Howard Smith Wharves unveils impressive riverside brewery Felons Brewing Co.
When it comes to Brisbane’s settlement history, the names Phamphlett, Parsons, Finnegan and Thompson don’t carry as much weight as John Oxley, but their story is incredibly significant to Brisbane’s founding nonetheless. These four escaped convicts are credited as the first white settlers to encounter the Brisbane River in the early 1800s, and their inadvertent journey north led to the founding of our city. This unheralded aspect of Brisbane’s genesis formed the conceptual inspiration for Felons Brewing Co. – a centrepiece tenant of the Howard Smith Wharves precinct. Open today, Friday November 23, the impressive waterfront locale is part architectural delight and part bastion of contemporary brewing – a sublimely executed drinking and dining destination that celebrates Brisbane’s natural splendour.
Many years ago on a trip to London, Howard Smith Wharves founder Adam Flaskas caught up with his old friend Jasper Cuppaidge, the founder of Camden Town Brewery. Adam fell in love with the relaxed and welcoming feel of the brewery – it was a brewery for the people – and he was inspired to create a similar venue in his hometown of Brisbane. Since that trip, Adam has been on the lookout for the ideal site and when the opportunity came up at Howard Smith Wharves under the Story Bridge, he knew he’d finally found the perfect location to realise his brewery dreams. Not only was it an iconic and unparalleled spot right on the Brisbane River, but it would mark the return of brewing to the river – Queensland Brewery Ltd (famous for its Bulimba Gold Top) once sat just above the wharves. For the operation, Adam recruited general manager of brewing Ash Cranston (formerly of Little Creatures, Furphy and White Rabbit Brewing) to help actualise his vision for Felons Brewing Co.
Felons Brewing Co. is housed in one of the original Howard Smith Wharves sheds, half perched over the Brisbane River with a comprehensive fit-out capturing the unparalleled potential of the area’s natural surrounds. A modern-industrial interior houses the main bar, kitchen and impressive brewing operation boasting a 2500-litre DME Brewhouse imported from Canada. Pipes funnel the freshly brewed beer to four serving tanks behind the main bar (each named after one of the felons), before then being pumped directly to the building’s 56 taps. A lengthy deck hosts numerous communal tables and stools overlooking the river (and some offering a glimpse into the brewery itself), while the exterior Boatyard bar and fish and chippery services the outdoor courtyard and neighbouring park – within which Anthony Lister is working on an interactive art experience using an old trawler. If that wasn’t enough, a 250-seater beer garden and 10-m outdoor grill is also currently under construction, to be complete in the coming weeks. In addition to the bricks-and-mortar site, the Felons Brewing Co. team has invested in a fleet of mobile units to spread the beery cheer. A lovingly restored 1981 ex-Country Fire Authority fire truck and two ex-Army Land Rover Defender people movers have been repurposed into mobile beer dispensaries. The crew is also in the process of adding a few three-wheeler vehicles and a old Bedford to the Felons armada, the latter of which will be a mobile pizza truck.
The Felons brewing team – lead by ex-Little Creatures brewer Tom Champion – is working with the self-appointed mandate to craft balanced and drinkable beer using low-impact methods. The core range currently extends to five refreshing brews designed with Brisbane’s balmy climate in mind. The classic crowd-pleasing crisp lager has been refined and modernised by utilising noble hops, pilsner malt and slow-fermentation process, while an Australian pale ale – made purely with Australian hops and malts (including Galaxy hops) – gives off a heady tropical fruit aroma and a gorgeous golden glow. Felons’ mid-strength beer offers a softer flavour profile – with oceanic hops creating a light stone-fruit aroma – and the brewery’s IPA is perfect for those looking for a punchier sip, with a seductive malty taste concocted using a clutch of worldly hops. The dark horse is the Sonny apple cider, made with 100-percent Stanthorpe-grown Granny Smith apples and champagne yeast to create what could be the drink of the summer – refreshing, light and effervescent. Non-beer drinkers are welcome too, with rosé, pinot grigio and pinot noir also available off tap. Over the coming months the brewery will showcase limited-edition seasonal brews made from regional produce and in collaboration with Felons’ restaurant neighbours, while a cellar door will facilitate on-site canning and crowler (1-L can) fills – perfect to take home or enjoy anywhere within the licensed Howard Smith Wharves precinct.
Much like the brewery, the Felons kitchen is keeping its menu as fresh and imbued with local produce as possible. Howard Smith Wharves’ executive chef Patrick Friesen (ex-Queen Chow) and Felons Brewing Co.’s head chef Michael Hardy (the former executive chef at The Tanoa Hotel Group) have assembled a wholesome and homely array of eats for brewery diners. Shared fare is central to the Felons dining experience, with the brewery serving everything from woodfired pizzas (served piping hot from two gargantuan Forni Visciano ovens) to fresh seafood cooked to perfection. Substantial eats include grilled Angus short ribs, barbecued chicken with garlic sauce, grilled whole snapper and crumbed veal chops, but smaller plates including roast cauliflower bowls, whipped cod roe with fresh veggies, freshly shucked oysters and spicy chicken burgers are ideal for those eager to save room for drink. Outside in the Boatyard you can pick up a bucket of prawns, poke bowl, Moreton Bay bug roll or traditional paper-wrapped fish and chips, grab a six-pack of beer and picnic blanket from the cellar door, and settle in for the afternoon in one of the precinct’s green spaces.
Felons Brewing Co. will commence brewery tours and tasting events as of next week, while wholesaling operations are expected to start in January 2019. Check out the Stumble Guide for opening hours and contact details.
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