Sam Sets Sails For Bali

Imagine you're a brewer who enjoys certain things outside the world of making and enjoying beer. Things like spending time sailing on the ocean, squeezing in as much fishing as you can, setting off on adventures and, when the time and occasion presents itself, shaking your tail feather.

We're lucky in Australia that there are plenty of opportunities to do such things. But what if the opportunity arose to do them while brewing in an idyllic beachside location in Bali?

If you've never visited the Indonesian island, the combination of the words "beer" and "Bali" will most likely conjure images of hordes of Aussie tourists knocking back Bintangs while wearing Bintang singlets, yet the scene there is changing.

Back in 2018, Crafty writer Mick Wüst set out to see if he could find good beer while on holiday there; since then, more craft beer venues have opened, as have breweries like Black Sand offering diversity for those drinkers seeking it.

"It's one of those scenes that's about six years behind where we are in Australia, but catching up quickly," is the view of Sam Füss, one of Australia's best-known and most-awarded brewers.

But why should she care, given she's spent her career brewing across Australia, and much of her life outside the brewery in recent years living and touring the east coast with her partner and their cats Archie and Peppercorn on their 45-foot yacht Sarabande II?

Simple: she's off to head up brewing at a brand new – and ambitious – brewing company in the island's northwest.

"Australia was ten years behind the States, but we're setting our own trends now and I can see Indonesia catching up with us too," she adds.

Soon, she'll be part of that chase too. She was approached by the team behind the just-named Beaches Brewing Co Bali who have installed a 30hL production brewery surrounded by rural farming land close to Indonesia's premier diving area. Once up and running, there will be a cellar door/bar at the main brewery geared towards people tripping around North Bali and the dive scene; down the line, the plan is to open brewpubs around Bali aimed more at the expat and tourist market as well as sending beer to Java, where the owners already have a craft beer taproom in Jakarta.

 

Beaches Brewing Co Bali takes shape ahead of award-winning brewer Sam Füss' arrival as chief brewer.

 

It represents quite the change of scenery for someone who cut their teeth in brewing at Little Creatures and for the past five years has been an integral part of the rise of Philter from trophy-winning brewing company to owners of one of the many breweries in Marrickville. 

"I'm thrilled to be heading overseas," Sam says. "I've been in such a comfortable situation here in Australia that I really want to put myself in a different environment, in a place where I've got to find new contacts, working in a country I really know very little about.

"Bali is a great melting pot of people and cultures. The restaurants there are fantastic, the cafés and bars – it's all just taking a real step up."

Once she moves to Bali with her partner Danielle, she'll take up the role of chief brewer, one in which she'll get to hire and train up a team of brewers, most likely made up of a mixture of Bali locals and internationals. And it's this aspect of the adventure that's exciting her as much as any.

"I've had an amazing journey," she says of her 22 years in beer. "I've had the opportunity to be surrounded by awesome people in the industry and then be able to turn that around to become a a bit of a mentor myself.

"I want to get involved in the local community and build a mentorship for Balinese guys and girls that want to get into the industry – that's a personal focus for me as I love teaching people."

She also hopes to help build a network of brewers and other beer industry people on the island, and would love to get a mini craft beer festival going.

"The challenge is super exciting. It's a bit like back to the early days at Little Creatures [Sam was only the third brewer to join the brewery in its early days in Freo] where you have to focus on education and awareness and tastings and saying, 'Try this' to people new to craft beer."

 

Sam during the build of Philter's Marrickville brewery. Photo by Marie Claire Jarratt.

 

The team behind Beaches Brewing Co Bali will be bringing their own hospo and craft beer experience to the operation too. They're all locals and family friends – Michelle owns and runs one of the best backpackers on Bali; Michael has a "real job" outside beer but was behind the decision to open a craft beer taproom in Jakarta after being inspired by travels overseas; and Jane, according to Sam, "is a craft beer lover".

Beyond more than two decades experience in brewing and a wealth of accolades, Sam's intention is to help them create a beer brand that celebrates its location.

"I want to use local ingredients," she says. "Having a good core range, but also making some fantastic sours and working with local farmers. There's a fruit there called snakeskin fruit [salak] which tastes like chestnut and apples."

Aiding her in her mission to explore new flavours will be a 300-litre pilot brewery.

"That will be awesome fun to brew on," she says. "I want to get people from across Australia and Bali to collaborate.

"It's like a new frontier. There's no rules."

The experiences of the past couple of years should stand her in good stead for such a situation too. Not only did she oversee the build and commissioning of Philter's Marrickville brewery, but it all took place during the pandemic. This meant the engineers who would usually travel to the site to guide the process instead had to assist Sam – with help from DJ McCready of Mountain Culture – via Zoom.

Now she'll be charged with getting a brewery operating in a country where she doesn't have a contact list as long as her arm to call on whenever something needs fixing or ingredients are in short supply.

"Over there I don't know anyone!" she admits.

"I felt I should throw caution to the wind. I'm not getting any younger, so thought, 'What's the best thing I can do apart from sailing around the world?' Danielle and I had talked about going from brewery to brewery doing collaborations along the journey, but now I can do that from Bali."

Given what we've all been through so far this decade, it certainly sounds like a risk worth taking. And, what's more, how good does a Pint of Origin – Bali venue sound for 2023 and beyond?

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