It can take years for people to realise their craft brewing dreams. Not so for Ryan Walker. It was only two-and-a-half years ago that he won a voucher for homebrew kit, yet this weekend he'll be launching his first two beers at venues across Perth.
What makes the speed of the turnaround even more impressive is that when he received the kit he wasn't even into beer – wife Georgie was the beer drinker of the two, while he tended towards spirits. Yet the five litre Small Batch all-grain setup sparked something inside him – perhaps the fascination with flavour and recipes that had led him to become a chef earlier in his life, a career he's since long left behind.
Within six months of putting down his first brew, he entered a competition run by Little Creatures, made it to the final and, as he puts it: "I went from there really."
He started documenting his brewing progress on Instagram, which soon became a document of his intentions to move from home to pro-brewing, and was designing and hawking merch long before he'd even decided which beers would announce his brewing company to the world.
"I'm pretty new to the beer world in general," Ryan admits on the phone from his car, while working his day job in business development for an automotive treatments company. "I've got one of the best bottleshops – Mane Liquor – just 500 metres from where I live, and I'd been there a few times but usually just to grab Christmas presents.
"The guys there opened my eyes but it was the homebrew kit that really got me started."
The first chance to taste the debut Brewcha Libre beers – Garage Karate, a DDH oat cream IPA brewed with LupoMax Citra and Mosaic, Zamba, Sequoia and Eclipse hops, and Garage Karate 2, a tropical hazy IPA featuring toasted pineapple, peach and coconut – will be this Thursday at The Royal Hotel. Both are collaborations with Impi Brewers, based in Wangarra, and the result of a partnership that had developed organically over time.
"They started following me [on Instagram] one day and invited me to a canning day," Ryan says. "They really took me under their wings – took me to awards and festivals – and we've brewed together. They've been fantastic for me."
When the time came to take the final leap, Ryan designed the recipes on his home kit, Impi co-founder and head brewer Jason Marais adapted them to be upscaled for their 1000 litre brewhouse, then Ryan brewed them alongside Impi brewer Kate Namestnik.
While he's still busy selling the last few kegs and cans of each, Ryan says there's been plenty of interest from Perth's craftier venues and retailers, in part due to the styles, but also because "everyone wants the newest beers". Once they've been launched, the plan is to put out a straight Brewcha Libre beer, rather than a collab, ideally before Ryan goes in for back surgery in late March that will put him out of action for a few weeks.
Which brings us to the name of his brewing company.
"I've always been a wrestling fan," Ryan says. "I didn't actually think of it as a name until late on, but it makes a lot of sense. The beers and these Mexican wrestlers are so wild and wonderful so they paired up quite well.
"It's funny how many people have contacted me about the name and how much they loved watching wrestling. Modus released a beer with wrestling-themed branding recently so there seems to be a bit of crossover."
Ahead of the weekend's launch, we invited Ryan to tell us more for our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Who are you?
We're a family-run startup, mostly myself (Ryan) doing all the work at the moment with the goal of my wife (Georgie) and I being able to walk away from our day jobs and do this full-time. We also have a very close friend (Fez) come and help where he can, and we'd love to have him a part of it all in the near future.
Where do you brew?
Currently we're gypsies. Impi Brewers have been very good to us with allowing us to get into their brewery and produce our two collab beers with them and let us learn their equipment. We're hoping they will allow us back in the future for some Brewcha Libre solo releases very soon.
Why do you brew?
That's a question I'm sure everyone asks themselves at some point haha! I enjoy the creative side of it: I love that you can use the exact same ingredients and produce two totally different products with something as simple as a different mash or fermentation temperature, blending flavours and making people say, "Wow!", and how different palates pick up different profiles.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
I won a gift voucher for a Small Batch home brew kit!
I was never much of a beer drinker as the fizzy yellow water that you have at work knock-offs just didn't excite me, but I won the kit and ordered a saison recipe because I had never heard of one before and down the rabbit hole I went, learning about all these amazing flavourful styles, and I was hooked.
I entered a few competitions and placed in every one I entered, so that gave me the confidence that it's not just friends and family telling me my home brew's good... and off to the races we went.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Brewcha Libre! It's inspired by Mexican wrestling Lucha Libre. In Lucha Libre there are big and wild characters – some traditional and some not so traditional like spacemen, man bulls and dinosaurs – but they all have their own interesting stories, over the top personalities, and their own fan followings.
Our beers are the same. You'll see traditional styles and the wild and wonderful new crazes all with their own stories to tell and personalities dialed up to 11.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
We've only got the two collab releases at the moment so that's a tough question. We're planning on just running with special releases until we have our own tap room where we will have our core.
One beer style that will always have a presence when we open the tap room will be a saison, which will probably best represent us. They're almost an "anything goes" beer, where you can have fruit, you can have spice, it can be sour, it can be light or dark...
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Dave Bautista, but he needs to be in full Drax the Destroyer make up. That dude's funny as hell, he can definitely do all the heavy lifting, and he's a former wrestler so he fits the bill perfectly. The Rock's too Hollywood!
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they& most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
90s and 00s hip hop! The Game and 50 Cent "How We Do" would definitely be on the playlist.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
A lot of home brew kegs! A Peach Saison, Sour Cherry Porter, No Alc Hazy, Rosella Gose, Bavarian Pilsner, plus a few Mash Gang "Yeah, Nah, Yeah", a range of Impi beers, all the Dollar Bill beers I can find, a few Garage Project barrel-aged beers and some Site Fermentation Project. I do love my Brett beers.
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
It's a toss up between Site Fermentation Oud Bruin, Rocky Ridge Shake and Bake or One Drop and Funky Fluid's All Out King.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Rocky Ridge's Christmas Quad was a great brew on Boxing Day! Their Mimosa Sour also!
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
Beer in barrels! There will absolutely be a Barrel Project at our brewery. Give us all the Brettanomyces!
Where can people find your beers?
Launching this Friday at retailers in WA, with a special launch party at the Royal Hotel this Thursday. And at the Impi brewery.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Tucked away somewhere in the bush close to Perth, with plenty of room for barrels, a big tap room and lunch hall – maybe even some chalets for people to be able to spend the weekend there and enjoy a full brewery experience including watching/helping beer be made.