Brennan Fielding, Brewmaster
Brewing is amazing, I love it – but I don't sit on a fluffy couch and drink beer all day, there is a lot of physical and mental work going on, plus machines, pipes and all sorts of fun stuff.
Brennan Fielding is at the helm of the iconic Burleigh Brewing Co. Despite being told that parochial Queenslander’s would never drink his beer, Brennan and his wife Peta have become a driving force behind the craft-beer craze sweeping the Gold Coast. Despite the company’s success, it’s the science and art of brewing that keeps Brennan striving for more. From the early days of selling crabs to the local aquarium, to brewing his own beer at home as a 17 year old, the Hawaiian-raised brewmaster admits he has always had beer in his blood. With a genuine passion for his craft, Brennan is true mastermind when it comes to the chemistry and physics of creating the perfect beer.
Lets take it back – tell us how Burleigh Brewing Co. first came to life?
My wife (Peta) came to Hawaii, where I’m from – we fell in love and came out to Australia to get married. In the weeks leading up to the wedding in 1998, we drove into Burleigh, had lunch at the Blue Onion and we went over to the beach, and I though, wow – this is beautiful, I could live here! My wife put that in her memory bank. We had our own brewery in Hawaii, which we purchased from a bankrupt parent company, and we turned it into a profitable business. We were running that for a few years, and one day Peta said she wanted to move back to Australia. So, we sold our interests in the Hawaiian brewery and moved here to the Gold Coast. I began working for a brewery in Brisbane, but they had no vision or drive for this industry that I am so passionate about. So, we worked on a business plan to put together our vision, or our version rather, of a brewery. Burleigh is a beautiful spot, it’s a surf town with an awesome surf break and a cool village vibe, so we set up right here in the heart of Burleigh in 2006. Peta quit her job as a lawyer and we went all-in, everything – even with tiny kids.
There are plenty of beer drinkers on the Gold Coast, but was the city’s craft-beer market a tough one to crack?
The Gold Coast was an absolute beer desert, there was no choice. Over the years, we’ve tried to develop the market and just get people to realise what craft-beer is. There were no other brewers around early on, so it was a fantastic opportunity. But every second person I spoke to said that Queensland people are so parochial and they’ll never drink my beer, because they will just drink what their father’s drank – so that was very daunting at the time.
How did craft-beer become cool?
It really started to take-off because people began to understand it. For many years, we were the only ones here trying to develop the flavour palette of the Gold Coast and get people into craft-beer. Then all of a sudden, things came together and it just became cool. You’d get one bar that would want craft-beer on tap, then another, and another and it just kept building. Now there are some other breweries on the Gold Coast, and restaurants and cafes almost have to offer craft-beer. I think we played a strategic part in this. However, at the same time that we had huge opportunity, there was also huge risk.
Was beer always in your blood?
Yeah, for sure. When we lived in Waikiki, my Dad was what I’d call a beer explorer, and he would drink different beers from around the world and would always bring home a 6-pack of something different. I just thought – this is cool, there are so many different beer cultures and types. And the fact that you could make your own beer was also really cool to me. I started home brewing when I was 17 years old. I was studying engineering ay university, and in that you do a lot of chemistry and psychics, which are three of the four sciences that apply to brewing (the other being microbiology). From that, I had a good grasp on fluid dynamics, chemistry and engineering – that was really my strong point.
Back to the Hawaii days, what was your very first job?
I was eight years old, and I would catch crabs off the dock in the harbour and sell them to the Waikiki aquarium for 25 cents a crab – they’d use them for fish food!
And now you’ve become brewmaster! Most people would say you’ve got the best job in the world – do you agree?
Yes, brewing is amazing and I love it – but I don’t sit on a fluffy couch and drink beer all day, there is a lot of physical and mental work going on. There are also lots of machines, pipes and all sorts of fun stuff.
Ok, so let’s pretend it’s knock-off time and you go downstairs for a beer – what are you drinking?
Recently, I’ve been drinking plenty of our brand new Twisted Palm, but if I am going to have a few, I will mix it up. I won’t drink the same beer again and again. I’ll go through my own little beer journey –I might start with clean lager then break things up with a pale ale. There are 12 beers on tap, so I’m not starved for choice!