Times; They Are A Changing

"Hindsight is 20/20..."

Coaxing the evolution of a business and a brand is a strange old beast. From the inception of Newstead, clearly, I wanted to impart my own ideas and influence on, not only the way things were done, but also how the brand was perceived in the market. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m the first to admit I made some many cock-ups along the way, as we determined the best way to enter the market and position our products. I think the market has vastly and rapidly morphed in the last three years as well, and it has been a challenge to keep pace. Such has been the speed of the last 36 months that most people are genuinely surprised when they find out Newstead is set to celebrate only its 3rd birthday on the 7th of December. Nonetheless, the inception of a new brewery for Newstead in 2017 has allowed a rare chance of introspection, adaptation and rebirth.

My initial intent for this post was to highlight our three biggest mistakes over the last three years and how we are addressing them. Instead, I’ve decided to use this space to celebrate the vision of Newstead and how we are equipping ourselves to enter the second phase of our family brewery. Simply put, there are two things we want Newstead to be known for; quality and community.

Producing objectively great beer has been neither necessary nor sufficient for the success of the extant crop of craft breweries in Australia. However, as the market becomes more educated and saturated, the attainment of beer quality will become ever more important. A gross lack of standards, consistency and investment has seen a lot of dribble splayed across the shelves of independent retailers and venues around Australia. While it would be grossly hypocritical of me to call anyone out, across the board craft breweries have to do a better job. From Newstead’s perspective we have tackled this problem on multiple fronts.

Dr Kerry Claydon
Dr Kerry Claydon

Firstly, it is with great pleasure that December sees us install Dr Kerry Claydon as our Head Brewer. Kerry has a terrific pedigree, being the current National Microbiologist for CUB, and previously holding senior microbiology positions at Lion. It does not take a postdoc to work out that quality control and analysis will be our central focus moving forward, even to the point of our head of production having a PhD in microbiology. Having unpasteurised and additive free beer in package, with a best before of 12 months, means we are going to have to absolutely nail QA and QC. Secondly, we have heavily invested in instrumentation that will allow us to analyse the salient parameters of beer quality, ensuring we are putting the best possible product into our kegs and package. Thirdly, we have partnered with The University of Queensland on various research projects, looking to unlock the science behind some of the more adventurous avenues of our production. In time, we are hopeful this will help us vastly improve our methods of production.

If quality is the first axiom of Newstead’s core beliefs, then community is the second. Early on, I had the ethereal ideal of Newstead being a marketplace for all things craft beer. Not just to provide lip service to the craft beer community but to actually make a substantiative difference in the Brisbane scene. We have approached this goal via a number of mechanisms which include providing space for other breweries (especially those who do not often find a voice), space for education and space for experimentation.

As we have seen with our now defunct Tuesday Tap Takeovers, and their current incarnation, the Tap Residency, simply giving some tap space to fellow companies generates much excitement. Customers love the story of who is making their beer, what stupid beer style they are drinking and why the brewer decided to make it. Extending from this and once the new production facility is operational, we will be able to assist some of the many excellent gypsy brewers in Brisbane with a chance to produce and hawk their wares, so to speak. We will also seek to push further into our commitment to collaborate with everyone, building on the 50 collaborations we have executed thus far. I feel that it would be hypocritical of us to expect our locals to support us if we didn’t attempt to support others.

Tim Goulding (photo courtesy Wandering Cooks)
Tim Goulding (photo courtesy Wandering Cooks)

December is certainly the start of the rebirth for Newstead, which sounds stupid after only three years of trade. As well as Kerry, we will see young Tim Goulding coming on board to brew with us part-time. Those who frequent the many fine beer haunts of Brisbane will know Tim as either the man behind Brewtal Brewers or the good looking chap that tends the bar at The Scratch. Tim’s appointment at Newstead is so important to me because, well primarily he is a mate and a legend, but it reinforces why brewing is such a fantastic industry. Tim is your classic humble, hard-working dad, giving things a shot. I could not be prouder as a mate to see how things are progressing with Brewtal and to give him the opportunity to have a dig at brewing, as a profession, is a privilege. It also exemplifies Newstead’s commitment to education, training and development.

Finally, and as I have already alluded to, Newstead is looking to invest in experimentation. With the production facility online in 2017, the pressure is off of the Doggett Street site to produce core range product. That means we have four fermenters that we can dedicate to (a) gypsy brewers, (b) collaborations, (c) experimentation and (d) pure research. We are, hopefully, about to partner with UQ in the sponsorship of a PhD student. Their project will focus on the metabolic description of the wild yeasts of Brisbane, with the aim to make a pleasing, Brisbane farmhouse style beer. I am personally hopeful that this is just the start of a significant relationship with UQ and research in general.

Let’s not be coy, we have made a few compromises to get where we are. The creation of the Milton production facility has gone some length to justify those compromises and I simply cannot wait to bring 100% of the production of Newstead beers back in-house. 2017 will see us change how we look, how we package, how we taste and how we go about business but most importantly it will allow us to be the things we always wanted to be. From running beer flavour flaw nights, to teaching gypsy brewers, from hosting international brewers to providing liquid yeast strains to other brewers…next year is just the beginning.

Mark Howes.