Chase Saraiva is not a man who tends to stick to established conventions. He arrived in Australia from Phoenix, Arizona, in early March 2020, impeccable timing which meant that two weeks into what was to be a brief stint at Wildflower Brewing & Blending, the world went into a collective pandemic-enforced lockdown. Not only would his two-month working holiday morph into an almost two-year-long exploration of the production of wild beer, it would also prove to be the catalyst to finally produce beer of his own.
As head brewer at Wildflower, Chase has had ample opportunity to work with local producers and ingredients to help create the finely-structured and unique wild ales for which they’re known. However, the Sydney lockdowns and state border closures meant Chase began to take a greater interest in what was immediately available to him during his short daily commute to work as well as his exploration of the greater Sydney area.
Which brings us to the release of the first beers under the Lora Brewing banner, for which Chase has distilled his boundless curiosity, positivity and brewing knowledge into a wonderful expression of his time in the NSW capital.
Lora’s foundations can be traced to mid-2020 as he attempted to create a wild culture from Malfoy’s Gold, a small batch honey produced in the Blue Mountains and Central Tablelands of NSW. Following a small amount of trial and error, the resulting culture demonstrated its ability to ferment grain sugars almost too well.
As Chase remarked when we sat down to talk about Lora: “Honestly, it was almost too clean. I swear there’s a wild lager strain in there.”
In trying to create something true to his Sydney experience, Chase is committed to ensuring Lora beers are brewed as naturally as possible to an almost detrimental degree. Throughout his brewing career, he's always stuck to the tried and true method of adjusting water profiles to mimic towns or regions depending on the style of beer being brewed. In creating Lora, he opted to eschew the normal water salts and pH adjustment chemicals and just see what happens when you brew with Sydney town water and organically grown NSW grain and malt.
With the culture and wort under control, Chase set about experimenting with what he had at hand. For the first brew, spare apples from a Wildflower cider were turned into dehydrated apple pieces to intensify the apple character and apple molasses for bottle conditioning. The other four beers all contain ingredients foraged in and around the inner suburbs of Sydney.
Parks and other small green spaces provided a bounty of wild fennel, Hot Lips sage, lemon myrtle and lilly pillies, while a neighbour’s heavily-laden bush lemon tree was pillaged (with permission, of course). All these were hopped with organic Motueka to varying degrees and rounded off with some of Malfoy’s polyflora wild honey for bottle conditioning.
Most brewers would describe their beers as labours of love, but most wouldn’t sustainably forage urban ingredients over the course of months then decide to hand paint every single label on every single bottle they release. After sourcing natural pigments from around NSW, Chase and his partner Peyton spent hours upon hours making their mark on every bottle of Lora that’s likely to be produced in Australia.
Oh, we should probably also mention that Lora Brewing’s first five beers may be the only Lora beers ever produced in Australia as they’ll be released mere weeks before Chase and Peyton return to the US just shy of their two-year Oz anniversary.
With his remarkable Australian journey almost at an end and his very own brewing label just at its beginning, we had a yarn with Chase and invited him to take part in our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Who are you?
I’m Chase and I do most of the day-to-day work around Lora with some help from my fiancé Peyton and my good friend Konrad back in the US.
Where do you brew?
My time making the beer for Lora is split between Batch Brewing, where all of the wort is made, and then Wildflower where fermentation, ageing, blending and packaging all happen.
Why do you brew?
For the money, isn’t that why everyone does it???
In all honesty, brewing encompasses a lot of my personal interests: making flavours while utilising fermentation, preservation techniques, agriculture, and building community… what more could you ask for?
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron. This was the beer that really opened my eyes as to what beer could be beyond what I was drinking at the time.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
For a pretty good explanation you can check out the post from last week on Lora’s instagram page as it gets a little involved, but I’ll summarise it a bit.
Essentially, it’s about recognising everything we’ve learned in the past, but challenging ourselves to think in new ways and take a look at what’s around us from a different point of view more frequently, questioning the status quo and not being so close-minded.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
This is tough. We’ll be releasing five beers in Australia and I do feel like all the beers in a variety of ways speak to the ideals of Lora. If I had to pick one, however, I would say Thieves of Fire, a beer brewed with all organic ingredients, conditioned on wild fennel and refermented in the bottle with Australian wild honey from Malfroy’s Gold.
It’s one of the first beers conceptualised in the project and took me outside my comfort zone quite a few times from brew day to packaging.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Occasionally silence, occasionally jazz-funk, jazztronica, indie rock, and some lofi tunes.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
White Bay Beer Co Gantry Crane and Lager. So good.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Where can people find your beers?
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
I hope the brewery is in a place where it’s affecting our customers', employees' and my family's lives in a positive and beneficial way while continuing to push boundaries and hopefully inspiring those around us.
Also, maybe has a little wine shop attached… that would be fun.