Craft Beer At Local Markets – Times Have Changed

IMG_1413So I was at this small Twilight Market in Hobart last week and had a fantastic time there with the wife and kids. There were plenty of people around, it was warm and sunny until about 8pm (one of the benefits of living where I do, long twilight hours), and there was something for everyone.

And when I say everyone, I mean it…there was great food, music, arts and crafts, lots of room for people to sit around and relax, play equipment or the millions of kids running around all juiced up on ice cream and handmade fudge, and yes, there was craft beer!

I am not sure about where you live but only a few years back at these kinds of markets down here, there would have been wonderful food, some of the finest wines around (Tassie does great wine), the arts and craft thing and then maybe a school or sporting club tucked away in a corner with a few eskis filled to the brim with generic light beer covered by a single bag of ice. For the craft beer lover, or any beer lover in their right mind, a bottle of warm light beer just does not cut it in 20+ degrees on a Summers night (or any night), and the while experience was spoiled.

Somewhere in the last few years, along with the proliferation of local micro breweries, someone obviously thought that there was a market in giving beer drinkers the same choice and quality that the wine drinkers were always able to enjoy and replaced the sporting clubs sorry excuse for a beer stall with a couple of local brewers looking to share their wares.

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Walking down the main part of the market last week I saw men and women walking around with plastic cups (ok, you have to make some concessions for it being outside) full of carbonated liquids that ranged in colour from almost see through to the darkest of blacks…the local produced beer and ciders from my home town. Now for many of you, this may not seem like such a big deal, your local town may have had this type of arrangement at markets for many years. But for me, who lives on an island with a population of 500,000 people and has two foreign owned breweries, one from both of the major players in the Australian beer industry at each end of the island…giving the smaller guys a look in at these type of grass-roots events has been a long time coming.

For the major players, the amount of beer sold at these types of events would probably be the equivalent to what is sold at one contracted pub in the city on quiet weeknight, but for the small guys looking to connect with the community and the local beer lovers…this exposure is priceless.

I briefly caught up a couple of the new guys around town, Klimt Donohoe and Michael Rybak, co-owners of Spotty Dog Brewers and American BBQ. Sadly, I was too late to get a taste of their (apparently) delicious BBQ Brisket, but I did have a glass of their nice Summer Ale while we had a chat.

Klimt & MIchael with their BBQ Brisket

Klimt & Michael with their BBQ Brisket

Beer Healer: Great beer guys! What do you love about doing these type of markets?

Klimt: For me it’s getting our brand out there.  We started doing the Hobart Twilight Market to prove our concept, of great dude food and craft beer.  So for me, anytime someone gives me feedback, I’m listening and trying to learn.

Michael: It’s the face to face interaction with people. Obviously hearing feedback on our Summer Pale ale is really exciting, as is talking about the background to the story for Spotty Dog. But also meeting new people and hearing about their food / drink experiences from Tasmania and around the world.

Beer Healer: Are you noticing a change in the knowledge of your drinkers?

Michael: We’ve been teaching our family and friends with each pilot batch we have brewed, and they are keen to learn. As we have only launched one beer to the public, it’s been a little more difficult, but they are also keen.

Klimt: I think people are really willing to try new beers and they’re starting to ask questions. Where is it brewed, do you use Tasmanian ingredients etc.  I think we may have challenged a few people with the colour of our Summer Pale.  I’ve had a few blokes tell me it’s not very pale.

12345428_1700356356867167_2759360085818736597_nBeer Healer: What’s the camaraderie like between the local micro brewers that are here? Do you all catch up for a beer afterward and share your thoughts on the event?

Klimt: To be honest everyone is pretty focused on pack up after the event!  If we’ve had a quiet night (that doesn’t happen often), or we’ve sold out early I will go and try something from Dave at Devils or Tom and his better half at T-Bone. I will say that I think the general camaraderie in the local scene is pretty awesome and supportive!

Michael: Yeah, everyone is interested in helping each other out in terms of brewing information, business etc.  In terms of the general industry we feel really supported.  We have a really solid relationship with our mates at Last Rites (where we contract brew).

Beer Healer: Do you find that you are getting repeat customers at the markets you attend, or are you always serving people who are new to the brand?

Klimt: We have some awesome repeat customers, but it’s often a lot of people new to the brand.  Though at the Hobart Twilight Market, Michael and I are always making the food, so we don’t get to have as many interactions as our wives who “run” the front of house ha ha!  I personally love telling our story to new customers, and then recognising them at another event!

Michael: It tends to be a bit of both!  There are some familiar faces that always come back to the Twilight market, and tend to also follow us to other events when they hear of them – thanks Facebook.  We tend to also see a lot of new faces when we head out to new events.

Beer Healer: How hard has it been to make the jump from Homebrew to Microbrew?

Michael: The plan to microbrew has been 5 years in the making, with everything along the way being part of the plan to open a microbrew pub!  While it has been challenging and certainly not easy, having a clear end goal and plan to get there means we are prepared for each step.

Klimt: Oh yeah, bloody hard!  It’s the paperwork, the uncertainty and putting yourself out there 1,000 litres at a time!  I personally consider myself a bit of a perfectionist and it’s rare that I’m 100% happy with something as I mark myself very harshly.  That said, there is something amazing about seeing people enjoying your beer next to you in a pub, or that first taste of a finished batch.

Beer Healer: What are the future plans for Spotty Dog?

Klimt: In the near term, our IPA (early sample pictured here) is almost ready and will be released next month!

Michael: And in terms of the big future plans, we’re still very focussed on opening our brewpub in Hobart combining our food and beers.

Klimt:  We’ve also got a few cracking recipes we’ve been working on that we’re looking to release soon.

Beer Healer: What’s your favourite beer right now, from:

Tasmania

Klimt: I want to say Kicksnare’s Brewing Stompbox IPA.  Seriously juicy.  But I reckon my equal first would be Last Rites’ Pina Colada.  Straight from the brite tank one afternoon with Brett and Phil from Last Rites.  A bloody special craft beer experience!!! Hard question!

Michael: Spotty Dog Summer Ale.  Easily.  Ha ha. No I think Pina Colada by Last Rites.  But there were other close contenders, like T-Bone Brewing’s Amarillo Golden Ale.

Australia

Michael: Hawkers IPA.  Easy pick.

Klimt: Another hard one.  Shout out to Hawkers IPA, Pirate Life IIPA and Kaiju Big Kahuna (which I most recently over indulged in at Preachers).

Overseas

Klimt: Sixpoint Brewing – Resin DIPA.  Hands down.  No contest for me.  But something from Stone Brewing.

Michael: Stone Brewing  – Arrogant Bastard.  Drinking this in NYC while eating ribs in a pub below street level.

Beer Healer: Do you have a New Beers Resolution?

Klimt: Release more beers!  I’m pretty focussed on at least 2 new IPAs, a couple of double IPAs and two releases for next summer (that I am not allowed to discuss).

Michael: Not such much a resolution as that implies a change.  My new year’s commitment is to brew awesome new beers for Spotty Dog.

Sounds like these guys are ramping up for a very busy 2016. If you are local to Tasmania, look out for them in good craft bars and at markets across the summer. If you are interstate, you may need to wait a little longer to sample one of their brews.

IMG_1405Well that ended my evening at the markets, I had a full tummy, happy kids and wife, and was impressed with the craft beers on offer. If you haven’t been to a local market recently, I encourage you to get out there and walk up the local micro brewery’s tent and have a chat with the brewer/owner, accountant/marketer and cleaner etc. These guys put their heart and soul into chasing their brewing dreams, and often put their finances on the line to fulfil it…they love to talk about their beer and share their passion with like-minded individuals, so seek them out!

As for me, well after talking to a few of the micro brew guys in recent times, I think my dreams of one day brewing my own beer are just that, dreams. I have considered contract brewing, but have a lot to learn before I could seriously consider it. So for now, I will just enjoy the beers that I produce of a weeknight or weekend up in the old Green Shed.

Cheers to great beers!