New Australian brewery Pirate Life have stormed Western Australia with their debut range of craft beers. In less than two weeks the team have supported around 15 events to launch the beers and found many new converts. Goodtimes spoke with one of Head Brewers Jared ‘Red’ Proudfoot and Michael ‘Mick’ Cameron from Pirate Life about the the brewery and stories of how hard work leads to great timing.
The core range was launched in Adelaide on the 1st of March with a solid two weeks of launch events. The recent Perth launch was very successful with Red noting that “the reaction here has been fantastic. People are really enjoying the beers”. This week it’s Melbourne’s turn this week which will be a solid lead in to Good Beer Week including the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) for which Pirate Life have planned something special.
Red shared some of the details about this one-off beer. “It’s going to be a Black Belgian Double IPA, about 10.4% ABV%. It should be fun to brew. It’s going to be around 150 IBU’s (International Bitterness Units). We’ll use Candi Sugar, Belgian Malts, American hops and then either just a single Belgian yeast strain or we might do a concurrent ferment with US and Belgian yeast. We haven’t decided yet”
The hopped up crossbreed beer gives some indication of the intention behind this brewery. They are not mucking around and they have a passion for hops.
This new world brewing passion can be taken in some way from a strong BrewDog connection. Head Brewers Jack Cameron and Red met while working at the Scottish brewery and Jack’s dad Mick also worked for BrewDog as well as a number of other breweries.
The international experience in a reputable and extremely fast growing company has clearly influenced the Pirate Life brewery. From initial discussions in February 2014 the Pirate Life team signed the lease on a building in Hindmarsh, Adelaide on the 12th of November 2014. Four months later they brewed the first beer of the 12th of February 2015 for release in Adelaide in March.
This confident and focused attitude translates to the clean, modern packaging on the beer cans.
“We packed the way we wanted to package. We just wanted to keep it really simple. Not too much crap on the cans but informative and that’s why we put the recipe on the rounds, to use that space that nobody has used much. We’re pretty happy with it.” Red said.
“The more educated the drinker is the better off they are going to be to make choices in the future. Having that transparency is pretty important I think in the industry. More brewers should probably do it. The best Craft Beer brewers in the world share everything. There’s no secrets for a lot of them.”
Mick Cameron adds that “One of the things that I learnt in the US when I was working with BrewDog and Coopers was that the Craft Beer world is very collaborative. You see that in all of the collaboration brews that go on. There’s communication going on with brewers all around the world. Everyone is open to sharing. It’s like when we wanted to buy our brew kit we spoke with the guy who’s the Head Brewer at the new Stone brewery down in the City of San Diego. Jack (Cameron) had met him in his job at BrewDog so he rang him and said ‘Premier stainless, whats the kit like?’. The bloke said they’d had no dramas at all with it, it terrific. It’s the very same kit that we’ve got and that gave us the faith to say ‘if Stone are using it, it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us” *laughs*
Red notes that “They’ve got a few more toys on their one. I don’t think that Kris (Ketcham – Stone San Diego) needs to run up and down the stairs as much as us” *more laughter*
The conversation then turned to the recipes. I was interested in the choice of the Mosaic hop in two to the core range.
“It’s the daughter of Simcoe and Nugget. I’ve always loved Simcoe but it doesn’t really have much of the tropical kind of flavour we were going for. So Mosaic has a bit of both and up until about a month before we were brewing it was a completely different hop. It was going to be Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe which was going to be exactly the same as the Double IPA and then one afternoon I popped into the the Wheaty (Wheatsheaf Hotel) on the way home and they had the Deschutes ‘Chasin’ Freshies’ on tap, so a Wet Hop Mosaic beer, and I sent a message back to Mick saying we need to rethink the hops in the Pale Ale and I’m pretty glad we did because it gives a really nice balance” Red said.
It’s this kind of timing that underplays years of hard work. Red was laconic about this but there does seem to be quite a few moments of perfect timing throughout the Pirate Life adventure.
“Ah mate, throughout my whole career it’s been like that. Some you think are good luck or good opportunities but you just gotta put yourself in the right place, at the right time.”
The core range is currently three beers but this will extend to up to six including an Imperial Red Ale, a Stout and possibly a Saison. This will be dependent of the new tanks that are currently being produced. The current monthly capacity is up to 45000 litres however Red noted that 40000 litres is comfortable and gives the beer the right time in the tanks.
Some other beers are already in the pipeline however one of them is destined to be the ‘lost’ Pirate Life beer.
“We had a Wheat beer lined up. A traditional Belgian style but we were going to use South East Asian aromatics like lemongrass, Kaffir lime, ginger but I’m not sure if we will anymore because Two Birds just launched a very similar beer. We need to do a bit of rethink. It needs to be around that softer, summer style.” Red noted.
“We’ll have a lot of seasonal releases throughout the year, a lot of single batches. We’ve got a Brown Ale only in keg in South Australia and the next single batch we’ll make sure it’s over here (Perth).”
“Because of our BrewDog backgrounds, always having a bunch of different beers in the tanks is something that excites you. So that’s something that’s pretty important to us to keep brewing at Pirate Life”
This lead to conversation about how Red got into brewing.
“I did two dreadful homebrews and probably wouldn’t even give it a crack anymore. I wasn’t a big homebrewer but I’ve always loved beer. When Creatures (Little Creatures Brewing) I’d just turned 18 and I was working for Western Power so I was away all the time. I’d spend two weeks in Albany or two weeks in Kojonup, you know out in the middle of nowhere. I figured there was no point living in Perth so I moved down south with the folks and befriended Jeremy (Good – Cowaramup Brewing) pretty early on and found out how he got into it and why he got into it. It got to be about four years on and I went ‘Right, I’m going to be a brewer’.
“He (Jeremy) was working as a network engineer and said ‘I’m going to give that away and follow a passion’. I thought why wait until I’m 40 I’m going to have a crack at it when I’m 25 and Jeremy said he’d done this course at the IBD (The Institute of Brewing & Distilling), so I did the course above it. While I was away I started reading instead of going to the pub. I was much better off reading at home in the caravan park, just learning as much as I can and it was around the time in November 2009 when BrewDog released their Penguin beer (Tactical Nuclear Penguin), 32% ABV. There was a big buzz around the brewing world and me being young and excited I spent an afternoon looking at the BrewDog site after watching the Penguin video and at these pretty cool young chaps at this brewery.
“At that stage they were the bad boys of brewing, they’ve matured now but anyway there was the news page on the website that said “Brewers wanted” and I was like ‘There’s no chance in the world but I sent James and email and told him a bit about myself and then got a response that said ‘What are your five favourite beers and why?’. So I got that back to him a week later. I took me a little while to put it together. So I got it back to him and it was coming into December and I got an email back that said Martin’s (Dickie) Perth for the next two weeks”
“His brother lives here (Perth). In the next two weeks it would be good if you can catch up. I was away working, think I was in Albany at the time and this was before the Christmas break. I worked Christmas Eve, drove back and went to the office and put away the paperwork for the day and went to Creatures (Little Creatures Brewing) and had a couple of beers with Martin. I got through the first pint of Roger’s and he’s like ‘Your about 70% of the way there’. The next pint I got it over the line and he said ‘Pack up your bags and come over’. I gave my boss two months notice and my last day of work he dropped me off at the airport. I knocked off at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday and away I fly”. *Laughs*
I asked more about the BrewDog connection and whether Red had met Jack or Mick before working in Scotland.
“We (Jack) met in Aberdeen (Scotland). Pretty randomly actually. I got off the plane and I got a message on my phone from Dickie (BrewDog owner Martin Dickie) saying give this chap a call and he’ll tell you where you’re staying tonight. I knew Jack and Mick from the website because as soon as I got the job I was [researching] BrewDog, BrewDog, BrewDog.”
“Mick was in the US and Jack was in the UK by himself for three or six months and then Mick came over and set up the first BrewDog bar in Aberdeen for them. They were living in San Diego at the time.”
Talking about his new Pirate Life adventure back in Australia, I asked Red about what sparked the choice of Adelaide as the 1000 square foot Pirate Life brewing headquarters.
“We’re in Hindmarsh. It’s about 2 km’s from the city . Adelaide, has been personally has been fantastic . It’s such a good city and me being a country boy it feels like a big county town kinda thing so for me it’s really good. The food and wine scene over there is really strong so it’s exciting to be there.”
“Professionally it’s a good place to set up. For us we want to be as environmentally friendly as possible so shipping beer from Adelaide is a lot better than shipping beer from over here (Perth) to the East Coast. The West Coast is probably going to be 20% of our market so a small amount of beer comes across here, a long way and the bulk of the beer goes a short way and maintains freshness. All of our beer is transported cold.”
As for the future of Pirate Life Brewing Red is already thinking about their first Birthday beer.
“We’ve got a good one lined up for our first birthday which I’ll have to get on to. I’ll probably have to start planning that in November, start brewing it around then and then get it into some barrels. It’ll probably be barrels from the Caribbean I’d say. We need to get a big iconic flagship beer and get into barrels that’s previously held some nice rum. That’s pretty important, Pirates, rum, it makes sense” *laughs*
Pirate Life beers can be found by following this link.