Last Friday Tony Jones, chief brewer at the Malt Shovel Brewery, said farewell to the Camperdown site. It was announced a few weeks ago that Jones would be leaving Sydney to pursue other brewing projects in his hometown of Adelaide.
Jones started his brewing career after studying brewing science at the University of South Australia, he worked for many years with the South Australian Brewing Company, on the technical side as well as in packaging. In the early 90s he made the acquaintance of Chuck Hahn, after Lion Nathan purchased majority holdings in both Hahn Brewing and South Australian Brewing, and the two began a long and fruitful working relationship.
His involvement with the James Squire brand began not long after its formation in 1999, doing promotional work – beer dinners and the like – in South Australia, WA and Melbourne. He moved to Sydney to head up the Malt Shovel Brewery in 2008, and spent the past four years working to expand Malt Shovel’s James Squire and Mad Brewers brands, and is very proud of the work he has done there.
“It’s been extremely exciting,” Jones says.
“We’ve launched a number of brands over that period, we’ve expanded our production capacity, and launched several new beers. It’s definitely been a very exciting period of my life and probably the highlight of my brewing career.”
“It’s great to have been part of the blossoming craft scene, and to be able to put all the passion into your brewing, which happens when you’re developing new projects.”
Jones calls the brand building that has been undertaken during his time there one of his biggest successes in brewing, with the Malt Shovel Brewery expanding its range and capacity to become a huge presence in every Australian beer market. The recent rebranding of the James Squire range has helped in a big way, and served to cement their popularity in a growing market segment. One thing that he regrets from his time with Malt Shovel is not having jumped on the cider bandwagon earlier, with their Orchard Crush cider launching late last year, and only in bottles in the past two months.
“I think cider’s something we could have had a go at a bit earlier,” he says.
“The cider market’s only really taken off, and we’ve sort of had to tack along with it. It was a sharp learning curve for us.”
With the successes behind him, Jones is staying within Lion, to head up the West End brewery in Adelaide. Hearing him speak so keenly about craft beer as he moves to a very large brewery with one primary product, I can’t help but put to him the question of ownership, and how a giant company like Kirin and Lion sees itself part of the niche craft beer market.
“It depends on what your classification of ‘craft’ is,” he responds.
“What’s important is that we’re trying to have more better beer in the marketplace and more people exposed to that.
“We want to go out there and say that 60-70 per cent of the beers in the marketplace are great styles and the consumer has that choice. James Squire, whether it’s owned by Lion or not, has been a really important part of that.
“It’s great that there are so many craft brewers out there, but I think it’s important for the bigger brewers to have a go, because they open out the marketplace and make it more accessible for more people.”
Words to live by in the beer market, certainly. Regardless of your beer politics, and whether you’re influenced by brand ownership or company size, I think we can all agree that Tony Jones should be very proud of the work he’s done with James Squire, and we wish him well for all his future brewing.