Sean here, I wanted to write another post to further explain our story, background and dreams that Future Magic has allowed us to realise. There's a romantic notion that many home brewers go through, of wanting to sell their beer and start a brewery. This notion can take hold in some and light a fire that drives them to go on and take the plunge. In others the fire gets doused quickly when they realise how bloody hard it is to actually do! So where do I fit in on this scale? Kind of a foot in both camps.
Like most commercial brewers I started out as a home brewer. I am fascinated by processes and things that represent a marriage of art and science, so something like brewing piqued this interest and I was immediately hooked. I wanted to brew everything under the sun, write it all down and use that to do it all again but better. To do just this, I started a blog (newbeerginnings.com) to document my development and learning about the process. This started with some VERY basic (embarrassingly basic now looking back) knowledge that grew and got more accurate as time went on.
It was during this time that I first had the thought of opening a brewery. I knew that I couldn't do it alone, nor could I do it without some sort of experience. To do either would be a fools errand and a masterclass in how to fail before you started!
So I sought advice. I posted everywhere asking for advice on opening a brewery and I got a message from absolute dead-set industry legend Steve 'Hendo' Henderson of "BrewCult" fame and more. We set up a meeting to go over the plan and pick it apart and give me a sanity check. The result? It was definitely picked apart and I was provedutterly bonkers, thanks Hendo!...Seriously. Now after listening to many others that have also had similar conversations he's saved many others from falling into the same traps I was planning. It was sage advice and although it wasn't welcome at the time, I came to realise it was the reality-check I needed.
My thoughts went something like this: "Well shit, there goes that plan. What now? How else can I act on this advice and turn it into something positive?" The answer was pretty simple, get educated and get experience. So I continued on with my studies and looked for jobs that would give me experience. I was absolutely still doing this, but this time I would do it smart.
Through a stroke of sheer luck I landed a job at one of my favourite brisbane breweries, Ballistic Beer Co. I originally applied for the most common position you start out at in a brewery, packaging assistant. Which is standing at the end of the canning line catching cans and putting them into cartons as quick as you can. What I ended up getting was a bit of a dream job of an assistant brewer.
What Does A Job In A Brewery Look Like?
This is something a lot of home brewers want to know. The best answer I've heard to this is "it's hard, hot work, you're wet or covered in hops/yeast for most of the day, it is rough and not everybody is cut out for it. It's far from the visions most people have of a bunch of people with beards standing around and talking about recipes!" That statement is exactly right, it is incredibly hard work. There is always something to do, and you do get covered in yeast or chemicals almost constantly. If you're brewing in summer, it can be 35ºC outside but you're standing inside surrounded by thousands of litres of liquid at 80ºC or higher. This can bring the ambient temperature around the brew house to 40+ºC , add to that running around like a maniac because you're boiling one batch, mashing in the next, finishing off cleaning your tank, getting hoses together to run from the brewhouse to the tank. It is definitely hard work and not for everyone. Lucky I love it!
In my assistant brewer role at Ballistic I quickly realised that I had made the right decision, this job was for me, I found it fulfilling, fun and full of opportunities to learn. I learned more about beer than I thought possible in such a short space of time from talking beer non-stop for 40 hours a week, every week.
The thing that struck me the hardest was how dissimilar commercial brewing and home brewing are. They are worlds apart. The detail in the process, the measured decisions behind every little thing, the level of record-keeping, everything was dialled up to 11. Had I attempted to open a brewery back when I first talked to Hendo about it I would've had a gigantic shock. Thanks again for warning me mate!
As mentioned before, part of my personality heavily relies on the process of continuous improvement, along with a love of learning. I threw everything I could into my assistant brewer role, learning about cellaring, centrifuging/filtering, quality management and control as well as wort production. My goal was to be moved up from assistant to shift brewer by displaying my keenness to self improve and show both initiative as well as responsibility. I was overjoyed when I reached this goal. In reality there wasn't much difference between what I was doing as an assistant brewer except for gaining a bit more autonomy and ability to make decisions. I will be forever grateful to the start that Ballistic has given me and to the team there for being equal parts the best and weirdest bunch of people I've ever worked with. I'm eternally in your debt guys, cheers.
This extra responsibility has stood me in good stead for Future Magic without doubt.
So You STILL Want To Start A Brewery?!
Some time after being at Ballistic a familiar itch rose from the ashes and needing scratching. "Hey, remember the brewery you wanted to start?" Well Rhys and I had never given up on the dream so we got talking about how we're going to do this and we got the ball rolling. So we got more help, advice and support to help us on the way. Making use of old friends, new connections and just a few cold calls to industry legends we're now on the right track to build a great place for our community to gather. They say it takes a village to raise a child and the saying is true in this case. Future Magic is our baby and we want to see it thrive, the help and advice we've received up to this point has been incredible and we would not have gotten as far as we have in the time that we have without it. Thanks to all involved for helping us realise a dream, we can't wait to see where this road takes us.
Bye for now, next time I'll hopefully have some even more exciting news to share, but you never know, you'll just have to keep reading!