One of the many perks that a media-based role in the beer community affords us is the opportunity to meet some of the brightest, craziest, most charismatic and inspirational personalities involved in the brewing world. The added bonus is that you often get time to chat for more than a few minutes – often over a nice beer.
As host of several events during Sydney Craft Beer Week I was blessed to be able to meet one such brewer. Over three separate events I learned more about beer, brewing, globalisation, reverse-beer engineering and corporate responsibility than I’ve learned in the past year. In addition – and completely unexpectedly – I found myself invigorated and my enthusiasm for beer and beer writing renewed as a result.
It was with some trepidation that I arrived at The Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst to meet with Sixpoint Brewery founder Shane Welch. On two previous occasions he has attempted to make the trip Down Under only to be thwarted by accident and injury. Such is the dedication of the man that it was only under Doctor’s orders (an actual medical doctor, not the genius brewer of the same name) that kept him grounded in May this year. Fortunately for Shane, and for us, this week’s trip was made manifest by the kindness of the travel Gods. Well, that and the generosity of his distributor, Experience-Its Johhny Latta.
Meeting with Shane in the quiet surrounds of the soon-to-be-filled Local Taphouse upstairs, I was immediately struck by the calmness that he bestowed on those around him. Rather than being just ‘quietly spoken’ he chose his words thoughtfully, his opinions were considered, his vocabulary concise and, most importantly, his message simple and effective. Those listening were at once still and silent, save for the almost constant nodding of agreement. My only concern was that his role as a guest at the Brewers & Chewers event would see his story lost in the noise that inevitably comes from a very casual yet intimate dinner paired with an open bar tab.
I worried needlessly. Despite being the last guest ‘interviewed’ the rowdy gathering found themselves dumb-struck, leaning forward and hanging on his every word. Those who have been to a Brewers & Chewers will appreciate the value of this achievement. From topics such as the story of the brewery and its logo through to supermarket duopolies and beer design, Shane filled his allotted time with wall-to-wall nuggets of interesting observation. He could easily have kept going for another dinner’s worth of spotlight time.
Over the weekend Shane’s attention turned to the Sip & Savour festival, a GABS-inspired gathering of 40 brewers and cider makers at Redfern’s Carriageworks where he happily poured his beers for a new and inquisitive crowd ranging from young to old and from novice to nerd. Despite the obvious physical toll that a week’s worth of travel and functions, the gentle smile, the generous nature and the humble persona never once wavered. For two days he made sure that every visitor knew his beers and his reason for brewing and wanting to import them.
On Tuesday Shane fronted up to the eager crew of Ale Stars as its special guest for the monthly meeting. Rarely has a crowded St Kilda Taphouse kept quite as respectfully silent and engaged as they were listening to a brewer’s thoughts and ideas. There isn’t space here to do justice the variety of subjects Shane covered, nor the clarity with which they were discussed. A quick search of the interwebs will uncover these in greater detail and I can highly recommend that those wanting to focus on what’s really important in the beer world seek them out.
To finish, and to throw in a shameless plug, I shall thank Shane for his beers and to Johhny for importing them as a handful of cans of The Crisp – Pilz from Sixpoint was just what a jaded soul needed to close out a hectic few weeks of beery festival-ness and family commitments. It’s a well-worn sentiment but, in a community populated by plenty of top blokes, Shane Welch stands out in a crowd.