One of Australia’s quieter regions on the new brewery landscape is South Australia. New breweries seem to emerge every month throughout the east coast states, while the established breweries of the west coast are rapidly expanding and regularly sending new beers across the country. However, announcements of a new brewery or craft beer focused venture around Adelaide’s surrounds have been few and far between in recent years. The State’s relatively small craft brewing sector has quietly revolved around Lobethal Brewhaus, BrewBoys, Steam Exchange and the McLaren Vale Beer Company. This will soon change with the long awaited arrival of Big Shed Brewing Co.
Big Shed Brewing Co (that’s “Big Shed Brewing Concern”, a nod to the old fashion use of the term for business, as often utilised in The Simpsons) was founded in 2002 by home brewers, Jason Harris and Craig Basford. It began in a big shed at Jason’s rented property located in the Barossa. That shed was certainly big for your average home brewer, it was a farmer’s shed that even had a mechanics pit, which proved handy for keeping their brews at a constant temperature during fermentation.
A decade later, their dream of taking their beer making from a big home shed to an even bigger shed in the form of an industrial warehouse has become a reality. Commercial production of Big Shed beers is now only a month away.
It has been a journey of planning, research, development, delays, setbacks and much learning, which Jason and Craig have shared openly with anyone interested in following their story, primarily through the internet and social media.
“We did that on purpose,” Jason told Australian Brews News.
“We wanted to be the brewery that showed people that this is who we are and how it was happening.”
The inception of the Big Shed Brewing story is once again a familiar modern yarn. It began with two beer lovers wanting to share their crafty homebrew and passion for better beer with a local population that is dominated by drinkers consuming bland lagers.
“I don’t think it’s any different to every other home brewer who considers starting a brewery,” noted Craig.
“We love beer, we love the beer industry and we were both at a stage where we wanted to do something that really drives us. We decided that we had to find out if we could do the beer thing one way or the other.”
Both IT professionals, Jason and Craig met whilst working on the Wolf Blass wine brand, back when it was part of Fosters.
Jason’s exposure to Foster’s then portfolio of international beers, such as Leffe and other Belgians, initiated a passion for craft beers and homebrewing. Utilising his homebrewing knowledge, Jason had a little involvement in the development of the Wolf Blass wine beer hybrid product, which would become Pepperjack Ale.
For Craig, his craft beer interest was ignited by a visit to Port Dock Brewery Hotel in Port Adelaide, when it was under a former ownership.
“My love for better beer started when I wandered into Port Dock Brewery and had a milk stout. It was just most amazing thing I had tasted, as a person who grew up on West End and Carlton Cold, this was just so lovely and warming,” Craig recalled.
With thousands of dollars invested in home brewing over the last decade, the decision to scale up to a commercial operation was simply a matter of putting an end to just talking and dreaming about it. They decided it was time to just do it.
While they still maintain jobs in the IT industry, their brewing focus has now reached a point where they are waiting for the arrival of a brand new, custom designed brewhouse.
Their new brewery has been shipped from China and is expected to arrive in August. It includes a four vessel brewhouse, with 10 hectolitre mash tun and kettle and 20 hecolitre hot and cold liquor tanks, along with four 20 hectolitre frementers. And that’s just stage one. The Big Shed business plan will see at least another four 20 hectolitre frementers installed once they hit their financial expectations.
In the meantime, pilot batches have been brewed on a SABCO BrewMagic system.
“We’re still kicking this around at the moment,” said Jason when asked what the Big Shed Brewing beer range will look like.
“The original concept was to have three regulars and a couple of seasonal. We’ve been playing around with recipes for two years, but nothing is certain yet.”
“Our ethos is that we don’t want to just make the standard beer. If we make an APA (American Pale Ale) we want to add something different.”
“We follow our curiosity to find new and exciting flavours to incorporate into our brewing.”
Jason and Craig noted that food will have a big influence on Big Shed beers. They are interested in designing beers that both work well with food, as well as beers that take ingredients inspiration from food.
The Big Shed Brewery is located at Royal Park in Adelaide’s west, an area yet to embrace craft beer. However, it is close to the popular foodie destination of Semaphore Road.
“We want to bring new experiences to the local community and we think we can broaden that market by bringing beer and food together,” noted Jason.
Rather than installing a full kitchen at the brewery, the Big Shed team hope to create a cellar door style venue at the brewery by working with local food trucks to accompany their beers. The brewery doors would open to the public on Fridays and weekends, with a potential once a month offering of a food truck night.
“We envision talking to food trucks, asking them what ingredients they are using and then see if we can brew something that will work along with their offerings.”
“We can be the catalyst for craft beer in the west,” said Craig.
Jason and Craig’s ability to be a beer force in Adelaide has developed through a passion to absorb everything they can about brewing, including studying the successful small breweries of Australia and the United States.
“We went to Sydney as did a course through Beverage and Brewing Consulting with [Costa Nikias]. It was a really good warts-and-all seminar on what to expect when starting out with a microbrewery.”
They also attended short courses through TAFE SA and worked closely with brewing lecturer and Brewboys founder, Stephen Nelsen, on designing and ordering their brewing equipment.
The size and anticipated production schedule at Big Shed has also opened up the potential for providing contract brewing services. Jason and Craig are already working with potential clients who are keen to make use of the Big Shed brewery.
Bottling Big Shed beers is not part of the initial stage, but they will consider hand bottling special releases from time to time, and then eventually install a bottling line should their beers prove successful
Once the Big Shed beer starts flowing later this year, Jason and Craig hope to increase their profile across the local beer market, with a strong focus on being the face of their beer
“I learned that at Fosters. The winemakers were the brand ambassadors. They were the face of their wine.”
“We are our own marketing department so we will be focusing on selling and marketing our beer wherever we can get our faces. We are keen to tell our own story and talk directly about our own beer.”
If you’re in Adelaide, expect to start hearing much more about Big Shed Brewing over the coming months, as Jason and Craig look to make an impact on the local market with a clear mission in mind.
“Our beer have to add something to the market. It can’t just be great quality and another beer on the market, it will offer drinkers something more,” declared Craig.