Talking Dark Beer With Russ Gosling, Little Creatures Head Brewer
Apologies if you were clicking through to read an interview with the “other” R. Gosling. This R. Gosling, Russ, is the real deal and he has recently brewed a beer that might just be the first of its kind in this country. It’c called the Hotchkiss Six, and it’s a Session Stout!
I had the pleasure of having a chat with Russ recently, read on if you love beer, or just have five minutes to kill!
Me: Hey Russ, thanks for joining me today, I really appreciate your time:
Russ: No problems, happy to help out a fellow beer lover! What did you think of the beer?
Me: I really like it you know. My whole thing is that with a busy life and a family I quite enjoy mid-strength beer. While this isn’t exactly a mid-strength for me it has bloody hit the spot. I remember last year’s Return of the Dread, it was great but a pretty big beer!
Russ: Yeah it was up there mate!
Me: I still had a couple in the fridge from last year, had one this week and it is still a ripper! When I heard that you guys had decided to still brew a stout this year, but a lower ABV version, I thought that was a sensational idea. What’s the response been like on it?
Russ: Very positive. We were a little concerned because the Dread was very popular and people would like to see it available permanently. There was always a thought of bringing out a lower ABV stout would be a challenge or a disappointment to some, but our philosophy is to produce great balanced beers that we enjoy and are proud of, that are distinctive. One of the beautiful things about beer, in my opinion, is that there is a beer for every individual for every occasion, your opportunities to explore are endless. At Creatures, we are all about celebrating beer and whether that be beer styles, or ABV, it’s the beer in the glass at the end of the day that we focus on and if we enjoy it then we are happy.
Me: I guess the fact that you are owned by a big brewer you will get those naysayers that recon the lower ABV is all about trying to make a few extra bucks?
Russ: Well actually Lion wanted us to do the Return Of The Dread again. But we as a team discussed the idea and thought that If we were to do a Winter and a Summer seasonal again ,and just repeat Dread and Dog Days, then are we just on a loop every year, repeating the same beers. So we kind of pitched to them that we wanted to mix it up and challenge ourselves and continue that innovation process. Some may be disappointed that we didn’t go for a big ballsy stout, and internally it was a challenge to get our views across that we wanted to do something different as a team but we all ended up agreeing, and here we are.
Me: Wow, that’s really refreshing to hear. In this day and age with some smaller breweries being bought out by larger companies, the conversation always turns to the beers being simplified and ending up just like everyone else, losing your creativity. So the fact that you were able to have that discussion and get a great outcome for your team is fantastic.
So what I am hearing in that is that you don’t want to do Dog Days again and that maybe you will have another tasty little summer release up your sleeve this year?
Russ: Yes. We won’t be doing dog days again as our Summer Seasonal, it will be something else. And then we might even mix it up a bit more next year and give ourselves a little more scope to be creative by not doing Summer and Winter, but spring or Autumn beer releases. That doesn’t mean this is the end of Dog Days however.
Me: Wait. Hold up. Have you just given me an exclusive? A scoop? Is this something people might be hearing for the first time? That’s a first for bee healer.com! Thanks Russ!
So let’s get back on to the dark beers for a sec…are you a Dark beer fan yourself?
Russ: Oh yes, but I drink all types of beers really, I don’t like to pigeon hole myself into liking one or another style. I like hops, that’s a given, and yeah I do like darker beers in the colder months, but to be honest I just like all types of beers!
Me: Do you actually get cooler months over there in Western Australia?
Russ: Well, not really. Not like the UK. That was one of the thought processes with Hotchkiss, we wanted to make a really good stout with a lower ABV that you could enjoy all year round, in all temperatures.
Me: I think what you are doing here is working against those misconceptions that people have with dark beers that they are all thick and chewy. I don’t get why people get scared of dark beers and say they “don’t do dark beers”? For me, this is a really appealing beer that this is nowhere near chewy…it’s dark yep, but you can hold it up to the light and see the reddish hues.
Russ: Yeah exactly, no need to be scared, just enjoy it. I think this beer could be a great way to get people into dark beers. Shout your mate one, hold it up to the light for them and let them taste the great flavours…I reckon they’ll come back for more!
Me: You mentioned before that you were from the UK, so whats your history as far as craft brewing is concerned?
Russ: I worked for 6 breweries in the UK, moving along when they closed up. Of the ones I worked for, Fullers might be the best known out here. Eventually I got sick of brewery closures and my wife and I filled a backpack each, no work lined up, and we came out to Australia.
Me: Straight to Perth and Little Creatures?
Russ: Well we arrived in Perth because I knew there were a few craft breweries around. It seemed like a good place to meet and greet, go around the industry and make a few contacts. My plan was that if it didn’t work out we would eventually move across to Melbourne, but within a couple of months I had a job with Creatures and that was 11 years ago!
Me: Oh wow, that’s a great story…nothing like rolling the dice and coming up sweet! So you started actually brewing when?
Russ: About 20 years ago. I did a degree in Cell and Molecular Biology, and one of the modules was fermentation studies where we did a tour of a brewery and I thought to myself that it was awesome…better than donning a white lab coat and working in some kind of lab. I got excited about creating something cool like beer with a good team of people and achieving something I was passionate about.
Me: Nice! Not sure if you got to read my Six Degrees of Sep-Beer-Ation last week, but I wonder if you have a story linking your beer journey to someone else in anther part of the country.
Fake Russ: Great article by the way! (Okay, he didn’t say that!).
Real Russ: Nothing specific, but I was really proud at the recent AIBA awards to see so many ex-creatures getting up and winning awards. As you say, Creatures has been quite the breeding ground for young brewing talent. We all keep in touch and are active members of the craft brewing community.
Me: so what is the best dark beer you have ever had, but haven’t brewed yourself?
Russ: Way to put me on the spot . One we brewed at Ushers of Throwbridge, the Dark Horse Porter…it was great, but no longer available as the brewery closed. That history is gone, it’s a real shame. I like Holgate Temptress and Emmerson Porter too!
Me: Nice…any plans to collaborate with Emmersons again soon?
Russ: Actually not right now, they are building a new brewery, so they have their hands full transitioning from one site to the other right now.
Me: What about the new member of the family, Panhead…I rate those guys!
Russ: Oh yeah, that would be good fun wouldn’t it? I haven’t met those guys yet, but I look forward to it. I need to make a note of that.
Me: Happy for me to be your inspiration for that collab, just write my name on the bottle.
Now, this in an important one. A desert island beer? If you had only one beer, that you had to drink for the rest of your days…could you pick one?
Russ: Yep. Jever…the North German Pilsner. I think it is a phenomenal beer.
Me: Wow. I didn’t think you would be able to answer that and was half expecting you to say Creatures Pale Ale?
Russ: Noooo…Jaaaaaaayyyyyvvveeeerrrrr! It’s like a long lost love. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy our Pale Ale as well!
Me: And finally mate, what is the best thing about working for Little Creatures.
Russ: It is the people. We are an eclectic bunch of oddballs that are united in our passion to make the best beer we can. We are the same as any brewery with challenges and hurdles and complexity to navigate, but coming to work and hanging with this talented bunch of individuals is just fun!
I have to thank Russ for his time on this interview…it actually went for a lot longer, as I was getting my beer geek on with him like a beer fanboy, but I had to cut it down a bit.
That’s it for this week. Check out last weeks 60 Second Beer Review on Little Creatures Hotchkiss Six Session Stout, and look out for Ballast Point Sculpin IPA this week.