“What’s a better way to get your kicks than following your passion for great beer and great design?”
This one sentence captures the genesis of Kicks Brewing – Brendan Ibbett brings the passion for beer, and his wife Jess brings the passion for design.
Even before they released their first beer, Sleight of Hand, in May 2021, Brendan and Jess had a well-designed website and online store with beer glasses, t-shirts, tote bags and stickers available. Jess’ illustrations fill every corner, bringing the brand to life. You’ll find a man wearing glasses made from the tops of beer cans, a treasure map of a K-shaped island, and a magician’s hands levitating a hop cone on the Sleight of Hand can.
“The beers are just an extension of the fun in the branding, or the brand’s an extension of the beer,” Brendan says.
It’s not common for a new roving brewing company to focus so heavily on branding right from the beginning. But in the absence of a physical brewery where people can come in to taste and chat about the beers, Brendan and Jess made sure there were other ways for their customers to experience their brand.
“We went all in on the branding, website, collateral, merchandise, so we had that presence outside of a physical space. Jess and I have been spitballing this for a long time.”
It’s been no small undertaking for the couple. Brendan left his corporate job to focus on the beer side of the business, and before they released their first beer to the public Jess spent months drilling down into the brand identity, marketing, online store, and everything else that needed to happen. And yet, for them, starting Kicks was all about building the kind of life they wanted.
“We wanted to have a business that would give us that flexibility, and prioritise the family stuff and still get what we want out of life and out of work.
“It’s surprising to a lot of people that as a husband and wife team we’ve enjoyed working together. Other people say that won’t last long and think you’re crazy to attempt it, but we’ve always enjoyed side projects together.”
Building this business while looking after two kids brings its own challenges, but Brendan says they also help to remind him that Kicks doesn’t have to take over his life.
“The kids go, ‘Oh yeah, you’re making beer now, Daddy.’ They’ve got no grasp of the magnitude of stepping out of a full-time job and stepping into something. They keep you a bit grounded in that sense.
“It’s fun first and foremost. Don’t take it too seriously. The name’s meant to be reflective of that.”
Of course, Sydney’s lockdown has made everything more complicated – a month after releasing his first beer, Brendan was no longer able to head to other breweries to use their equipment or travel through Sydney to build a network of retailers. Not the ideal situation for a new roving brewing company.
But while he’s waiting for the world to allow him to get the next Kicks beer into our hands, we can get to know Brendan and Jess in this entry in our Who Brews…? series.
Who are you?
We are husband and wife team, Brendan and Jess. Brendan’s recently quit his 9 to 5 corporate job to follow his dream of becoming a full-time brewer, while Jess takes care of the graphic design, socials, etc in between freelancing as a brand designer.
We’re well versed in the ins and outs of small business, after establishing and running a lifestyle and homewares shop in Surry Hills for a few years back in 2009.
Where do you brew?
We’re presently without our own home, and brew at some of the great existing Inner West breweries.
Why do you brew?
Brendan thrives on the challenge of honing and refining process and recipes – he’s a bit of a perfectionist! There’s something extremely satisfying that comes with taking these simple ingredients and turning them into the deliciousness that is beer.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Bren: A weekend in Bruges many years ago indulging in some of Belgium’s finest beer and being blown away by the range of styles and number of beers on offer was one of the factors that set me on the path to becoming obsessed with craft beer and, ultimately, to brew it myself.
What's the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Jess: Good beer, good times.
In raising two little kids and working hard for others, we knew there was more to life than the monotony of "being busy", and that our time was precious. We want to be satisfied in the knowledge that we are getting the most out of life, doing it on our terms and enjoying the adventure.
What’s a better way to get your kicks than following your passion for great beer and great design, wrapped up in a small business that works for your lifestyle?
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Bren: Our upcoming release, Towards The Light, a super hoppy pale ale says a lot about us. We firmly believe that smaller beers can, and should, taste just as good as the big beers do, but with the benefit of being able to sensibly consume more than one or two of them.
You can expect all of our releases to be absolutely packed full of flavour, whether it’s a pale ale, a pilsner or a pastry stout.
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Bren: There are plenty of folks that I could choose from here, but I would really love to brew with Eric Toft, the brewmaster from Schonramer in Germany. While I’m someone who loves to brew a wide range of beer styles, I am also process obsessive and can really appreciate the level of skill it takes to perfect German lagers and brew them to such a high standard day in and day out. Learning from a master craftsman like that would be an absolute dream come true!
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Bren: The dark beers have taken over our fridge a little recently so there’s a few big stouts from Stone, Range and Mountain Culture waiting their turn. There are almost always a couple of Wildflower ales; we’ve just fallen in love with their beers over the last few years.
There’s a few of the first releases from Working Title – these guys are doing such great stuff straight out of the gate, and there are always a handful of the latest hazies. I’m still getting a big kick out of seeing how far the style can be pushed after being a huge focus for me over the last couple of years.
What would be your desert island beer?
Bren: Dessert island? It’s gotta be one of the Burial Imperial Stout mind benders…….oh right, "desert" island, yeah that’s not gonna work is it.
I’m gonna go with a German pilsner in that case – any of the well regarded examples will work. Clean, crisp but with the right amount of hop character and bitterness. Simple in its own way but not something I’d tire of quickly.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent times?
Bren: I was a massive fan of the Range 3rd Birthday Triple IPA collab with Garage Project. Man, that thing was so tasty and with just no sign of booziness from that 10 percent ABV!
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
Bren: Sour IPA, or hoppy sours if you prefer, have not really been much of a thing here but I’ve been having a lot of fun lately playing with the style and I think there’s more to come there. I think that acidity is a parameter that can be played with more and, in different beer styles, it can really bring things to life when done appropriately.
What beers have you released to date?
So far, just our first release the Sleight of Hand IPA but our second beer mentioned above is just around the corner now!
Where can people find your beers?
We offer our beers directly through our website and are also stocked at a number of retailers and bars along the east coast of Australia.
Where do you hope your brewing company will be ten years from now?
Ooh, that’s tough. In reality, we don’t have huge dreams so our vision is a fairly modest one. If we can still be doing what we love with a consumer base that appreciates that, and a business that supports our little family and contributes to our local community, then I think that’s a win for us!