With the Australian beer industry’s rapid growth, its propensity for attracting interesting individuals and the fact that you get to spend a lot of time drinking beer, it’s easy to understand why so many people are ditching successful careers in other, often more lucrative, fields to pursue a dream of becoming part of the scene. Mike Clarke is one of them.
Having spent two decades working in IT and telecommunications he called time on that career and began sniffing around for a new challenge, something he could launch himself into with fresh energy and build from the ground up. The search led him as far as his garage where, having graduated from a simple stovetop setup, a growing obsession with home brewing had ballooned out to something incorporating multiple vessels, a four tap keg system and nine fridges. So sprawling would this setup become that he and his wife would soon be forced to move house to accommodate it – possibly not something envisioned when she introduced him to her own brewing hobby when they first began dating. With that kind of trajectory, opening a commercial brewery almost became a given and a plan was duly hatched.
There’s a school of thought that the best way to succeed as a brewer in the modern Australian beer market is either by opening a small brewpub and catering to locals, or by going down the path of a large scale production brewery that distributes nationally. Mike effectively chose both, and more.
Having launched the Sauce brand (the name being a slice of slang he took a liking to one night over a few beers) as a gypsy brewer at the end of 2016, he locked in a large warehouse site in Sydney’s busy beer hub of Marrickville and began an arduous process of converting the infrastructure into something capable of housing a full production brewery. It took a lot of tradies and the best part of a year, but in October 2017 the roller door opened to the public for the first time.
Visitors were greeted by a state of the art setup featuring all the mod cons a brewer could want, from a highly automated brewhouse to a pilot system for experimentation, a canning line to a roof covered in solar panels – even so far as a lighting system that automatically adjusts to the ambient conditions.
Opposite the mountain of high spec tech stuff is a bar pouring twelve taps of Sauce, serving tasting paddles and selling fresh takeaways. Beyond that, at the rear of the warehouse, is the piece de resistance in the form of an enormous urban beer garden. From the front you’d never guess such a space existed, but as soon as you set foot on the (fake) grass you’re glad it does; for the array of experiences on offer across the Inner West breweries, there’s something special about simply enjoying a beer with greenness beneath your feet and bright blue skies above. To sweeten the deal they've even been so kind as to pop a mobile bar out back so you don't have to trudge those pesky few metres to line up inside at the brewery bar.
As for the beer you’ll be drinking, the core range follows Mike’s personal preference for hop forward styles, ranging from a New World pilsner through the delightful (and delightfully crass) Piss-Weak mid strength through pale ale, IPA and the exclamation mark of a double IPA. But with plenty of taps to fill and experienced production brewer Brodie French at the helm as head brewer, they'll do anything their mood dictates, whether it be an English style mild ale in autumn, barleywines and barrel aged stouts in winter or the New England IPAs that have become something of a house specialty.
With a grand home of their own firmly established right in heart of one of the country's busiest beer trails, a tap room that bustles to the brim and the means to become one of the country’s larger independent beer producers, there are fewer excuses not to get on the Sauce.