Haaaaaave You Met……Western Ridge Brewing Collective?

‘Haaaaaave you met’, shines a spotlight on the brewery owners, the brewers, venue managers, the beer pourers, the sales representatives, bottle shop workers and the beer drinkers of the SA craft beer industry. We will discover their inner secrets, find out what gets them out of bed in the morning and we might even unravel some exclusive news along the way. The hard questions have been asked, so you don’t have to. Enjoy!

Western Ridge Group Shot_2016011-1 copy.jpg
Photograph by Martin Ritzmann

Meet the Western Ridge Brewing and Distilling Collective, one of the youngest brewing companies in South Australia. From left to right we have Tim Hardy, David Henderson, Alex Marschall and Olexij Straschko. After having a short conversation with these guys a few details about their brewing becomes very clear; they want to support local ingredient providers. As there is four in this group, Western Ridge will be split in half and featured over two episodes. First up, we have Tim and David to introduce, take a look at their thoughts on the craft beer industry. Be prepared for a read because there is some in depth answers here.

Q1. Who are you and how are you involved in the SA beer industry?

David: I’m David Henderson, founder and part owner of Western Ridge Brewing & Distilling Co. better known as the Western Ridge Brewing Collective.  We are the new kids on the block in the SA craft scene.  Currently contract brewers with a plan to launch our own brewery and cellar door when we can find the right space.

Tim: I am Tim Hardy and I am one of four brewers and owners of Western Ridge Brewing Collective.

Q2. What are some of the great moments you have had whilst being involved in this industry?

David: So many great and supportive conversations and characters, our brewery only exists because other brewers supported our journey with advice and in our case, Brenton Rehn from Rehn Bier provided us access to a brewery.  But I really have to be selfish with my answer; the greatest moment was when I was able to buy a pint of my beer from a real pub that did not have any reason to buy it other than faith in our product quality.

Tim: One of our greatest moments is probably our launch at the Sturt Street Cellars and the great feedback we got from friends and family and punters; it makes all the hard work worthwhile when you see people enjoying our product.

Q3. Predicting the future, what trends are coming in the near future for beer in Australia?

David: I’m expecting we will see greater demand for genuine provenance and transparency with the increased price of craft beer.  People will become less tolerant of expensive pints which aren’t sourced from genuinely small producers with real stories or traceable origins; they won’t be happy just providing a large business with extra margin, they would rather support the smaller player.  This will drive batch sizes down and demand greater variety of different styles and flavours. Contract brewers will come under much more pressure to demonstrate why people should buy their recipes and will need to be very transparent and have a story that is leading to their own site or compelling in its own right.  The faux craft; corporate and venture capital micro (and macro) breweries will find it harder and harder to build a compelling narrative as to why you should pay so much for their beer. We honestly believe craft beer consumers will more and more become focused on the brewers who make the beer rather than the brand behind the beer when it comes to deciding what they buy. We actually think people are becoming more fractured and less loyal to brands and far more interested in walking through different choices.

Tim: I think it’s hard to put a finger on the pulse of trends these days, as breweries are coming up with new ideas pretty regularly. I’m thinking the next trend might be fruit beers.

Q4. What is your favourite beer style and how did this come to be?

David: Hard Call.  Super hard call…  Ale (is that a cop out?).  Seriously though, for me brown to dark ales; including ambers.  Those hints of caramel, lighter carbonation and robust malts allow them to carry a lot more bitterness hidden in their generous depths.

Tim: My favourite beer style would have to be British style golden ales and pale ales. I fell in love with beers from Scottish breweries such as St Andrews Brewing Company, Cromarty Brewing Company and Black Isle Brewery. Their beers are always so well balanced and though I have made many an attempt to try and recreate them, I haven’t quite cracked it yet…but I am persistent.

Q5. Where is one place that you would love to see good beer served?

David: Major sporting events. (shout out to Garage Project and their muscling into the A-League!!).  More seriously I would say EVERYWHERE.  The lockout of tap access through restrictive license conditions (preventing new venues opening or installing taps) or long term contracts and exclusive sponsorships that are a barrier to competition need to be dealt with.  We also, more broadly, should be able to buy awesome beer and wines in all kinds of places regardless of what kind of business it is, which giant foreign corporation or genuine craft producer makes them.

Tim: I would love to see my local pub in Tanunda devote a few more taps to local brewers. There are four breweries in the Barossa that I know of but very few Barossa pubs pour local beer.

Q6. Do you have any exciting news you can share with me? Maybe about future plans, collaborations or anything new?

David: Let’s see who let slip what secrets, since we are filling these out separately!!  We have made less than 500 litres of beer between September 2016 to January 2017, so everything is exciting at the moment.  The most awesome bright light on the horizon is the real possibility of having sufficient local hop harvest and a local malt supplier allowing us to brew a harvest pale ale with all ingredients from a 20km radius which can legitimately carry Barossa Valley as an appellation claim!

Tim: We as a team are always coming up with ideas and trying to find new ways to push the boundaries. While nothing is set in stone yet keep an eye and a thirst out for a potentially tasty collaboration with Rieslingfreak in the works.

Q7. What gets you out of bed in the morning?

David: Pugs.  Two pugs sneezing and snuffling and outright barking for attention.  If it wasn’t for them, I’d sleep until my brew timer alarm went off…

Tim: My dog, my wife and the endless discovery of music, beer, wine and spirits.

Q8. Do you dream about beer? If so, what is your most memorable dream about beer?

David: Standing behind our own bar in the cellar door that doesn’t exist yet, with an infinitely long row of wooden casks that I am moving along with a mallet and sack full of taps, just tapping keg after wonderful keg of genuine real cask ale…  Now that I have written that down, it sounds kind of like dreaming about a chore.  I assume had I not woken up I planned to drink the beer too!

Tim: Beer, wine or some kind of beverage always seems to worm its way into my dream bank. The most memorable dream would probably be when I dreamt my eyes were really dry and I was using some Laphroaig whisky as eye drops. Though I haven’t done it in reality, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Q9. What is your favourite season for beer drinking? Why?

David: I don’t understand the question…  Beer, like oxygen, whisky, wine, brandy, port, water, coffee and good food is something everyone needs all the time!

Tim: It would have to be spring. That’s the time when everyone comes out of hibernation and wants to catch up, so it’s clearly a great time to crack some beer and enjoy the sun before the summer’s scorching heat.

Q10. If you could choose any profession, what would it be? Why?

David: Astronaut.  I feel that the general coolness of space should be sufficiently self evident!

Tim: I would be a brewer, because BEER!!!!!

It is certainly great to see other brewers helping out start up companies; well done Brenton Rehn from Rehn Bier. It seems these guys have some big plans in the near future and are very excited by owning their own company. Mid-week I will feature the other two, Alex and Olexij. Cheers

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