Down a dusty alleyway off Mooloolaba’s busy Brisbane Street – only steps from the shimmering surf – hides a small window set into a timber-clad shed. This square portal, which is otherwise completely unremarkable, plays an important, if unlikely, role: it’s Blackflag Brewing’s takeaway counter.
What’s more, it houses the brewery’s pilot brew system and, taken in conjunction with the epic floor to roof street art filling the venue that awaits beyond, is also the brewery’s reminder that the image of the Sunshine Coast you might have in your head – pressed linens, collared shirts, no thongs in the club after 6pm – is not an entirely accurate one.
Opened in 2019 by a crew of locals, Blackflag have been brewing, chewing and spewing out beers that speak to the owners’ love of punk, metal, skateboarding and art. The brewery’s founders come from all walks of life and include, among others, hospitality veterans Steve Barber and Ben Baker, artist Ross Holloway and brewer Simon Grasby. But they are united because, as Ben puts it: “The crew behind Blackflag are misfits. You’ve got some punk rockers, some skateboarders, but we're all just here to enjoy it.”
In a short space of time, and despite COVID-19, the team behind Blackflag has kept true to its inspiration and brought an energy to its craft that would make Henry Rollins stop for a breather. The crew’s approach to beer festivals, for instance, is if not completely unhinged then something close to it, and includes notoriously taking an entire half pipe with them to the Brisbane GABS Festival in 2021.
When asked how they managed that, Ben says, matter-of-factly: “We just called GABS and asked if we could take a half pipe in. At first they were not so sure but, after talking it over, we made it happen.”
There are two notable things about Blackflag’s approach to their beers. The first is the team’s preference for and brewer Simon Grasby’s ability to make each of the beers – in the words of the team – “smashable”. Everything from the mid-strength session ale to the 7-plus percent black and red IPAs in the core range are terrifyingly sessionable.
Ben says the intention is to brew things that are “super tasty and very sessionable. The kind of thing that on a hot summer’s day you can smash back.”
The second thing you’ll notice is the brewery’s attention to and knack for making award-winning can designs. This is thanks to the in-house artist and co-owner, Ross who, with a background in tattoo and street art, has brought Blackflag notoriety; one of their cans placed in the top three of the 2021 GABS Can Design Awards after making the top ten a year earlier.
As for the Mooloolaba venue itself, what you find down that dusty alleyway is a lively space in which Ross’s bright artwork covers the walls inside and out. There’s a long bar that looks like its been clapped together from the wreckage of an 18th century pirate galleon. Outside, it’s laidback, tropical and at night lights up with twinkling fairy lights.
And while the crew have been contract brewing and making their beers on other brewers' setups since opening, at the time of writing they were embarking on a major expansion that includes a serious new brewery and taproom further north on the Sunshine Coast in Coolum.
Tell a mate about what’s on offer – great music, smiling staff and cold beer served up in a space that’s pleasant, welcoming and friendly – and they might think you were talking about countless other venues in the region. But they’d be wrong.
Down the end of that alleyway, among the swaying palms staring you in the face, Blackflag awaits, devil horns held aloft: the black heart of the Sunshine Coast.