The Illawarra Brewing Company brewers Shaun Blissett and Ashur Hall talk about how much effort goes into making a beer for GABS.
What beer are you making for GABS?
Shaun: It is a black saison and it’ll be guaranteed to have some kind of oak in it.
Does it have a name yet?
Shaun: No. We’re not open to suggestion, we like naming our beer too much. That’s the fun bit.
Ashur: You could have a lot of fun with naming this beer. You could stick to style and do something traditional or go whacked out and have it make no sense whatsoever.
Shaun: I think a great name will sell a beer at GABS as well. Last year, it was shown that if you’ve got an interesting name it will spark a punter’s interest and then they’ll read about it and then they’ll buy it. It’s probably the second-most important thing about the beer. First of all, it needs to be a good, quality beer and secondly, have a cracking name.
Where did the inspiration come from?
Ashur: Saisons are a great beer to make. You’ve got a blank canvas any time you work with a saison yeast. We’ve done a couple of saisons and used the yeast a few times. It’s quite an easy yeast to use, the flavours are complex yet most of the beers made with a saison yeast will be sessionable. It’s more about finesse this time, trying to achieve some finesse with the barrel ageing.
How much effort goes into designing a beer for GABS?
Ashur: A lot. Just as an example, we’re driving to the Hunter to get some barrels. Its more effort than your average beer but if we had the opportunity to brew for a public who wanted to drink these styles of beer all the time we’d be putting this much effort into every beer. It’s easy to make a pale ale or a porter. You don’t really have to go the extra lengths of barrel ageing and things like that.
Shaun: You’ve got to impress a lot of different people as well. You’ve got to impress the average punter and every single beer snob and reviewer in the country is going to be in that beer hall over the weekend as well and every single brewer and person involved in the industry is potentially going to be there.
You’ve got to absolutely nail it and make an interesting beer that’s going to be received well by brewers, beer snobs – and my mum and dad.
Does GABS give you the chance to go a bit crazy and try something you might not normally brew?
Ashur: You can go crazy if you want. You can go crazy brewing beers any time of the year.
Shaun: We’ve got our way of brewing that we’ve developed together over the two-and-a-half years that we’ve been brewing together. We know what we can do and what will work and what we like to drink, so that’s what we’re focused on.
Does the spectapular bring out a competitive streak?
Shaun: It is super-competitive. You want to brew a beer that you hope that the other brewers think ‘‘I wish I did that’’, ‘‘why didn’t I think of that?’’.
Explanation for the unaware: GABS is Great Australasian Beer Spectapular, a beer festival in Melbourne, Australia, from May 24-26 this year where brewers make a beer they’ve never made before and bring it along so the punters can try it. Cool, huh?