December 6, 2013 by 250 Beers
“What the firkin hell is this?” I hear you ask. Well, let me explain…
‘Who the firkin hell is…?’ is a weekly glimpse into the lives of individuals that work (some tirelessly) to bring the Brisbane public the very best in good beer. Some are brewers, some own/work in your favourite bar, some are retailers and some are brewery reps.
If you don’t know what a firkin is then the whole beer-related, play-on-words title will be lost on you right?! Fear not – click here for more information on firkins.
This week’s instalment features Mark Howes from the New(stead) kids on the block – Newstead Brewing Co…OPENING TOMORROW, DECEMBER 7TH! There’s a sneak peek here.
I’ve had Mark lined up to appear for a while but this week felt like an appropriate time.
What is your day job?
Brewer, co-owner, hall monitor and, mostly, lackie at NBCo.
How long have you been doing that for?
Two weeks. I am almost past probation, looking forward to that pay increase. I might not have much experience in commercial-scale brewing but I can clean a tank like a boss (literally).
What were you up to before that?
Definitely not brewing in full accordance with the ATOs regulations on the manufacture of excisable products. I was a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience working on endocytosis. I spent a lot of time thinking about beer.
What is the best part about your job?
Beer. Even when it’s not great it’s still beer (generally, krieks excluded). There is a bit of science, a touch of creativity, hectolitres of cleaning and a smidgen of running a business. It’s surprisingly rewarding when inflicted subjects find the final product enjoyable.
What was your ‘epiphany beer’? The beer that made you ‘turn your back on cack’?
I hear Little Creatures Pale often touted as the beer that revolutionised the collective Australian beer palate and there is no doubt it did. Most aficionados reminisce about where they were and what they were doing the first tantalising quaff they had. For me though it was really more iterative. Draft Guinness in Dublin when I was 16 helped. A Cantillion Gueuze in Brussels a few years later also opened my eyes. Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Sierra Nevada Torpedo at the turn of the millennium gave me a huge appreciation for American craft beers. Even more recently I have had the privilege to try the BrewDog Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sam Adams Utopias and Triple Bock. While none are classically “beers” they all made me think differently about beer. I also still occasionally go back, I had a XXXX bitter at a bowls club last summer. It was 30c in the sun and the 0c beer was fantastic. No apologies.
Have you ever had a beer that has totally blown you away? If so, what was it?
Three. The first was Mikkeller’s black hole. It had complexity and intensity but was so incredibly integrated and balanced. It was quite the event…horizon. It took me a parsec to get through it. Sorry. Second was BrewDog’s Tokyo Rising Sun Highland Edition. The best barrel aged beer I have had. The third was Nail’s Clout Stout. Again, big flavours are great but truly excellent beers give those flavours meaning and a place.
What is your preferred style of beer and why?
Gueuze. There are not too many styles I don’t like, possibly cask ales and hoppy saisons. A great gueuze though has depth and tang balanced by sweetness, which I love. Its creation is also a true art-form, with the ferment driven by a menagerie of microorganisms, taking up to a year, with two years of ageing and blending and don’t forget the old, oxidised, cheesy hops. Somehow it works.
If I gave you $100 in cash right now with the only proviso being that you had to spend it on beer, what would you indulge in?
A Nail Clout Stout and a packet of salted cashews. Damn that’s an incredible beer.
I have a large hoard of empty beer bottles and another of beer glassware. Do you have any beer-related vices?
My wife would say placing my families’ security in the hands of beer production is a pretty hefty vice. I also collect bottles (you’ll see a sample upstairs at NBCo), coasters, bottle openers and stubby coolers. Anything kitschy.
In your opinion, where’s the best place to grab a decent beer in Brisbane?
It’s such a privileged time to live in Brewsvegas if you are into craft beer, we are completely spoilt for choice. I guess it really depends on what you are doing. Tipplers Tap does the best pub food. Archive is great with a large group. Bitter Suite is good for a family lunch. Scratch Bar is fantastic with a group of mates. The Burrow and SuperWhatNot do tasty snacky food and pizza. Green Beacon is a really comfortable place to hang out and have terrific beers. Kerbside probably has the best beer selection. Cardigan Bar has a great atmosphere. Brew is a terrific live music venue. The Empire Hotel, Cobbler and the Walrus Club all have a nice touch of vicarious nostalgia to them.
Bottles or cans?
Draft, it’s the only way.
What are your hopes for the future of Brisbane’s craft beer industry?
For a continuation of the explosion of interest and investment. I would love to see diversity and uniqueness in breweries of all shapes and sizes, including Castlemaine. I would love to see breweries relentlessly pursuing flavour development, quality products, eduction and running of events. By incorporating beer critics, bloggers, chefs and cooks, artists, musicians even chippies, sparkies and builders who are into all things craft with brewers and venue owners/operators we would generate a fantastic culture of discovery, expression and most importantly fun. Being in its infancy, the Brisbane craft beer industry has a unique opportunity to develop an inclusive and encouraging culture, which I think is happening. It is an exciting time to be involved.
This isn’t a job interview but where do you see yourself in five years time?
Hopefully brewing beer (and coffee) at NBCo. Ideally I would love to turn our 12hL system at Newstead into a pilot brewery and just brew limited editions.
What would your response be if somebody stopped you in the street and asked you what your favourite beer blog is?
Beer blog? Sounds like a bodily discharge after a Sunday session.
Cheers for your time Mark – much appreciated. You’ve made some fantastic statements here. Good luck to you and Michael with NBCo. Top blokes!
Previous ‘Who the firkin hell is…?’ appearances can be found by clicking here.
Up next week we’ll be hearing from somebody that plies their trade in Milton.