A few weeks ago, I wrote a story about Dave Padden’s surprising departure from Riverside Brewing Company. At the time he was tight-lipped about what his next venture would be but was adamant that it would involve beer. The lid has now been taken off the box to reveal that Padden’s next foray into brewing will have a similar sort of vibe: a western Sydney-based brewery with an initial focus on hop-forward beers.
Akasha Brewing was unveiled last week via social media and its new website. Akasha – pronounced A-kar-sha, although Padden says “Aka-Shar, Acacia, whatever you like” – refers to the unknown ‘fifth element’ along with earth, water, air and fire that combines the others into something greater than the sum of its parts. The brewery is a joint venture between Padden and his brother-in-law Wesley “Twoguns” White whom Padden calls “one of the most successful salespeople I’ve ever met in my life.”
Padden says that he and White have talked for years about setting up a business together, and after parting ways with Riverside the opportunity presented itself.
“I was keen to have some time off,” he says. “But we really used that time to think about: did I want to do exactly what I did last time, do I want to start a brewery, or do I want to go into the retail side, or just thinking about all the different options. At the end of the day, what I decided was I wanted to do something pretty similar to what I did before.”
He adds, “The difference between this time and last time is I’m a little bit more well-known and funding was a little bit easier to come by. It was quite a surprise and a bit of a thrill to know that there were plenty of people who would throw money at whatever I’d decide to do.”
Although at this stage the physical presence of the brewery is still in the ether, Padden says they’ve made an offer on a site in western Sydney to base the business, and that the brewhouse itself should be shipped from his supplier within the next two months. In the meantime, equipped with a brand and some ideas for beers, Akasha will be contract-brewed out of the Rocks brewery in Alexandria.
“We’re great mates with the boys at Rocks, have been for a number of years,” he says. “As soon as we raised the conversation, they were keen to have me in.”
He continues, “We’re going to release two beers initially, which is an IPA and a pale ale. I think if I didn’t lead with an IPA I’d probably disappoint a few people.”
The planned Hopsmith IPA, he tells me, represents ‘earth’, one of the four natural elements, and will continue his brewing focus of “being a master of hops”, while the Freshwater Pale Ale will represent the ‘water’ element, and when the remainder of the Akasha core beers are released they will cover the other two elements, air and fire.
“A lot of people have said that I became a bit of a hippy while I was away,” he laughs. “(But) it was really important for us to create a company that didn’t take itself too seriously…We want to enjoy brewing beer, we want to enjoy people drinking our beer, and we really had a big think about what this brewery means and what we’re trying to achieve at the end of it.”
“Are we here just to make lots of money? Absolutely not. We’re here to brew good beer, beer that people will like, beer that we like, and hopefully at the end of the day we’ll be able to pay the mortgage.”
Asked if his setting up a new brewery in Sydney’s western suburbs is likely to establish a rivalry between Akasha and his old company Riverside, Padden shrugs it off.
“I’d hope not,” he says. “No more than we have with other craft brewers in Sydney. There’s always an element of competition – there’s only so many taps, and there’s only so many accounts where you can sell your beer, and there’s always an element of rivalry.”
“This is a big town with very few breweries, so we’ve still got a long way to go before reaching any sort of saturation point,” he continues. “In terms of Western Sydney, it’s a big place, and I think it could deal with more than two breweries.”
With the news more recently that Riverside are looking for a new head brewer two months after replacing Padden as well as a new sales manager, I can’t help but ask him about whether he thinks fans of his old beers are likely to abandon Riverside and follow him into his new venture, or whether they will stay loyal to the brand.
“What I hope is that no, they don’t abandon Riverside,” he says. “There’s still a lot of my legacy in those beers and I’d hate to see them go by the wayside.”
“What I think will happen is somewhere in between, there’ll be a little bit of people moving away, either because of quality or perceived quality, that’s just human nature…I guess we’ll wait and see.”
As far as getting his new Akasha beers out into the market, Padden says that channels are already planned for distribution to Brisbane and Melbourne.
“We will obviously be focussing on Sydney, as I always have, but I’d like to be able to get a little bit of beer down to Melbourne and Brisbane almost from the beginning.”
He continues, “We’ll be spending a hell of a lot of time on developing the western Sydney area, it’s personally important to me to see that happen.”
Padden hopes the first Akasha beers will hit the market around April, while there are plans to represent the new brand at the GABS festival in Melbourne and Sydney in May. You can keep up to date with progress via their website, Twitter or Facebook.