17 September 2018
"I am proud to sit down and drink any one of the beers we are producing at the moment"
At Newstead we constantly talk about two things; quality and community. While being largely subjective terms, they provide a sense of focus in how we execute our products. Newstead does not just provide a hopped, fermented malt product, we are in the business of providing an experience. I’ve had the pleasure of running about 10 sessions now of the Newstead Beer School 101, a very basic introduction to beer sensory analysis and some of the underlying chemistry involved in beer manufacture. I have been overwhelmingly (and gladly) surprised at the level of basic knowledge garnered by the broader public, in regard to the complexities of beer, while being spectacularly underwhelmed by the success we as a company have achieved in telling our story. The single best question I had in those sessions was non-scientific and lied at the very heart of what Newstead struggles to communicate… “Do you produce a beer to satisfy a market or do you make the beers you want to produce?”. A simple question with what should result in a simple answer, but one that gave me pause.
From the inception of Newstead, I have always aspired to creating a brewery that achieves balance. Intensity of flavour, degree of experimentation, even consistency are less admirable, to me, than achieving balance. Sierra Nevada, Bridge Road Brewers, Beavertown, Schneider, Two Birds… they all make exceptional beers but what really sets them apart is that when they make a Pale Ale, it is bang-on, what a Pale Ale should be. If they make an IPA, it has malt presence as well as a significant hop kick. If they make a Pilsner it is soft and peppery. And when they make a double whipped, extra-large, rainbow fruited, New England, triple bruted, seismic, session, truffled Sahti they make a great example of one of those too. To me, the real beauty in brewing lies in understanding and control. To manage each part of the process in the correct way to achieve a clean, well-made beer with all the intended flavours. Exactly what those flavours are, remain largely inconsequential. I love the process more than the conclusion. Pete Aldred, of Federation University and my old lecturer, once said that when he would visit a new brewery he would try the lager first (assuming they had one) as it would tell him the quality of the brewer. A clean and crisp lager with good hop presence and a slight phenolic character is a truly beautiful thing because it is difficult to achieve. While anyone can make an 8% Double IPA that tastes like a Werther’s Original.
With that in mind, Newstead set out to make quality beer. And, like any business that grew too fast for itself, we have had our struggles, both in equipment and in staff. What we have learnt along the way, however, has been invaluable. And, hand on heart, we have always made the beers that we want to make. A prime example of this is ‘The Ballymore‘, our Queensland Lager. To start, the pure joy of the privilege in making a beer called ‘The Ballymore‘ and having the Newstead logo up on The Hill out at the stadium has been indescribable to a young rugby nut that grew up watching the greats of Australian rugby at Ballymore. Most importantly, however, when set with the task of producing a beer that defines rugby in Brisbane, we applied ourselves judiciously. It is a mid-strength lager and designed to be drunk while enjoying the rugby. But it is also not just another Queensland middie. It is hop driven, fruity and bitter and probably more challenging for most supporters than what they have experienced before. But we are more than happy to take that risk (and even put small segments off) in order to bring people with us on the journey into good beer. It is a great beer and, without coercion, is the beer that all the Newstead brewers are drinking on a weeknight at home and that really says a lot.
Another great example that encapsulates our commitment to both quality and community is ‘Nineteen 09‘, our partnership Coastal Ale made with Surf Life Saving Queensland. We brewed a few pilot batches for the good folk at SLSQ’; a pilsner, an Australian Pale, an American Pale and even and American IPA. Much to our delight they shied from the more subtle beers and went with the APA recipe. So, we found a nice balance between a summery style that you would smash after a day at the beach and some dank American hops that are more challenging than what the mainstream are used to. What a terrific result. Not only do we get to partner with an incredible Queensland institution, but we get to challenge their patrons and bring them on the journey into good beer as well.
It is a fine balance that we walk. Often described as “not crafty enough” by some and “too crafty” by others, we have tried to produce styles for everyone, while also making the beers in the way we want. At the end of the day, I am proud to sit down and drink any one of the beers we are producing at the moment…and I have not been able to say that about Newstead over the last two years.
As we relentlessly learn how to produce at a large (for us) scale it was wonderful to be reminded that we must stick to our convictions; to make the best versions of each style that we produce.
Mark Howes, Chief Executive Officer.