It’s a bit of a sad day today – because there’s a changing of the guard at the Illawarra Brewing Company.
One of them – Shaun Blissett (hey, look Shaun, I spelt your name correctly this time) – is brewing there for the last day. I know where he’s headed but I’m not sure if that’s for me to say, so you best ask him yourself.
If it wasn’t for a sporting injury, Shaun might never have even become a brewer. Ashur Hall, the other, equally tall brewer at IBC, was about to switch from serving beers behind the bar to brewing them. The head brewer at the time (AG from Mornington Peninsula) was leaving and offered to train up Ashur.
But then Ashur totally buggered his knee in what was his first ever game of AFL. Out of action for six weeks, so Shaun stepped in having never brewed a beer before. Not even so much as a homebrew. Ashur, incidentally, had only a little bit more experience.
And from such inauspicious beginnings the pair have really put the Illawarra Brewing Company on the map – winning loads of industry awards, people’s favourite’s votes and getting people in places like Sydney and Melbourne excited about their beer.
Living in the Illawarra and having easy access to their beers, I tend to forget this last point. So I need to remind myself that there are people in other cities who look forward to things like IBC tap takeovers, because they get to try these beers from my local brewers.
It’s good that these two guys have really put Wollongong on the craft beer map, have shown everyone else that we’re not a city full of macro beer drinkers. I’m also sure they were instrumental in the rise of good beer the city is now experiencing.
And now the team nicknamed the Tall Boys is breaking up.
A year or so ago, I remember talking with another brewer, and he wondered what would happen if/when either Shaun or Ashur decided to leave. The gist of the conversation was that there was a hint of concern about damaging the chemistry they’d created. I’m sure other breweries have had brewers come and go and there’s been no issues or hiccups, but this is the first time I’ve experienced it. So you can forgive me if I’m a bit unsure.
I do know it’ll be weird walking into the brewery and seeing some new guy pouring grain into the kettle. It’ll be even weirder if he’s under six-foot tall too. It’ll also be weird having to do the whole ‘‘hi, I’m the beer writer for the Mercury’’ spiel – which always makes me feel dicky no matter how many times I’ve done it.
Though I do hope the new guy’s name is easy to spell – on at least two occasions I’ve copped it for spelling Shaun’s first name as ‘‘Sean’’.
After today, we can add Shaun’s name to the list of former IBC brewers. And it’s a decent list too – as well as Mornington’s AG, there’s also Scott Morgan from Rocks Brewing and, way back when Tim Thomas from HopDog.
Best of luck, Shaun, I’m sure you’ll ace it in your future brewing endeavours. It’s just going to be weird not seeing you around the place.