I first met Tom in March 2015 at the Stone and Wood Brewery in Byron Bay. Whilst assisting in that year’s Stone Beer, he also helped to create another limited release; The Beers of the Earth. Tom has since moved to South Australia and is leading up the brewing at Barossa Valley Brewing Company. In his spare time, Tom has started a side project, making Sparkling Mead with honey from the Riverland. Sunlight Liquor mead is a refreshing, dry, sessionable drink that would be perfect for a hot day. After having a conversation with Tom, it is evident that he has a strong passion for sourcing ingredients locally and he has an in depth knowledge of botany. Have a read of his answers.
Q1. Who are you and how are you involved in the SA beer industry?
G’day, I’m Tom O’Reilly and I head up the brewing at Barossa Valley Brewery.
Also, I’ve just started up a little fermentation company called Sunlight Liquor along with my mate Eddy, where we use craft brewing techniques to make session meads from interesting local honeys.
Q2. What are some of the great moments you have had whilst being involved in this industry?
Getting to brew Stone Beer and Beers of The Earth whilst cutting my teeth at Stone & Wood are great memories from the brew deck. Also a fair few special moments involved in helping set up the sustainability program up there – particularly the Murwillumbah site’s solar installation being turned on as well as when we started composting all of our yeast and trub on the farm next door.
More recently, it was a nice bit of feedback to receive a gold medal for the Hop Heaven at the AIBA’s last month. On top of that, that same week we released our first offering at Sunlight Liquor, our Sparkling Orange Blossom session mead – that was a pretty good feeling!
Q3. Predicting the future, what trends are coming in the near future for beer in Australia?
Fresh sour and botanically infused beers are sure to grow with the well-being movement. I’m passionate about sourcing local ingredients and think that punters will become increasingly interested in finding a sense of place in the beer they drink….aaand of course I’m sure there’ll soon be a mad rush for fresh local session meads!
Q4. What is your favourite beer style and how did this come to be?
It’s hard to choose a favourite, when season, setting and mood always come into it. Considering I crave acidity and have a soft spot for caramelised malt I’ll go with sour reds.
Q5. Where is one place that you would love to see good beer served?
The local pub.
Q6. Do you have any exciting news you can share with me? Maybe about future plans, collaborations or anything new?
At BVB we’ve been having fun with barrels, fruit-beers and fortifies so expect some interesting stuff to come.
For Sunlight Liquor there’s been a great Pink Gum honey flow this autumn that we’ll be co-fermenting with some brewing ingredients and brewing buddies!
Q7. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Sunshine and tea.
Q8. Do you dream about beer? If so, what is your most memorable dream about beer?
Probably the time I dreamt that I put toasted malted oats in every beer in the brewery. When I woke up I realised that it was almost true. Still love GNO though.
Q9. What is your favourite season for beer drinking? Why?
When the weather warms in spring and we’re all outdoors again with hardly anything on – beers in the sunshine!
Q10. If you could choose any profession, what would it be? Why?
Farm-based mead-maker for the fresh air, food and ferments.
The fortified program should be an interesting one to watch in the near future, especially if their GABS beer (18% fortified barrel aged imperial stout) is anything to go by. I have seen Tom’s session mead in a few places now; apart from the brewery, you can also buy it from Sturt Street Cellars. I look forward to Tom’s next mead instalment and wish him the best of luck with the fermentation project. Thanks Tom.