When former IT workmates swap PC’s for water, malt, hops & yeast you get Exit Brewing, an exciting new micro-brewery from Melbourne.
Former workmates, now brewery owners, Fraiser Rettie and Craig “Grum” Knight have had a long path to the birth of their first beers.
Frasier graciously answered a few questions about the history and future of Exit Brewing.
Exit Brewing is an instantly recognisable name. How did you guys meet & what’s behind the name?
“We met working in IT about 15 years ago which inspired the ‘Exit’ name. Grum got off the dunny one day and said I think I’ve got a name ‘Exit’ as in ex-IT. I instantly liked it and given the fact it was conceived from such a place, it had to be the one. Interestingly, we soon found out that we had grown up about five minutes away from each other (Mooroolbark and Lilydale in Melbourne’s outer east) and that our mum’s knew each other and played at Mooroolbark tennis club.”
“In 2001, I went to the UK for an IT job and Grum had gone over to Ireland and we ended up working together in the UK. We’d done a fair bit of traveling to do with beer (mainly to Belgium) and then we started home brewing about 5 years ago and thought we really needed to give it a go at a commercial level to see what would happen. We had both decided that we wanted to move back to Melbourne after around 10 years away, so timing wise it made sense to give it a go when we moved back. At the very least it’s an awful lot more interesting and fun than an office job.”
“We got an opportunity to purchase a fermenter at Cavalier Brewery and used this to start up our own brand. It was a great, cost-effective way to get a foot in the door of brewing on a commercial level.”
It’s a very courageous move starting a brewery. How is the transition from Full Time work to running a new Brewery?
“I imagine it’s like a lot of start up businesses for so many other people. We’ve gone into this business through a love of beer and the business side of things has been a huge learning curve for both of us. We’ve had to get out of our comfort zones in many ways but I have to say the experience has been fantastic so far. We’re learning so much on a daily basis with everything that you have to do when you start your own business.”
“The actual brewing of the beer is quite a small part of it. You’re visiting places, dropping samples off, chatting to suppliers, people in the industry and learning the do’s and do not do’s from your own and other’s experiences as well as tons of planning.”
“It’s been really exciting and occasionally a bit scary as we’re not naturally extroverted people, but running your own business you need to be able to sell yourselves and your product so that’s not been that natural for us, but I have to say we’ve both really enjoyed it. We’ve made a few mistakes and I imagine we’ll be making tons more yet along the journey, but that’s totally fine with us. We’re learning all the time.”
“ I still work in IT 4 days a week and Grum has a family as well as handling a lot of brewery admin and being the head brewer he is always looking to tweak our recipes or develop new ones so there is not much free time out there for us at the moment. Neither of us would change a thing though.”
Releasing a Saison and Scotch Ale as your first beers definitely makes Exit Brewing stand out.
No Pale Ales for you guys!
How did you decide on these styles?
“We knew when we started that being a brand new brewery and being only two of us that no one has ever heard of, with no distribution, that we should probably try to do something a little bit different to try to stand out. We fell in love with Saisons from our many times in Belgium and the Scotch Ale is a really tasty style that we had a fair bit of from living in the UK and has quite a broad spectrum both in flavour and alcohol.”
“We’ve also found that these styles seem to be popular both with the beer enthusiast and also the average punter who might like to try something a little bit different to a Lager or a Pale Ale.”
“The other reason we chose these styles is that we knew being a brand new start up, it is going to take a while to sell all the beers, so it made sense to brew styles of beer which would retain their character and mature quite well. As much as we love IPA’s (and we’ll definitely be brewing a few of those) if they’re not sold and consumed fresh, a lot of their character can be lost.”
“We’re rapt with how the Saison has turned out and it has been really popular so far. I think it’s safe to say that another one will be around the corner in the not too distant future.”
“We used a very small amount of Peated Malt and Smoked Malt in the Scotch Ale, just enough to enhance the flavour without dominating and it’s definitely one that benefits if you let it warm up a few degrees from fridge temperature.”
Your third batch has just been brewed. What is next on the cards for Exit Brewing?
“#003 is a Milk Stout which we brewed last Thursday/Friday (26th / 27th June 2014) and will have an estimated ABV of about 5.5. We’re very happy with how the brewing went; now it’s all up to those friendly yeast cells.”
“We haven’t finalised what #004 will be yet, it could be an IPA of some description. We’ll probably make a call on that in the next few weeks. From then on we will see how we feel. We don’t plan to have a core range at the moment so our very loosely based plan will be to brew what we feel like at the time. Although we’re not going to have a core range that doesn’t mean we won’t repeat beer styles, we will definitely be doing another Saison, but we may just decide to change the hops we used in #001, for example.”
“As well as owning our own 3000 Litre fermenter out at Cavalier Brewing where beers #001 and #002 were made, we also have a license for our very small 70 litre system, where we can do one off batches of single keg stuff of a more experimental nature.”
I’ve had many people positively comment the label and logo while tasting your beers with friends.
Who designed the brand logo and how was that process?
“Thanks very much for the kind comments. Both being lazy IT dudes and having not one single creative bone in our bodies as relates to artwork, a mate recommended an online design website where you give the plan for what you would like your logo to look like and then designers can enter a competition to design the winning entry.”
“We thought this was a good way to test out some ideas for what we would like as basic plan for a logo with the idea that we would then take this idea to a local designer who would then use this as a basis to construct our logo. In the end we loved the logo that one of the designers submitted in the competition and we just went with that.”
“The label, this was directly inspired by the Kernel Brewery in London. Up until recently when they were very small, the Kernel had the same core labels for all their beers, they would then would hand-stamp the different beers onto each label as required. Although we don’t hand stamp our labels, we loved the simplicity of the Kernel label design and also the idea of making the brewery name the focal point of the label rather than the beer it is presented in. We want people to be able to identify an Exit beer instantly from the label.”
What were the game changing beers or other non-beer inspiration that has driven Exit Brewing?
“We were living in the UK when the craft beer revolution really kicked off. BrewDog were a huge part of that. They smashed down doors for so many of the fantastic UK breweries that produce the high quality interesting beers we see coming from there these days. We saw at close hand BrewDog go from very small to huge in a very short time span and although we don’t think for one second we can hit those heights, it inspired us that it can be done. ”
“We were also inspired by the Kernel Brewery as that showed us you can develop very high quality product and a brand at very small volumes which was a more realistic approach for us. ”
“I think other inspiration just came from being fortunate to have the opportunity to taste so many different types of beers over the years which really broadened our horizons in a beer sense and meeting the people in the industry who have been so friendly, helpful and warm, whether they be here or anywhere around the world.”
“Hendo from Brewcult has been an inspiration to us as well with his fantastic knowledge not just about brewing technique but about working within a commercial brew house which we are still incredibly green at. He has a great focus on safety as well as being someone to bounce ideas off and always willing to help out with any questions we might have (and we have lots!). All this and he’s a great guy who makes awesome beer too. ”
“In terms of non-beery related inspiration, I think we both get easily inspired by friends who have a creative flair for different things or drive themselves to do something which they love.”
“If I had to name three game changing beers that probably inspired us along our journey of discovery then I’d nominate:
BrewDog – Hardcore IPA
Gouden Carolus – Classic
Cantillon – Rose de Gambrinus
There have been tons of others but these probably had that ‘wow’ factor at the time we first tasted them to blow us away.”
EXIT BREWING – #001
Wafts of yeast, Lemon Meringue and floral characters from the Galaxy and Sorachi Ace hops are the first greeting from this Saison.
A delicious pithy bitterness supports more floral and lemony characters to what seems closer to a Belgian Golden Ale.
This is crying out for a Spring picnic!
EXIT BREWING – #002
This beer is best enjoyed after warming up from the fridge.
Warmth allows the caramel and light smokey characters to rise from the glass.
The inclusion of some Peated and Smoked Malt is a masterstroke. It’s delicious!
Chocolate flavours come through a tight carbonation and well balanced bitterness.
This is a perfect winter warmer.
Exit Brewing Beers can be purchased in Perth at Mane Liquor and soon at Cellarbrations at Carlisle.