After months surveying the city and scrutinising maps, Mark Smith was confident he had found the perfect location for his new Perth microbrewery.
But all he needed to do was ask some of the new neighbours. After all, they had had some success in beer.
Smith’s Freestyle Brewing has its official opening in Bassendean on Saturday, although the fledgeling team did attract some attention and anticipation when it floated around WA’s
summer beer festival circuit.
Freestyle’s launch will give the north-eastern suburb the honour of having three production
brewing companies in the space of 150 metres.
“It was only when I was doing letterbox drops around the area in our bid to get a liquor licence that I realised the Feral and Nail were down the road,” Smith told Brews News.
While Freestyle Brewing’s 8hL kit from China would look like a piece of twisted tin foil in comparison to the towers of stainless steel in the shared Feral and Nail 50hL brewhouse, the new, and very little, kid on the block has one thing over the established operations.
Unlike the bigger guys, the newcomer will be selling beers from its premises – albeit 500ml cans only for takeaway purposes only. But there is the opportunity to enjoy a taster before the buy. And that process starts from this weekend when three years of planning comes to fruition with the opening of the Alice St venue.
Smith said he had scoured Perth’s light industrial areas before settling on the current site. Because there is no obvious sign-posting or advertising alerting the public Feral and Nail operated in the vicinity, he was blissfully unaware of his famous fellow residents during his search.
However, he believed positioning Freestyle so close to another brewery made it easier to set-up his business.
“The people at the (Town of) Bassendean council made it easy for us. They knew exactly what to do because they had been through the process before with Feral and Nail. Their staff were able to guide us through all the paperwork,” Smith said.
“It might seem strange to say it but if someone wants to start a micro-brewery I’d recommend they go to an area that already has one. It is then quite a lot easier getting through the red tape.
“We had looked at warehouses in other areas and then when we went to talk to the council about what we wanted to do they didn’t have a clue or know where to start.
“The area is quite central for transport with the Tonkin Highway and we have a good landlord that has allowed to do what we want to do so Bassendean is a good location all round.”
Smith and partner Jen came to Australia from New Zealand about 10 years ago, fell in love with Little Creatures Pale Ale, took up home brewing then decided after a trip to the US in 2016 to make the move into a commercial beer enterprise.
Competition success encouraged Smith, who is balancing his brewing career with work as a logistics operation manager. The man known back home as “Maka” in an acknowledgement to New Zealand’s Maori heritage, was the best amateur exhibitor at the 2015 Perth Royal Beer Show.
It is fair to say Freestyle Brewing has a penchant for India Pale Ale. When running off his current and recent brews, Smith named a West Coast IPA, New World IPA, NEIPA, a session IPA, Black IPA with rum and raisins, and – wait for it – a Double IPA.
The brewing ethos was influenced by bars in San Francisco, like Toronado, which blew Smith away with dozens of IPAs on offer at a single sitting. There are also splashes of ocean culture within the Freestyle Brewing DNA.
Mark and Jen were avid spearfishers before brewing and two children took over their lives and that has washed off onto their beer story.
“We try if we can to have fish or sharks present with the names and artwork on our cans,” Smith said.
“We also like a bit of hip-hop music and so that lifestyle comes through in our branding.”
But Freestyle is the brewery name and it is the philosophy of the brewer.
“We want to mix it up and have lots of different beers by being creative,” Smith said.
“We have a Freestyle Drop series which will be different beers from our core range. When I do the Freestyle Drops beers I don’t necessarily work from a recipe. I might come down to the brewery with an idea in my head and make the beer on the day as I feel.
“I do record things so I have details in the end but it is a bit like working in reverse. Instead of having it all planned out and making it exactly to a plan I am more willing to go with the feeling of the day and bring the ingredients together instinctively.
“People who drink craft beer are always wanting to try something different. So we want to mix it up and aim to give them new things to try.”
Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries.
Read more: How to start a brewing company: Part One.