As part of our Club Hops subscription, we interview industry legends from the Australian beer brewing community. As this edition fell on Banks Brewing's 5th Birthday, we chatted to founder and head brewer Chris Farmer!
What was the inspiration behind these birthday brews?
We wanted to brew a good mix of beers that we think people want to see from us and that get us excited. The Stout, in particular, we wanted to see how many adjuncts we could put into it and for it to not become muddled in character.
What has been your biggest hurdle in your 5 years and how did you overcome it?
I would have to say Covid is the biggest hurdle to date. We have had many such as fighting local councils to serve and sell liquor, Staffing, equipment failure, but Covid takes the cake. Without an online store which we got up and running in 2 days when shit was going down really saved our arse.
What has been your biggest success within the last 5 years?
Cake Eater Series. That series has really given us a fantastic following that people seem so excited for each release.
What are you hoping to achieve by your 10th birthday?
I hope we are still around.... nah I hope that our beers are still pushing boundaries and limits of what beer can be, what can go into beer, and drinkability. It'd be nice to have a second venue possibly one day also, but we will see what happens with that one.
What’s one thing you would tell your 5-years-younger self?
There are going to be some seriously sleepless nights due to stress about a certain beer or issues in the brewery. Heck even a global pandemic that may crush your dreams and brewery in one, but you'll get through it.. so don't sweat the small things.
What has been the biggest hurdle in starting your own brewery?
Getting appropriate approvals. When we first set the brewery up there was nothing like it in our council and they didn't know what they were dealing with across the whole board. It’s definitely a lot easier now if people want to open similar style venues within our council as there is now a template you could say.
Which of your beers are you most proud of?
Probably our adjunct Stouts. I think the drinkability and the depth of flavour we have been able to achieve with them using all natural ingredients and no adjuncts has been pretty awesome.
Tell us about your favourite beer or beer style at the moment.
Favourite style at the moment is definitely Lagers or more specifically German Style Pilsner. I really like the drinkability, ABV, bready character from the malt and what the yeast can do in those beers. They need to be clean and drinkable without being boring. I'll take a good Vienna or Helles though any day.
Where do you see your brewery/the brewing scene in the next 5 years?
I think it will continue to grow as it is doing now. I think the whole LOCAL brewery will become more of a thing with less breweries, or less new breweries, doing large distribution. I think the spectrum of styles that are widely popular will continue to follow recent trends. I think it will be about the big & crazy ie: IPA, adjunct Stouts and Sours and at the other end the really drinkable sessionable style beers like lower abv pales, lagers and the like. I don't know if the middle sector will be as popular as it has been in the past with 7%ish IPA's and stouts etc.
What’s in your beer fridge at the moment?
A lot of FOAM - Our new German style Pils - lots of our Lagers, some Range IPA's, Anderson Valley Briney Melon & a little McConaughaze.
What’s your least favourite style of beer?
Probably Seltzer. I get it and we will probably make one some day, but I just haven't tasted one I would choose over a gin & tonic or mineral water personally.
Do you have a brewing mentor?
We have many brewers that have helped us along the way but not really any one person that we have leaned on.
Do you prefer to use traditional or hi-tech methods and equipment in your brewery, and why?
We use traditional equipment & techniques in our brewery as we can't afford hi tech equipment. Techniques tend to lean towards the newer world, but we do love traditional styles and techniques.
What’s on the stereo when you’re brewing?
Generally some sort of Punk or Metal when we are brewing. Unless it's a Friday & I’m on the brewdeck then its Limp Bizkit, Papa roach or Neck Deep just to get "rollin" into the weekend.
Is there a brewery you’d like to collaborate with in the future? What attracts you to working with them?
There's plenty. Other Half, Garage Project, The Veil, Weihenstephan, Tree House, Omnipollo. They all make Beers that we like to make and drink, and feel we could learn so much from them and improve our beer and techniques.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into the business?
Keep pushing & learning as much as you can. I applied for so many brewing jobs and offered my time for free early on and didn't even get replies. But if you want it bad enough you make anything happen.
Which brewery or brewer is your greatest influence, and in what ways have they had an affect on you?
Greatest influence brewery is probably Sierra Nevada. Their Pale Ale is the beer that I can remember being the best beer I've ever had. It's mostly circumstantial, as I'd had the beer many times before, but we'd just hiked Half Dome in Yosemite and we grabbed a 6er from the little store in the park and a pizza overlooking the Dome. We sat back and talked about the hike we just did and how amazing that beer tasted and what it has done. I think that beer is a big reason I got so into craft beer.
Tell us a little bit about your label designs.
We have always had a lot of fun with our designers and labels. We try not to be too serious with them. If we can work in a fun name that means nothing or is a one-liner from a movie it's generally text based. Otherwise we really dig the patter style we have done a lot of in the past 2 years incorporating the ingredients, or more to the point adjuncts, that are in the beer.
What do you drink when you’re not drinking beer?
Wine - I'm pretty Pinot Noir & Chardonnay obsessed.
Do you have a favourite beer and food pairing?
Lager (Mexican if possible) & Baja Fish Tacos
What’s your current favourite hop varietal and why?
Citra is always at the top of our list. We use it so much because it's so amazing on its own and such a lifter hop also. I'm a sucker for some Nelson though, and Strata is becoming an in house fav.
Where do you source your hops?
We get most of them through YCH. We just imported some direct from Freestyle Hops in NZ that we used in a beer we are pretty excited about that’s coming out soon.
Do you design recipes with a goal in mind, or experiment until something works?
We design them with an end goal. We always know how we want them to finish and taste etc., then it's about executing it.
Are there limitations to working with hops in Australia?
Not if you contract enough & pre plan.
In your opinion what’s the next big trend in hoppy beer going to be?
Hazy has shown it isn't going anywhere. I think that's going to continue. More drinkable and sessionable hazy beers maybe. But if I'm honest I think people just want DIPA's or Greater, and that doesn't look like it’s changing.
Do you prefer hops or other adjuncts to build your flavours?
I prefer hops. There’s so much you can do with them and they don't really need any prep like most of the adjuncts we use. We toast them or similar to sterilize them etc.
What’s the biggest mistake a brewer can make in terms of hopping their beer?
Too much, not keeping out oxygen, and contact time.
What’s your favourite hoppy beer of all time?
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Almanac IPA (I think it was one of their first IPA's geez it was good. I must have bought at least 6 of them in a month & they were not cheap back then).
Do you have a loyalty to either the West Coast or East Coast style of hoppy beer?
Loyalty no way.. We just love hops! But if it were me personally I'll take an East Coast over a West Coast most of the time these days.
Image: Banks Brewing | Penny & Chris Farmer