The wave of craft beer that's been building in Sydney’s Northern Beaches – specifically the suburb of Brookvale – show no sign of abating, with a new brand launching this week.
Already boasting a handful of independent breweries, Brookvale – aka Brookie – is fast becoming a go-to spot for brewery crawlers, especially for Northsiders who can’t be arsed crossing the bridge. With Bucketty’s, 7th Day, Nomad, Dad & Daves and who knows how many more by the time I finish this sentence, Brookie now only lags behind Marrickville when it comes to Sydney ‘burbs with the most breweries.
And it’s not an overnight sensation. In years past, prior to the sale to AB InBev (and subsequent transfer to Asahi / CUB) 4 Pines’ rise from Manly brewpub to major player took off in earnest when they opened their Brookvale facility; they now own the naming rights to Brookvale Oval and operate RTD offshoot Brookvale Union too.
Basically, Brookie is a town that loves a beer.
Aside from beer, the suburb of 3,486 (at last count) has an abundance of industrial builds: shopping centres, major roads, stadia, and disused warehouses. As any craft beer enthusiast knows, the last of these can act as the gateway to a crafty takeover of your suburb. And now a new brewing company is rising that pays tribute to the past lives of some of those warehouses.
In previous years, a number of them were used to craft surfboards from balsa wood and, later, foam. At the heart of this industry were half a dozen individuals who worked part-time as lifesavers while turning their skills to creating boards that rode with the waves and not against them.
These men – Denny Keogh, Barry Bennett, Scott Dillon, Greg McDonagh, Bill Wallace and Gordon Woods – became known as The Brookvale Six and are largely credited with bringing modern surfing to Australia. Together, they ended up producing 90 percent of Australia’s surfboards and with the help of cheaper rent they turned Brookvale into the nation's surfing capital. Pretty impressive considering the suburb has no shoreline.
The Brookvale Six were no strangers to a beer or two, either, and used to rotate brewing duties so they could enjoy a keg of the good stuff every Friday at knockoff. This Friday tradition was known as "blowin’ foam” and, as with their dedication to outdoing each other in the surfboard department, their brewing remained a friendly competition and, perhaps unfortunately, a forgotten detail in their contribution to Australian surfing.
At least until now: Beaches local Nathan Gazzard has decided it's high time his area reforged the link between two types of foam that have put it on the map.
“After COVID I wanted to do something passionate and real – really tell this local story,” he told The Crafty Pint. “The [Brookvale Six] story is unique and I feel a lot of people don’t know the story. I wanted to tell the story with beer. Surfing and beer go together.”
His mission to unite the worlds of crafting beers and crafting boards has led to SurfCraft, a beer label inspired by the style and spirit of the Northern Beaches surf culture. “Everything we do at SurfCraft is a creative collaboration between the beer and surf industry,” Nathan says. “We are celebrating the local history, craftsmanship, and impact on modern-day surfing in every one of our beers.”
Putting the collaboration between surf and beer upfront for his debut beer, he plumped for a classic lager inspired by the homebrews and surfboard style of Brookvale Six original Barry Bennett.
“It is going to be ‘sessionable’ and easy to drink but it does have a twist,” he says, “a little bit of something unique, which is similar to the Bennett’s surfboard style.” Named Pintail Lager after the classic single fin board design, the 4.2 percent ABV lager’s twist comes courtesy of recipe designer Kirrily Waldhorn, better known to many in the local beer world as the Beer Diva.
“The Brookvale Six were innovators,” Kirrily says. “In their spirit, we had to take it further and put a spin on it. “If we’re looking at a lager, let's do something a little quirky with it. In comes Nelson Sauvin; I think it’s an amazing hop. It was first released in 2000 and back then there was no hop like it. “That’s what these crafters did back in the 60s and 70s: they took an industry that had been around and took it to a whole other level.
“Nelson is a hop that kind of had its heyday ten or 15 years ago – American hops overtook it – but I just think it’s a beautiful hop that has those unique wine and gooseberry characters. When it’s used well it’s just sensational. It adds that beautiful unexpected twist.”
Pintail Lager will be available for the first time at SurfCraft’s launch on August 21, at Dad & Dave’s in Brookvale, where the lager was brewed. The plan is to follow that with further “waves” of business; there are five more beers slated to join the SurfCraft core range in due time.
“We want to bring to life the personalities of these shapers,” Kirrily says. “All of the planned six beers will be tied to a member of the Brookvale Six. For example, did they add a smooth shape to the end of the surfboard? Then we should make sure it’s smooth in flavour.”
SurfCraft are far from the first to draw a link between beer and surfing. South of Sydney, Shark Island Brewing Co and their beers pay homage to local breaks; in WA, Cheeky Monkey have become one of the state’s hype breweries in part off the back of their Surf Series of hazy IPAs; the brewers of Victoria’s Surf Coast aren’t shy when it comes to showcasing their region’s iconic surf spots; and we’re told things are going OK for a little operation on the Gold Coast called Balter that has some connection to surfing too.
With Pintail, Nathan joins them and the many other brewing companies who celebrate their passion through beer – BentSpoke or Bridge Road and cycling, Six String and Young Henrys with music, Moo Brew and their connection to the art world, and so on – and know beer can make a superb chaser to our hobbies and quirks.
Written by Benedict "Benny" Kennedy-Cox for the Crafty Pint.
Benedict "Benny" Kennedy-Cox is a comedy/travel writer and craft beer enthusiast from a lovely little harbour village called Sydney. His dreams include opening his own taproom, hosting his own travel beer show, and to one day be able to pay someone to write these for him instead of doing it himself in third person.