As Australia’s beer industry continues to grow, there’s a lot to be said for having a close knowledge of what the beer scene looks like in other countries. The rise of craft beer is an international affair and local brewers with their fingers on the pulse of beer across the globe are well placed to bring those lessons home.
When it comes to frequently flying brewers, few ratchet up the kilometres like Adam Betts of Edge Brewing Project. As the founder of beer importer and distributor Northdown, Craft Beer, Adam regularly finds himself in breweries across the globe. Some might even suggest he launched Northdown merely as an excuse to collaborate with his favourite brewers, especially given the operation is responsible for bringing several beer geek favourites into Australia, among them Evil Twin, Omnipollo, Mikkeller, Amager Bryghus and 3 Fontenein.
Not long after launching Northdown in 2010, Adam began thinking about taking his homebrewing talents to the world. And he had some high quality mates to call upon for support, not least Christian Skovdal Andersen, the head brewer and co-owner of Denmark’s Beer Here, whose beers Adam had introduced to Australia.
The two of them began brewing beers together as gypsies, both in Australia and New Zealand, each release decorated with Christian’s unique hand drawn labels. Then, half a dozen collaborations later, Adam felt it was time for his own label. With that, Edge Brewing Project was born in 2013.
It didn’t take long for beer nerds and experts alike to start taking notice. In 2014, the brewery’s flagship lager, Cool Hops, was declared best pale lager in the world by beer rating site RateBeer. The same accolade was bestowed on the beer at the 2015 and 2016 International Beer Challenge in London.
Soon, restaurants began taking notice too. In early 2016, the restaurant voted best in the world multiple times, Noma, included an Edge beer on the menu at its Australian pop-up, alongside the likes of Two Metre Tall and Grifter Brewing Co. The initial invitation from the team at the Danish restaurant came as such a surprise Adam assumed it was either a scam or a joke courtesy of his old sparring partner at Beer Here.
Part of the reason for Noma’s interest was a shared focus on highlighting native – and often unusual – ingredients in their recipes. The collaboration lives on, in a way, as Edge has since launched a Restaurant Series, which has included creating a sour ale with regional Victorian award-winner Brae, featuring ingredients from the restaurant’s gardens.
The prevalence of Edge beers in fine dining restaurants – certainly, a far higher percentage of Adam’s beers are found in non-traditional beer venues than most of his Aussie contemporaries – isn’t the only way in which the brewing company, now run by Adam and his partner Michelle Vanspall, stands apart. There's the focus on brewing pretty much nothing other than lagers, imperial stouts and sours – and the black van complete with taps in the side that rocks up to beer festivals.
And then there's the brewing company's setup itself. While most businesses that start out as gypsy brewers see it as a stepping stone towards opening a brewpub or production facility, Edge embraces its lack of a brewery. It allows Adam to continue brewing small batch beers, usually at Red Duck, Barossa Valley Brewing and frequently overseas, leaving only Cool Hops as a mainstay.
That said, the hunt has begun for a new home. But not because Edge’s time as a gypsy is up. No, instead, it’s a barrel room Edge is after – and a space in which you can drink right next to them.