The time has come for another of our lupulin loving Club Hops subscription boxes to land on doorsteps across the country, and that means another interview with some brewing legends! This month we're featuring the fun and fresh founders of Queensland's Working Title Brew Co., Luke Shield and Mark Howes, who are making beer that's getting everyone excited.
What has been the biggest hurdle in starting your own brewery?
Mostly obtaining one. We're gypsy brewers so a venue is the dream; but for now the biggest hurdle has been building up a solid customer base from scratch and trying to get our beer to as many states as possible. We're now in QLD, NSW, VIC, ACT, SA and TAS. WA and NT, we're coming for you.
Which of your beers are you most proud of?
Mark: Moonlight & Pretzels. It’s not my favourite flavour or style by any stretch, but we had a brief and executed it. Most of the time getting the product you envisaged, without any trial batches, is a bit of a stretch.
Luke: Falling Down, our smoked imperial stout. It ticks all the boxes for me and I think it's our most well made beer. The 11.5% ABV doesn't hurt either. Oh wait, it does.
Tell us about your favourite beer or beer style at the moment.
Mark: Red IPA, hoppy reds, double reds, anything where hops and malts sing together.
Luke: West Coast IPA all the way. I love that there's a bit of a westy resurgence happening at the moment; pine, resin and bitterness for the win.
Where do you see your brewery/the brewing scene in the next 5 years?
Brisbane (and Australia in general) is really starting to mature. Mixed culture feature breweries, Belgian style breweries, green energy breweries; we’re not just pumping a core range of American ale any more. As more entrants emerge, it has become important to carve out your niche. Some, like us, go for the perpetual releases and this definitely has legs. Others are starting to do really different stuff to set themselves apart. Ultimately, we think the brewpub model and direct to consumer structure is the pathway for sustainability for the industry. Take Denver, Colorado; 1.5 Million people and 133 breweries. Compare that with Brisbane at 2.5 Million, which only has about 30. So we have a lot of growth to do. It’s just about reach, reaching people with that message of why you are different and why they should drink your beer.
What’s on the stereo when you’re brewing?
Radio Hauraki courtesy of Burgo, the brewery's resident coffee lord who hails from NZ. He keeps us pumped on brew day with good coffee and the most modern gear from Taranaki, especially Jessie’s Girl. Also, Enya. He’s cruel.
Is there a brewery you’d like to collaborate with in the future? What attracts you to working with them?At the moment we're pretty content to just do our own thing. Our focus is on partnering with local venues for collaborations. We recently released a Watermelon, Lime and Chilli XPA with our pals at The Village Pickle in QLD who created a paired hot sauce to match the beer. Supporting those legends who support us with collabs is kind of where our head is currently at; but who knows that the future holds…
Which brewery or brewer is your greatest influence, and in what ways have they had an affect on you?
Back in the day, it was Sierra Nevada. Here is this brewery doing volume, but also innovating in hop technology and kicking arse at every beer style they try. We think that is the inspiration for us. To just get good at everything we do and to do everything. Not beholden to a single style, and to not be too prejudiced to the styles we don’t currently enjoy, or do, and just push ourselves constantly to improve.
Tell us a little bit about your label designs.
We've tried to keep things super simple, but bright and fun at the same time. We tend to lean toward a vintage pattern aesthetic, and our brand being instantly recognisable is our primary focus. The modern and minimalist logo highlights our motto of no rhyme, no reason; our beers are always a work in progress, and always evolving. Like any good film (our beers are all named after films), every good beer needs a [working title].
What do you drink when you’re not drinking beer?
Mark: Coffee or coffee beers. If I wasn’t a brewer I think I’d be a roaster.
Do you have a favourite beer and food pairing?
Both of us love nothing more than spending our weekends on the weber smoking chicken wings, brisket or knocking out a reverse sear tomahawk. There's nothing better than standing around a smoker and knocking back your favourite beer.
What’s your current favourite hop varietal and why?
Nectaron, baby. Not since Simcoe have we seen a hop have it all. Aroma, flavour, the right sort of bitterness. You could happily use this for the rest of your days and still find interesting ways to use it.
Where do you source your hops?
All around. Obviously we love a lot of the NZ stuff but North America is the go to for most of our current styles. We use a touch of German stuff for clean bitterness and occasionally some Aussie stuff should the style demand it. So the main Aussie distributors for these varieties.
Do you design recipes with a goal in mind, or experiment until something works?
Our motto is "no rhyme, no reason; just good beer". We definitely kick off a brew with a solid recipe and a goal in mind, but things don't always go to plan and at some point we have to play some jazz. It's all part of the fun though, right?
In your opinion what’s the next big trend in hoppy beer going to be?Filtered hazies, quad-hopped with continuous additions of partially masticated, triple infused cryo-pops. Extra subliminal CO2 extracts with a direct IV drip from the farm where they grow wild Sabro crosses. If you haven’t drunk it before the cone is ripe, it’s too old.
What’s the biggest mistake a brewer can make in terms of hopping their beer?
Adding ginger instead of hops. Yes, we have done this. Realistically it is going too hard too early on the dry hop. Loads of dry hop in day zero is the worst experience of our lives.
Do you have a loyalty to either the West Coast or East Coast style of hoppy beer?
West Coast IPA for sure. There's no school like the old school, and the Westy is the headmaster.