Brad Rogers from Byron Bay’s Stone & Wood brewery talks about their very popular – and very tasty – Pacific Ale.
Where did the idea for Pacific Ale come from?
I know it sounds like a PR story but it really is a matter of shutting your eyes and thinking you’re in Byron. You’re in the sand and you’re on holidays having a swim. You’re on the sand and you head to the Beach Hotel or The Rails in town.
You walk in and ask, ‘‘have you got something local?’’ and the bartender says ‘‘yeah, try this from Stone & Wood’’. That really quite intense floral, tropical fruit character, that’s what that beer was designed to do. Really just quench that thirst.
Was it always planned to be the flagship brand?
When you’re just starting out you really don’t know. You’re heading off into the blue yonder. But in retrospect the beer was always going to do reasonably well – just that style of beer. Pacific Ale still blows nme away a little. We’ve had the beer out for about five and a half years – it’s just a bit of a juggernaut. People are still loving it and still looking for it.
The differentiation that the galaxy hop gives that beer is really important. The other piece to that beer – or any beer – is balance. It’s all right to have that fruit flavour coming from the hops but you still need to balance the beer with a really important malt structure, you’ve got to get the bitterness right, get the alcohol right. So we add a portion of wheat into there as well, and some Australian barley. It’s not just the Galaxy hop, there’s a whole series of things going on in that beer that help that beer do what it does.
When did you start to think this beer could become something pretty big?
As a brewer I think you have that feeling with most of your beers. It’s almost like picking your favourite kid. I think for me it was pretty early on in the piece – there was nothing else like it out there, it was effortless to drink, it was something that we all enjoyed and wanted to drink – which is pretty important when you’re running a brewery.
There wasn’t one single moment, it was a cumulative effect over a period of time.
Does the success make you wonder if you can ever top it?
I think it’s a little bit like a musician saying he’s only had one No1 hit. I think they always want to be doing more. I think the same is for us. We continually strive for all of our beers to be the best they possibly can. For us it’s about quality, but it’s also about consistent quality as well. That’s the key to all of the beers that we do.
It’s the beer that really made the Galaxy hop well-known. Do you ever lie awake at night worrying “what if they run out of Galaxy”?
That is a great question. Yeah – that’s the answer. I think the nice thing is there are various farms where Galaxy is grown and Hop Products Australia is trying to minimise that risk. But with any business that’s got products like that, it’s part of the process of managing a business to ensure, not just continuity in supply of the beer but also the raw materials as well.
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