Atomic is a name that will be familiar to many in the local beer world – and with good reason. An American style pale ale bearing that name was debuted by Gage Roads so long ago in craft beer years it predates almost the entire modern day industry in Australia. And, like the Australian beer world that surrounds it, it’s come a long way since.
In fact, it’s fair to say Atomic had already come further than most as its tenth anniversary approached. Sure, there had been a reworking of the recipe as part of a wider evolution of the Gage Roads lineup in late 2014, but it’s the middle of 2019 that will be regarded as ground zero as it evolves from a single beer into a whole new brewing company, Atomic.
Starting with the beer – sorry, beers – first. The Pale Ale remains but has been given a bold new look and is now the starting point from which the Atomic team have been given license to take its DNA – hop forward yet balanced – and expand upon it to create an entire range.
The first stablemate to appear as a permanent fixture was an IPA in cans and on tap, picking up an AIBA gold straight off the bat. The launch of the new brand was also celebrated with a limited release IIPA in tallboy tinnies. Looking ahead, expect more beers in which brewers explore the ever-diversifying world of hops, both up and down the alcohol scale and in various styles too.
In essence, by creating Atomic as a standalone brand, it frees the team to create beers that wouldn’t sit right within the broad appeal parameters under which Gage Roads operates. That said, just as Gage brands like Single Fin are there to ease drinkers into craftier realms of the beer world, the intention with the offshoot is to demystify hoppier beers for the vast majority of drinkers yet to encounter their first IPA.
Possibly the most exciting part of the project came to life in the second half of 2020, when the WA-based operation built a spiritual home for Atomic on the east coast, in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Redfern. It’s ground zero for experimentation and innovation for Atomic, arguably best evidenced by their People's Choice win for Lemon Whip at the 2022 GABS, as well as a fun way for people on the east coast to engage with Atomic’s beers.
On Regent Street, the schmick brewery and taproom – complete with two tiers of seating, a co-working space, and a 12-metre long hop-green bar top – gives punters a place to slow down and enjoy Atomic beers in their natural habitat. The taps pour Atomic’s core range and limited release beers, including a few experimental brews unique to the venue, straight from the stainless steel tanks behind the bar.
Atomic is all about growing people’s appreciation of the wondrous hop, so the staff take every opportunity to engage drinkers in tours and tastings and impassioned chats. But at the end of the day, most beer education happens in the mouth: the best way to learn is to drink some hop forward beers, pair them with spicy Asian dishes cooked in flaming woks, and have a good time.
From beer to brand to brewery, it’s been quite the opening decade for Atomic. And it feels like the story is really only just beginning.