Head Stomping Ground Brewer, Ashur Hall
How did you discover brewing beer?
I’d done a little bit of home brewing when I was a student. Really just to make myself a bit of booze and save a bit of cash. Then when I was studying engineering in Wollongong, I was trying to find a casual job, there wasn’t a lot of work around but I got a job in a bar which happened to have an attached bar. I got along well with the Head Brewer, and he offered me a job in the brewery – kegging, cleaning… eventually that led into brewing. I fell into it really, and pretty quickly realised I enjoyed it, I really looked forward to going to work every day. It was opportunistic, in uni I had joked with friends about one day retiring and starting a brew-pub somewhere, and then it kind of became a reality for me.
Are those friends jealous now?
Some, perhaps! It’s a pretty easy job to love.
What is your daily routine at work?
We come in at about 7.30, and get organised for whatever task we have laid out for the day. Then we have a long black. I’ve got three out of four of the brewers drinking long blacks now, which is good, it’s easier to make. Some days you might brew, some days you keg, some days you’re running a centrifuge, other days you’re doing tours and tastings or barrel work. It’s so varied, but whatever you do at the start there’s a set up, and the end there’s a pack down, you have to leave things clean and ready for the next day.
What’s the worst part of your job?
I don’t really look at any part of it as being bad. I don’t mind the dirty jobs we do, I don’t mind the noisy jobs we do, we have to get our hands dirty, but the hands-on nature is more suited to me, so I like that. It’s all part of the process, from grain to glass. Brewing is really only a small part of the everyday job, the rest is cleaning. If things aren’t sanitary, you’re not gonna make good beer. Maybe the worst part is that drinking a lot is, as my Mum says, an occupational hazard. I love beers and I love drinking, but there are a few weeks in the year when turning up to a bunch of events and having beers becomes more of a requirement than a choice.
What’s your “desert island” beer?
If I had to choose my five – it’s always gotta be five, it can’t only be one – it would be Rochefort 10, Rodenbach Grand Cru, and then I’d round it out with a strong Porter, a strong IPA, and a Helles lager.
What influences the flavours that you try to create?
We start with a base style, but we don’t try to just replicate something that’s already been done, it has to have a house twang. There’s so many different styles, so many different base ingredients: hops, malt, different yeasts, mineral additions. The ingredients and how you brew – the temperature, how long you boil the product for, fermentation – it will all influence the finished product. I could use the same yeast, malt and hops, in the same amounts, and then I could change just the salt additions and the ferment temperature and the beer would be vastly different. That, for me, is really interesting. The more I brew, the more simple some of my recipes become. I aim for a balanced flavour that I would like to drink, and hopefully other people will too.
How would you describe your style?
I’m not a very trendy guy. For work, I wear stubbies, a t-shirt, maybe a jacket when it’s cold, boots, goggles, earplugs. Outside of work, pretty much the same, minus the earplugs and goggles.
What’s the most important thing to look for in a boot?
I like lace up boots that have a bit of a safari look. Good leather, good soles, good construction.
If you could sit down for a beer with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose?
My Grandad. He passed away and I never really got to speak with him as an adult. I think he’d be happy with how I’ve turned out, and it would be a good conversation to have. He was also an engineer, he started with no training, fell into the job after the war, and ended up becoming a university professor.