Beat Magazine interviewed Moo Brew head brewer Jack Viney about the history of Tasmania’s largest craft brewery, plans for the future, and how it feels to turn sweet 16.
Anyone who has been to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Tasmania will know that architecture is important to owner David Walsh.
So it came as no surprise when, in 2005, the aesthetically-driven Walsh found an empty beer bottle he liked while travelling overseas, and decided he needed to build a brewery to fill it.
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That brewery is now Moo Brew, Tasmania’s largest craft beer brewery, today led by Head Brewer Jack Viney (no, not the AFL player) and General Manager Lauren Sheppard, who took over last year from of long-time general manager and head brewer Dave Macgill.
For non-craft fans, before you click that tiny x in the top right of your tab, Moo Brew isn’t your typical indie craft brewer. While the name David Walsh might get you thinking of the whackiest beers known to humankind, Moo Brew has actually made their traditional beers king.
Seven beers make up the core range: Pilsner, IPA, Pale Ale, Single Hop, Session Ale, Dark Ale and Stout. It’s a tight, consistent line-up of crowd favourites and award-winners.
Viney is proud of their commitment to the classics. “The craft industry has changed so much. A lot of traditional styles have been swallowed up. There’s a lot of noise, we’re proud to make true-to-style beers.”
But, much like MONA itself, there is a lot more going on underneath.
“They’ve all got a bit of a twist,” he says, “whether it’s ingredients or technique.”
In this way, Moo Brew follows the tradition of its kin, combining old and new.
And for the everyday beer drinker, Moo Brew is about to launch a new ‘second tier’ range under its brother label BREW. Already available from this range is their Tassie lager, a gateway beer for non-craft fans. It’s totally blue, and more easy-drinking, with, as the website puts it, “bugger-all hops”.
All beers created by Moo Brew share the same commitment to quality and consistency at every step of the supply chain – whether that’s in the brewing, the packaging, transport or sales.
Last week marked Moo Brew’s sweet 16th birthday. Like many of us this year, they kept celebrations pretty low key.
“Our birthday sort of came and went this year. We usually do cakes and BBQs, but this year we’re really just hyper-focused on dusting off and getting things going in time for Christmas. If we can get beers to the mainland on time, that’s celebration enough for us.”
With 16 years under the brewery’s belt (and six for Viney himself, who started in 2014), what advice would Viney give from Moo Brew to a younger brewery?
“From a production and technical standpoint, there’s a lot of things. Don’t be afraid to ask other people in the industry for help. People are really happy to share.
“From a brand perspective, stick to your guns and know what’s true to you… Try not to get drowned out.”
So, what’s 18 going to look like for Moo Brew?
“Two years from now? You’d be lucky to have a plan for the next 12 months,” he says. “Right now, we’re focused on an imminent summer release as part of our ongoing roster of limited and seasonal releases.”
The initial development phase of new releases primarily comes down to Viney and Rowl Muir Wilson, Moo Brew’s production manager.
“Our customers want new, creative stuff, and our team wants to keep experimenting and playing around with new and different styles… We brew what we want to drink. [Rowl and I] will sit down and come up with a list of stuff we want to try out… mainly drawn from things we’ve tried and talked about at the pub.”
Safe to say, it’s a long list. “There’s a lot on the backburner.”
The new beers will also be expanding beyond the trademark exclusive John Kelly artworks that adorn the core range – though those designs will remain in perpetuity as an integral part of the brand’s history and identity.
So, sweet 16. Plenty is changing for Moo Brew, as it does around that age, with plenty yet to come. But, really, they’re just glad to be back in full swing, and getting ready for an all-out Christmas like the rest of us.
As Viney puts it: “Really, it’s just great to see beers being poured again.”
Cheers to that.
While the brewery itself is a dedicated production facility, Moo Brew beers are served at its MONA home, as well as at the cellar door, and in bars, restaurants and bottle-o’s across the state and country. A great excuse to get down to Tassie, head to your local pub, or even stay home with a case. Order online via Moorilla.