July 4, 2014 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.
It’s a big forthcoming weekend in Brisbane with a lot of beer-related events going on – cue shameful plug for the 250 Beers calendar. Amongst the great things occurring is the launch of Croft Brewing at Zuri Bar in Fortitude Valley this Sunday afternoon from 4pm. The man behind Croft Brewing is certainly well-known to a lot of people around Brisbane – cue another shameful plug – mainly for his admirable, laid-back outlook on life and his dedication to the world of crafting beer. Without further ado, here he is – Gavin Croft…
What is your day job?
When I’m not brewing delicious beer (most of the job is actually just cleaning) with Team Newstead, you will find me tirelessly setting up my own project: Croft Brewing Company. Also, occasionally I get paid to talk about my favourite beer topics at learning sessions such as The Scratch’s Alementary.
How long have you been doing that for?
I’ve been part-time at Newstead Brewing Co since February after their German brewer, Peter, left for Russia. As for my own project? Well, I’ve been talking about it for seven years now and after many baby steps in that direction I’m finally working on it full-time.
What were you up to before that?
I was polishing glasses and chewing people’s ears off at The Scratch for a while and brewing beers at Bacchus before that. I’ve also worked as a carpet cleaner, a baker, a barista, a retail sales associate, a cleaner, a baseball coach, and a seasonal farm worker. How far back do you want to go?
What is the best part about your job?
Working for myself means I get to call all the shots, but the hours are rubbish and the pay is even worse! So Newstead is a good balance to that: I enjoy being told what to do and getting paid. The best thing about brewing though is that every day is different due to the many facets of beer production so it never gets boring. I love using both my left and right brain, continually balancing the art and the science of brewing. It’s quite a physical job too and the days are often long and draining so I find it easy to sleep at night. And at the end of the day you can sit down with a beer (also occasionally at the start of the day).
What was your ‘epiphany beer’? The beer that made you ‘turn your back on cack’?
Never being brand loyal, I was always trying new beers but it was forever just modern lager, be it from Australia or international. Nothing stood out until – with a bunch of friends – we bought a ‘Beer Lovers Box’ from BWS in 2005. It contained 11 different lagers from around the world and 1 bottle of James Squire Amber Ale. It had so much flavour compared to the rest that I actually stopped to think about what I was tasting.
Have you ever had a beer that has totally blown you away? If so, what was it?
One of my all time favourites is Saison Dupont. It’s such a simple beer with a surprisingly simple recipe. Every time I open a bottle however, I am blown away by how complex it is with so many layers of character, and yet it is still thirst crushingly refreshing. Also my first sip of smoked beer from Schlenkerla was ground breaking – I mean you never really expect a beer to taste like bacon, do you? That beer forced me to travel to Bamberg in Germany several times.
What is your preferred style of beer and why?
I have three:
- IPA (or session IPA/hoppy pale ale). I love them especially when they are dry with minimal malt character and maximum ‘New World’ hop character. Your breath (and burps) smell like hops for hours after.
- Saison/Farmhouse ale. Generally dry, tart, spicy, packed with lemon/lime/orange flavour from a combination of yeast, hops and very occasionally spices. They often pair beautifully with many different foods.
- Rauchbier (smoked beers, particularly the traditional Bamberg style). A meal in a glass. You don’t need anything else. Except maybe a kilo of pork knuckle.
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?
I would buy a carton of Orval. It’s a trappist Pale Ale that is fermented pretty dry and then dry hopped as well before being bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces. I’ve had it super fresh before and it tasted like an excellent Belgian Pale. I’ve also drunk old stock that had a refreshing sour funk coming from the Brett. So I’d stick this carton in my ‘cellar’ and open 4 bottles a year for the next 6 years, watching them get more and more sour. I’d really like to know at what point the Brett stops working.
I have a large hoard of empty beer bottles and another of beer glassware. Do you have any beer-related vices?
I used to collect bottles until I ran out of room to store them. My mum sold the whole collection at a garage sale for a coupla bucks when I was 21 or so. Now I just collect bottle caps – they take up less room…and Imperial Stouts.
In your opinion, where’s the best place to grab a decent beer in Brisbane?
That’s too hard to answer as there are so many good options (lame answer). I walked into the Mill on Constance for the first time the other day and there was this Irish music group jamming and singing. It was the most festive and joyous atmosphere which made it really hard to leave. During my time working at The Scratch however, I made a lot of great friends, so I certainly have a soft spot there.
What is so good about it there?
The community spirit.
Bottles or cans?
I don’t really know why this is still a question. The only benefit bottles have is one of perceived ‘premiumness’ that allows you to take them to BYO restaurants. In practically every other way cans are a superior packaging solution (no UV permeation, no O2 ingress, more return from recycling, rapid cooling, lighter weight, stackable, and chumps can’t smash them in the street for you to cycle over and pop your tubes). Consumers are slowly coming around and eventually more small breweries will be canning but many are invested in bottling lines already, so don’t expect it overnight.
At the end of the day, if you want to get the most out of your beer you should be pouring it into a glass anyway.
What are your hopes for the future of Brisbane’s craft beer industry?
I live in the ‘burbs and it is a desolate wasteland of crappy beer options all around me. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if good beer was just considered normal everywhere? Then maybe there could be just a handful of bars that specialize in flavourless swill. Rotating taps of XXXX, VB, Carlton, and every green bottle Euro or Asian lager.
This isn’t a job interview but where do you see yourself in five years time?
I’m working towards my own actual physical brewery so hopefully that will be a reality. I’d love to be doing collaborations with some of my ‘hero’ breweries (Schlenkerla, Dupont). If all of that is cruising along nicely then I’ll be distilling my own single malt…at least for personal consumption.
What would your response be if somebody stopped you in the street and asked you what your favourite beer blog is?
I miss the duck-face poses of What Beer to Drink. If you did more duck-face Darren then I would say 250 Beers for sure but until then I couldn’t fairly say that. I’m easily swayed.
Quack! Nice one Gavin and thanks for taking time out of what is a huge week of preparation for the launch. Personally, I wish Gavin all the very best of luck in the world. He deserves it. If you happen to read this before Sunday 6th July then get yourself to Newstead Brewing from 10am for the pre-launch party then to Zuri Bar for the actual launch party and then to The Scratch from 9pm for the after-party party. If there is any beer left after a whopping day, keep an eye out for Croft Brewing’s beer around town.
Previous ‘Who the firkin hell is…?’ appearances can be found by clicking here.