Over the past decade and more, there have been few brewers who have put out as many great beers in as many different styles as Shawn Sherlock. While head brewer at Murray's, he was named Australian Brewer of the Year in recognition of a mastery of brewing that saw beer lovers clamouring for everything from huge imperial stouts and Belgian-inspired ales to delicate saisons and hop bombs ranging from tiny, sub-3 percent ABV IPAs to those weighing in at more than 10 percent.
Since 2015, he's been doing it for himself. Well, himself and the crowds that flock to the FogHorn Brewhouse he launched with then business partner James Garvey in the heart of his beloved hometown of Newcastle. There, in a converted 1930s industrial unit that formerly housed the likes of a Ford workshop and a surfboard shapers, he fills 17 taps with a rotating lineup of beers from pilsners and pale ales to saisons and stouts, always interspersed with a couple of IPAs and others that continue his fondness for bastardising beer styles.
And it is a rotational lineup in the truest brewpub sense, with only a handful – if that – of beers likely to be there from one visit to the next: the likes of the session-minded Ideas Beer, an IPA or two of some form, and (hopefully) the all-conquering, trophy-winning Sligo Extra Stout. Continuing the brewpub mentality, you can only take the beers home in squealers or growlers too. Indeed, while you'll find FogHorn decals in a few venues around greater Newcastle, rare are the times you'll chance upon them further afield.
That it's worth making the effort to hunt them down at source is undeniable, however. Proving the reputation he'd carved in his previous role was no fluke, gold medals and awards have followed too; in 2017, shortly after opening, he flew with wife Karen to Melbourne for her first experience of the Australian International Beer Awards and they returned home with the trophy for Best Stout, while there's been silverware at the Craft Beer Awards / Indies too.
Beer – and the chance you might get to chat to Shawn about Australian history (he's a former university lecturer) or punk if he's not busy managing his tanks – isn't the only reason for visiting either. The kitchen is kept busy serving up fine New York style pizzas and other American-inspired dishes, created where possible with ingredients sourced from the region's producers. Time it right and you'll be able to take in some live music or comedy on your visit too.
As of January 2019, FogHorn had a new team in place too, with co-founder James moving on to pastures new and Founders First – investors focused on building independent Australian breweries and distilleries – joining Shawn. It's a move that will likely see more beer hit taps in the wider Hunter region and small runs of cans, while also leading to the operation's name swapping from Brewhouse to Brewery. But none of that will divert them from what they've always been and plan to be: a brewpub at the heart of the Newcastle community.