A few years back, we were taking photos at a bottleshop that had requested a listing on the site. While there, a young woman came in to pick up fresh growler supplies. We had a chat about beer and went our separate ways.
Some time later, our paths crossed again – and again and again – usually at Good Beer Week events or at breweries, until one day we bumped into the person we now knew to be Alana Rees, kitted out in hi-vis and working on the brewery floor at Mountain Goat.
Fast forward just a couple of years and there she was again, as part of the Goat team, taking to the stage to collect the Australian International Beer Awards trophy for Best IPA for Pulped Fiction, the blood orange IPA that had graduated from her Grainfather at home to beat all-comers in one of the toughest categories in one of the world's biggest beer competitions.
It turns out that when we first met, Alana was in the early days of a six month break from work, having taken a redundancy package from her previous role in the corporate world, and was assessing her next moves. And discovering The Crafty Pint helped nudge her in one particular direction...
"I had a lot of time on my hands to think about my next job, or career," she says. "I made a decision as I loved beer and the brewing of beer, 'Why don’t I try and get into the industry?' Seeing jobs on Crafty made me realise I had a lot of the experience necessary to get my foot in the door. The next challenge was actually getting my foot in that door.
"I decided to attend as many beer events as possible so I could meet people in the industry and generally talk to people to see if anyone had any work available. After pestering pretty much every brewery in Melbourne and having no luck, I started to think it wasn’t going to be that easy.
"Just as I thought that, though, I was attending the Good Beer Week Gala and chatting to Tommy D [Tom Delmont – then a Goat rep, now heading up Fixation in partnership with Stone & Wood]."
As someone who'd been a huge fan of Goat since moving to Melbourne from WA, emails were acquired and a couple of rounds of pestering emails were fired off until finally she heard they needed someone to help cover the forklift and logistics work for two weeks.
"Whoop, whoop! I was in and happy to just get any experience I could," says Alana. "I loved it and worked with a great group of people who were happy to share as much knowledge as they could. The two weeks then turned into, 'We need you long term' and then I was offered a full time brewing role. I couldn't be happier!"
Today, she has the title of Innovation Brewer at Mountain Goat and is tasked with coming up with new concepts for beers and often creates trial batches on the aforementioned Grainfather before they become one-offs or Rare Breeds. Her latest concoction is the Silence of the Rees Coconut Porter and, given what an inspirational tale hers is, we thought it only right to invite Alana to take part in one of our Brew & As to find out a bit more.
Why are you a brewer?
I love everything about beer.
What would you be if you weren’t a brewer?
Still being bored and frustrated managing logistics and operations somewhere.
What was your epiphany beer?
Little Creatures Pale.
What was your level of brewing experience before you joined Goat?
I had been dabbling in homebrewing on and off for about ten years. So not a massive amount of experience, but enough to understand the basics of the whole process.
What's the best beer you’ve ever brewed?
What was it like to discover a beer you'd designed had won a trophy in one of the most competitive categories at the AIBA?
I was pretty speechless, actually. It's a dream to even get to make a beer that can be at a standard where we feel comfortable entering it into the awards and then not only winning a medal but a trophy. Still can’t believe it!
What's your single favourite ingredient to use in beer?
Hops, hops and more hops. Closely followed by yeast.
Are there any beers you’ve brewed that might have been better left on the drawing board?
To be honest, not really. I continue to work on recipes until I’m happy with them. If I had an idea for a beer, there must be a reason for it, so I keep at it until I’m happy.
If you could do a guest stint at any brewery in the world, which would it be and why?
I’d have to say Beavertown. I know most would say one of the big ones in the US but I love the beer and philosophy of Beavertown. They like to make different beer that’s great quality and have fun at the same time.
Plus, Logan Plant is a total babe.
Which local (Aussie or Kiwi) breweries inspire you?
Garage Project is a huge inspiration for me. I love the vast array of beers they make and how they consistently punch out quality beer.
What's your desert island beer – the one to keep you going if you were stranded for the rest of your days?
Tough one. I reckon it’s a close call between Pirate Life Pale, Beavertown Gamma Ray and Deschutes Freshly Squeezed.
And what would be the soundtrack to those days?
Definitely a 90s grunge playlist.
If you couldn’t have beer, what would be your tipple of choice?
Has to be whisky.
What's the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a brewer?
How much trade waste stinks and how much time it takes up dealing with it day to day…
And the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering a career in craft beer?
Remember brewing is a stinky, dirty, physical job that is incredibly hot in summer and everything doesn’t always go to plan.
Apart from that, it can be rewarding if you are prepared to put in the extra effort required to not just make beer, but awesome beer.
You can check out past Brew & A features here.