The name Working Title evokes an image of an unpolished and semi-amateur operation, like a garage punk band that makes its own posters or an indie film where you can see the boom mic in shot.
Or, in the case of a brewery, a couple of big kids who like playing with their shiny toys and start each brew with: “Let’s see what happens if we do… this!” And that image isn’t entirely off when it comes to Working Title Brew Co.
But don’t take their self-deprecating name too seriously – the boys behind the toys at Working Title know what they’re doing. Mark Howes and Luke Shield have both been deep in the beer industry for years: Mark as co-owner of Newstead Brewing and the head brewer there for several years, and Luke as graphic design guru for a number of breweries and venues.
Their personalities bring as much to the table as their experience. The pair have a longstanding bromance that plays out as a love-hate relationship worthy of its own sitcom. Will Luke finally tell Mark he’s always respected him and treasures his friendship? Will Mark seal Luke in a vat of fermenting beer and release a Soylent Green IPA? Tune in next week to find out!
Every beer from Working Title is the combination of these two strange and unpredictable brains: Mark’s the sciencey one, Luke’s the artsy one, when you bring them together you get beer magic. That could be in the form of a Nutella fudge double milk stout, a ten percent ABV West Coast IPA infused with toasted native pine, or 1001 hazies with 1001 ways of expressing hop character.
“The sillier the idea, the better,” Luke says. “Mark has an abundance of silly ideas.”
This doesn’t mean Working Title are about novelty without knowledge, though. For all his silliness, Mark has a doctorate in microbiology, a firm grasp of the scientific method, and a keen interest in the finer details of brewing processes and ingredients. In other words: he’s a big ol’ nerd. Nowhere is this more obvious than in his Beer Geek Wednesday posts on social media, where he waxes lyrical about hop compounds and chemical reactions and native yeast samples.
His incredible attention to detail is the reason Working Title can put out a flawlessly clean three-month lager, an IPA focusing on certain aromatic terpenes, and a wild sour that balances savoury funk with complex acidity.
The vibe to really hold onto from the name Working Title is the sense of being in flux: this is a brewery that’s never settled on the final lineup, and rarely brews the same beer twice. In the first two years, the closest Working Title came to a core range was a beer they brewed three times: Moonlight and Pretzels, the salted caramel pretzel pastry stout first made for GABS 2021.
Working Title’s goal with making beers is to never reach their goal. To experiment with processes and innovate with ingredients. To ignore boundaries. To brew new styles, and brew old styles in new ways. To push ever outwards in their exploration of flavours. And to share their discoveries with anyone and everyone interested in tasting such things.
While Working Title started out brewing on other breweries’ kits in 2021, they put down roots in the first half of 2023 with their own brewpub in Newstead, taking over Newstead Brewing’s original site on Doggett Street.
In the same way that there’s a bit of Mark and Luke in every beer (especially the West Coast IPAs – they’re bitter and pungent), the venue is infused with the pair’s personalities. The 70s and 80s retro aesthetic that’s always expressed itself through Luke’s label designs finds ways to pop up through the venue. Mark’s obsession with barrels is obvious from the moment you step in the front door, and each barrel is filled with imperial stout soaking up bourbon and oak flavours or sour beer crawling with wild yeasts and bacteria. Pinball machines and arcade games are a very Luke Shield thing, so there’s a corner dedicated to pings and beeps and flashing lights.
The beverage options are headed by nine rotating taps of Working Title beers (and tinnies of more). A tenth tap features a house-made sparkling wild mead, featuring honey from a native beehive on the rooftop of the brewery. A tight back bar and cocktail list is dedicated to Luke’s wife’s love of gin and cocktails. The coffee service with beans from Coffee Supreme is dedicated to Mark and Luke being utterly insufferable without caffeine.
Then there’s the food. To pair with the eclectic range of flavours in the beers, the food menu has an Asian fusion bent that pulses with aromatic herbs and spices. It’s quite a modern offering, which contrasts with the old school feel of the venue, but it’s hard to complain about sticky sauces and spicy meats and numerous fresh vegan options.
This venue is somehow an expression of two distinct people, yet also holds appeal to a broad range of tastes. It’s truly a place for everyone, not just the craft beer crowd.
But let’s be honest: the people who’ll get the biggest kicks out of Working Title are those who love interesting flavours and are open to new experiences.
Want to drink beer made by best mates who bring out the best and worst in each other? Want to hear nerdy tidbits and trivia about brewing? Want to be surrounded by all things silly and cynical and scientific? Working Title’s the brewery for you.
Just don’t touch Mark or Luke. They don’t like being touched.