it, go and try it for yourself. Compare it to the draught and see if you can honestly find any difference. The next time someone tells you that we are not committed to small business, or the culture in Brisbane, or other breweries, or what it means to be a microbrewery, make sure they get all the facts.

We are in the process of setting up a production facility in Brisbane, hiring even more beer loving enthusiasts, getting more good beer to the people and relieving the stranglehold of corporations on the beer market. If you have an issue with that then I make absolutely no apology.

Mark Howes