Picture a man who is part mad scientist (picture a bald version of Doc from Back To The Future) and inspired by mad celebrity chefs like Heston, our Head Brewer cannot stop tweaking his beer recipes. Part mid-life crisis moment, part bored with life and a bit of spare time on his hands, Mick decided that he would look at getting into the craft beer industry. Not in a small way, but opening his own brewery.
Years of home brewing and a constant curiosity to change alter and test different ingredients. His dad was a home brewer and tried to brew beer that his two sons wouldn’t drink. Dad lost and the boys learned to like hoppy beers and dark ales when most others were enjoying tasteless commercial swill.
Initial research was attending some of the early craft beer conferences in Australia in 2014 and 2015 and of course visiting breweries and pestering craft brewers with countless questions. Naïve to the industry, Mick had more questions than a four-year old. A four-day course covering the basic science, cleaning, chemicals, etc of small scale commercial brewing, where the fourth day was putting a batch down in a small brewery was a huge learning curve.
Research on equipment and property for location was a major task. A few ideal sites fell through and Mick ended up buying a small factory in Unanderra on the south side of Wollongong, about a fifteen to twenty minute drive from home in beautiful Bulli. Lets face it Unanderra does not rhyme with much and he was already keen on Bulli as the brand name.
Mick’s wife Sally’s parents live in Nelson NZ which is like meca for hops. Nelson and vicinity also has a number of small and larger craft breweries so they were on the research tours as well. Seeing breweries with ‘home made’ mash tuns and kettles gave Mick the idea that the ‘hot side’ could be fabricated which would require a lot less capital to get started.
Ex-dairy tanks are the basis for the home built craft brewery systems that started a number of people off so the quest for tanks began. One weekend Mick and his mate Adam drove to Sale Victoria and back with two ex dairy tanks, one is the Mash /Lauter Tun today. A couple of larger tanks were acquired from dairies closer to home and welders were set to work.
The ‘cold side’ fermenters and bright tanks were bought after visiting the manufacturer in China, a trip initiated by a local folk music troupe that Mick’s wife Sally sings with. So there is a good story in every aspect of this brewery, just ask Mick.