The beer world is in a constant state of evolution, and to get ahead – as our teachers were always fond of telling us – you need to get educated.
Getting educated is a key part of what makes one of Perth's newest brewing companies, Campus Brewing, what it is. Located in Canning Vale, some 30 minutes south of Perth's CBD, Campus may have only launched this year but its genesis can be traced back to 2017, when a group of mates took over a defunct brew-on-premise business and relaunched it as Brew University.
While Brew University is focused on giving people the space, resources and lessons to create their own beer on one of multiple different systems, Campus Brewing is instead all about turning the Brew U's team's ideas into a reality, then getting those ideas into the hands of Perth beer fans.
Driving the business is an eclectic group of couples, including a metallurgist, paramedic, personal trainer, primary school teacher and a pair that run large scale businesses outside the beer industry.
With cans starting to hit WA retailers, we got in touch with co-owner and lead brewer Jonathon Stockey to find out more as part of our long-running Who Brews...? series.
What's your brewery name and what was the inspiration for it?
Campus Brewing! The first step in our venture was revitalising the defunct brew-on-premises business. We named this Brew University, channelling North American varsity/college imagery for the brand, and launching with a bit of a "beer school" vibe.
Campus spun out of that – the commercial brewery on site operated by Brew University’s faculty. We also think it vibes as a local endeavour when we state that our beer was brewed on campus in Canning Vale, Western Australia.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I studied medical science only to end up with a career in business management. Outside thrillingly little exposure to laboratory microbiology, my previous studies and occupation are completely unrelated to beer and brewing.
I’d been homebrewing with my business partner Richard [Allen] for some time. We half-joked for years about opening a winery one day, but beer seemed a smarter choice as we delved down the rabbit hole of craft beer in WA and abroad. We set a five-year plan and ended up with keys to the current location near the end of the fourth year – it’s been nonstop from there!
What beers have you released to date and what's in the pipeline?
We’ve dropped our Hop Kong West Coast IPA, and upscale-prototype Coconut Kolsch, as well as setting ourselves up to be able to package a few hundred litres of every single batch we produce.
So far these have included a dry Australian lager, a coconut-less Kolsch-style ale, a kellerbier, a couple of R&D hazy IPAs and a beer-based hard seltzer. A lot of these are early steps in perfecting a concept or a recipe for broader release – they’ve been received well on tap at the venue so we’ve packaged some!
Of those, what's the beer which best represent you, and why?
Probably the Hop Kong WCIPA. We’re fans of bold beer; be it bold in its bitterness, hop character, sharp carbonation, yeast profile or malt intensity. We’re also passionate about classic, clean lagers, so stay tuned on that front.
We feel that truly balanced beer is bold in its own way in our local market, and we can’t wait to have time and tank space to sit on a traditional helles or pilsner.
If anyone drops past the brewery on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
A curious listener would likely get a surprise as we run the gamut of styles and periods. You could catch Kanye West's Graduation, the Hamilton soundtrack, Silverchair’s Frogstomp, the Gorillaz, Frenzal Rhomb – and I’ve probably undersold us there.
The 12th Man gets a regular play-through, and there’s a certain time of night for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I like to fire up the grain mill to Children Collide, or Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 1998.
Was there a beer or moment that set you on the path to brewing?
Growing up with regular trips to WA’s South West, I was no stranger to wineries and Bootleg Brewery, and have only positive memories. Growing into my own preferences, I can remember Redback, Little Creatures Pale Ale and Feral White beginning to get me excited about flavourful local stuff.
I recall buying St Peter’s Ruby Red as I’d never heard of a red ale, and it set me on this path of popping back to one specific bottleshop to try a different import every couple of weeks. This led to some of the stronger, hoppier and very oxygen-damaged American imports, and probably to my preferences today.
What's your desert island beer?
Is one beer ever truly enough? Pilsner Urquell and Pliny the Elder jump to mind as they are, to my taste, reliable definitions of two beloved styles of beer.
With those very reasonable selections out of the way, I think I’d settle on a barleywine. Likely A Deal with the Devil from Anchorage – and an oaked one at that. Complex, decadent and punchy enough to get me through the ups and downs of equatorial isolation.
(It’s worth noting Campus have their own, sizeable, Prom Queen American Barleywine out at the time of publication. A beer that took 22 hours to brew!)
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Feral’s War Hog, Pilsner Urquell, Rocky Ridge Ace Pale Ale, Colonial South West Sour, some saisons I’ve completely forgotten about. And most of the more out there, adjunct-driven beers from the last Carwyn calendar. I really struggle to find a time, place or food pairing for some of those flavour combinations.
I’m a huge proponent of our local product here in WA. We’ve come a long way in a short period of time and there are world class beers to be found. It’s simultaneously inspiring and daunting, but it’s the source of most of my go-tos.
Whilst there are none left currently, notable recent taproom guests of ours have included Innate’s Heirloom Czech Pils, Artisan’s Tripel Treating, Forth by Two Metres Tall, Ghost in the Machine by Parish, and Rocky Ridge’s Dayman.
The world of beer moves pretty fast these days, what are your plans for this year, three years and five years?
For this year I’d be quite content just to get a few of the bangers that have been marinating in my mind or list of recipes out to punters. Really developing some confidence in our process, and to start pushing our perceived boundaries on hop and yeast driven beers.
In three years’ time, it would be nice to be a bit of a local sweetheart; somewhere our local market can really rely on for some top-notch stuff at reasonable prices; serious foot traffic for afternoon growler fills and four-pack takeaways reminiscent of some Melburnian and San Franciscan favourites would be really great.
More seriously, though, I’d like to have a more mature statewide distribution that we can be confident is delivering our beer the way we intend for it to be consumed. I’ve flagged this as a core target for our business. It’s not a small task as it can have a disastrous or amazing impact on a brand.
In five years’ time, I sincerely hope we’d have taken steps toward or seriously considered a secondary/bigger location. Pushing double what we’re producing currently would be a feat in our current location and I’d expect we could do better than double in five years.
Call into 3/176 Bannister Road, Canning Vale to see what Campus Brewing are brewing and teaching. You can find them and hundreds of other good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app. Or follow the brewery on Facebook or Instagram.
And, if you're reading this in time, you can join the Campus crew at one of their six events as part of WA Beer Week 2021.