They say it takes a village to raise a child and the African proverb certainly runs true for breweries.
For Brick Lane, their village was on the smaller side when 25 founders came together to launch the brewery in 2017. But among them were some big names from the world of sport – Billy Slater, Dan Carter and Eddie Maguire – along with others with prominent backgrounds in hospitality and the wider alcohol industry.
For anyone with a strong interest in Victoria’s craft beer industry, however, it would have been the man in the head brewer role that sparked most interest. Having started his professional brewing career at Bright in Victoria’s High Country, Jon Seltin’s beers reached a wider audience as the inaugural head brewer at Hawkers Beer when they launched in 2015.
And, clearly a sucker for punishment, Jon was keen to get involved in designing another state-of-the-art brewery alongside the Brick Lane team at their site in Dandenong.
That suburb on Melbourne’s outer edge is one that’s become a surprisingly popular home for craft beer, whether it’s those on the larger side like Brick Lane and the space shared by KAIJU! and Exit, or the community-focused brewpub that is BoJaK Brewing.
The site was chosen so Brick Lane would have space both to grow and to design a brewery capable of operating exactly how they wanted. Largely, this meant a focus on efficiency and sustainability, where waste could be reduced and energy repurposed across the brewery. They're keeping to those plans too; in 2022, major expansion – including a 100 hectolitre brewhouse alongside their original 50 hectolitre Braukon plus huge tanks squeezed millimetres apart – lifts their annual capacity to around 20 million litres, while a range of environmentally-friendly measures are central to the expansion too.
In the early days, the lineup of Brick Lane beers was one that showcased Jon and the brewers’ ability to dial in recipes, putting balance and approachability first. The likes of One Love Pale Ale, Base Lager and Red Hoppy Ale are, above all, beers to be enjoyed with mates, preferably by the pint or at a barbecue.
In 2020, those core beers were joined by the Someday Sour range of fruit-driven and tart refreshers, while the one-off releases have included their contribution to the All Together global collab led by New York’s Other Half, which turned out to be as good a hazy IPA as you’ll have come across from an Aussie brewer.
Beers bearing the Brick Lane name are by no means the only drinks to come out of the brewery, however. The team regularly brews for others, with a list of partners that encompasses some of the country’s best-loved indie brewers on one hand, major retailers on the other.
And it’s that word – partner – that seems to encapsulate the way Brick Lane’s story has evolved better than most. The brewery team collaborates regularly with people and organisations in and outside the world of beer, whether that’s their high profile sponsorship of Melbourne Storm or their work with Shane Delia’s Maha Go via the All Together project, one that helped feed hospo workers pushed into unemployment by COVID-19.
Then there’s the brewery’s spot at Queen Victoria Market, one they first occupied during the winter Night Markets of 2018, when they poured other indie brewers’ beers alongside their own. That partnership morphed into a permanent spot and, ultimately, the Someday Caravan, meaning this iconic Melbourne location famed for showcasing local food now offers local beer too.
When Brick Lane first emerged, the big names behind the project commanded much of the attention but, as the business has evolved, it’s been such moves – plus the arrival of beers like the fine modern IPA Supernova in their core range, and nolo offshoot Sidewinder – that define their position within Australia’s craft beer village as much as anything.