Shortly after Christmas last year, an ugly rumour reached our ears, suggesting that Dave Padden – co-founder and head brewer for Riverside Brewing in Parramatta – was leaving the company. Sadly, unlike the rumours of Keith & Nicole’s latest split, these rumours weren’t scandalous bollocks but were completely true: as of Christmas eve Padden had sold his portion of the business and was going a separate way.
Since founding the company more than 3 years ago, Padden and business partner Stephen Pan have built a strong reputation around Sydney and other Australian beer markets for making flavoursome, American-inspired beers really well. With all of the time, hard work and passion invested, making the split was obviously not easy.
“It’s probably the hardest decision I’ve had to make in my life,” Padden tells me. “After building a successful brewery in a relatively short time, and enjoying every minute of working in a brewery and the craft beer industry…it was a very awful and difficult decision to walk away from what I’ve built.”
Padden says the decision to make the split arose because of what he calls “a fundamental difference in the vision and the culture of what Riverside is – ‘vision’ being where Riverside’s going, and ‘culture’ being what Riverside is.”
He continues: “Riverside itself, I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved. I feel we’ve got a reputation for brewing good beers but also being consistent. I’m proud of that, and I hope that continues, obviously.”
“None of that success is down purely to me, I’ve worked with a team of awesome individuals – that sounds like a corny bit – but Benny [Galanos], Gab [Porto] and Eric [Angus] shared the passion that I had… and I sincerely hope they can continue to do that without me, and I’m sure they can.”
Ben Galanos, Riverside’s sales manager, says that Padden’s departure came as a surprise, but is confident about the brand’s future.
He says: “It certainly came as a bit of a surprise when Dave said that he was looking to pursue some interests outside the brewery. Obviously a founding member of the brewery and a lot of hard work he put into the brewery and the beers and what they are…Never easy, but he certainly left us in a good place where Riverside beers are widely known and widely well received.”
The future of Riverside’s beers rests largely on the shoulders of replacement head brewer John Bogan, formerly of Mountain Goat in Melbourne. Padden says that Bogan was hired four months ago, originally with a view to brewing underneath his guidance, but when circumstances changed was able to step up into the head brewer role.
“John was always going to come on board anyway,” says Galanos. “Initially brew underneath Dave and then take over the day-to-day brewing of the six core beers…unfortunately that’s not going to be the case anymore. But he’s reaching a level of confidence that he’s able to recreate the beers as Dave would like to see them out in the market.”
As a final question, I asked Galanos what my hop-head readers would most like to know – when the next batch of Riverside 777 Double IPA could be expected – and he delivers the answer: “Within a month you’ll see another batch of the 777.”
As for Padden, he’s currently enjoying some well-earned time off to spend some more time with his wife and kids who he says have “never complained once” about the long hours he was putting in at the brewery. He is tight-lipped about his next steps while details are being worked out, but is adamant they will involve beer.
“Absolutely,” he says in answer to my question. “Four years ago I gave up the corporate career to follow the dream…I’ve surprised myself a little in how successful we’ve been, but also proved to myself how much I love the industry, and I want to be involved in craft beer for the rest of my life. So yes, it will involve beer.”
On behalf of the Australian beer community, I’d like to wish Dave all the best for his future plans, and thank him for all the great beer he’s provided in the last little while.