Nowhereman first opened the doors of their West Leederville brewpub to the public five years ago to the day, but the concept had "simmered in the background" a full five years earlier.
Back then, brewery founder Reece Wheadon (pictured above left with Pia Poynton, Eddie Still and Luke Green) was mulling over the idea of creating a pop-up bar, an idea that evolved into one for a fully-fledged craft beer bar, before arriving at what was then – in Perth, at least – the bold concept of opening one of the city's first urban breweries.
“Heaps of work was done between 2012 and 2013, but a few missing pieces just slowed things down," he says. "And capital raising for breweries back then was still a lot more speculative; locations inner-city – which was always a must have – are hard to find, as was time to work on the project with a real job and WA Beer Week volunteering all taking precedence.
“When I first got involved in the WA Brewers Association, I didn’t actually think Perth’s beer scene could even accommodate my brewery concept. But it was always a big driver in those volunteer roles: building, promoting and legitimising the scene to accommodate more breweries and new unique ideas.”
While the notion of an inner-city brewpub was curious enough in early 2010s, the search for location proved even more challenging.
“I lived in the CBD during early thoughts on the project, so it was all built around the inner-city, and once I moved to North Perth my connection remained to the inner 'burbs of Perth," Reece recalls. "It was so important that where I opened the brewpub was part of my broader community, not just a spot to plonk a business.
“We looked at probably four properties in the same West Leederville precinct we currently occupy; Reece Plumbing took the best spot. We also looked in Maylands and East Perth, but in the end settled on West Leederville.”
Before the brewpub opened to the public, the first Nowhereman beers were enjoyed at a Leederville street festival in a fitting sign of what was to come: a blending of beer and community. And, once Reece and team had settled in, Nowhereman didn't just set about becoming a key part of their community, they set about doing it with fun – lots of it. And not just fun, but meaningful fun.
“What we do is eclectic," Reece says. "We have always been quick to help, raise funds and volunteer. We run meaningful and memorable events and have built a team of both staff and suppliers, like Studio Papa, who buy in to our doing good, and our unique way of being.
“Our two wins for Best Community Initiative at the Indies awards probably are the closest things to defining us as a company: we’re good people trying to do good things and hopefully that attracts other good people.
“It’s not always easy, though. We’re often outspoken on ‘progressive’ issues in the industry and certainly are very firm standing our ground for what we believe hospitality and beer should and shouldn’t tolerate. We actually cannot wait to lose our Community Initiative Trophy crown this year as we nominate Beer Agents For Change who, quite frankly, are rewriting the beer landscape for the better, something we have nothing but pure love and respect for.
“We like to think we’ve had some impact in this space at a localised level, but we’re tiny in the scheme of things. This group, and the IBA’s new Code of Conduct, is hopefully a game-changer.”
It’s this ethos which Nowhereman extends to collabs. Many, many collabs.
“Collabs are great. You never know what you're going to get, and you bring in a different world of thinking and ideas," Reece says. "We end up doing a lot of collabs with venues because breweries working into other breweries' schedules is always a wild ride and takes a bit more organisation.
“We've done pretty much every type of collab. We've had tequila shots at 8am and daiquiri tattoos by 6pm. Driven to Margaret River and back to collect fresh-pressed grape juice, harvested hops and thrown them straight in, done more shots, a lot of Campari, drank UDLs, thrown stuff in barrels for shipping around the country, blitzed thousands of kilos of fruit, and eaten countless Le Vietnam Banh Mi.
“Collabs are just great to do, and we try to make the process easy for our partners and the day a heap of fun. We don’t say yes to everyone, and not everyone says yes to us – as is the nature of these things, but the ones we’ve done have all been with venues, suppliers, breweries, and brewers we love. Our real problem is, as far as a group goes, we’re a very loving bunch.”
So, with plenty to celebrate, and plenty of energy behind their first half decade of beers, here’s Nowhereman's entry into our Five Years In Five Beers series.
Reece Wheadon: Crate Digger in name has been around since before day one. But as a beer it’s evolved with the brand in a huge way. The beer we make now shares nothing from the olden days. It’s now brighter, more citrus-driven, easier drinking and much more refreshing.
The bright pine and citrus for us is just that great go-to pale. It’s interesting, but not going to scare your mates, while the 4.5 percent ABV makes sure you can have more than one.
The beer was our first ever release, but once Rhapsody launched a year later it slid way down our priority and sales list. We grew tired of it and rebuilt it from the ground up. It was a group effort, and one that was both incredibly cathartic and very worthwhile. The beer we came up with has now been judged the second-best beer in WA, and picked up gold at the AIBAs. All while being a sessionable, clean, core range US pale ale.
Crate Digger isn’t alone in its changes, though, none of our current beers share any real part of their recipes from our early days. And, those changes, efficiencies and QA shifts are definitely what has defined our last four years of beer.
Reece: XPA is a great, fun style. Extra pale, extra hops, extra drinkable. Accessible tropical notes, but with bitterness to back it up and keep it balanced. It's a style we love and, while it seems to float in and out of other breweries' rotations and core ranges, for us it's a style that's consistent, clean and very drinkable.
As for the name, some groundwork in the delivery van was lightning in a can.
Driving around trying to capture ‘that awesome share house porch, or party in a name’. The fresh brightness of the beer just drew our minds to good times and memories. After doing some donuts in a park, Rhapsody just hit us. It's both a musical reference, and of the joy we remember tasting it.
For context, Ron is Reece’s Dad. What follows is Ron and stout-centric.
Head brewer Eddie Still: Reece's dad wanted us to make a porter called Alpha Dog, and he asked for ages.
We made Alpharon 65000 as a one-off stout, because you can't give him everything he wants. But the beer just gelled with us all. We really make this because it's a beer the three of us love to drink.
[Helios head brewer] Charlie (Hodgson) used to teach me a lot of English recipes, a lot of malt-driven beers. It probably came from that. I would’ve channelled my inner Charlie for that one.
Business development manager Pia Poynton: It would be the middle of February and it’s 43 degrees, and Ron's going: "Eddie, where’s my stout?"
The OG label had Ron’s head in a jar, Futurama style. When we had Studio Papa refresh the artwork, we stuck with the space theme and made Ronnie into an epic space cowboy. Studio Papa and artist Lisa Max did an absolutely amazing job, and then we got even crazier and made it glow in the dark.
The design was a finalist in last year's Drink Easy awards, and the liquid won AIBA Gold in Melbourne this year and Champion Stout in Adelaide earlier this month. It’s a classic dry stout that's just always a pleasure.
Nowhereman have been prolific collaborators, but have reserved this creative relationship for where beer culture and community meet.
Pia: Collabs are our way of saying thanks to a venue for supporting us. There’s a lot of great beer out there, so that they choose to have a tap for Nowhereman is not a small thing. It’s our way of acknowledging that.
It’s also great to bring in great people with fun ideas or to help a venue celebrate something, like General Public Inglewood’s first birthday.
Our first one with Clarence's back in 2018 was memorable and fun. It was our first venue collab, the first sour we had done, and they remain the only crew we’ve worked with who left the brew day and spontaneously went and got tattoos! Putting pineapple scratch and sniff stickers on the Heyday Pineapple Lager collab with The Subi was pretty fun too.
Mr Otter's Barley Wine
Pia: Turns out that the three of us all really like English style barley wines, and I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason why. I think Eddie floated the idea first, and it just went from there.
The idea came up in 2020 when the pandemic was in the early days, and there was a lot of uncertainty. We had the tank space and we didn’t know the immediate future of on-premise venues, so it seemed like as good a time as any to use a tank for a long time to make a style we all loved.
The malt base is 100 percent Maris Otter, so it quickly became Mr Otter’s Barley Wine. The idea for the artwork also drew from this, turning our Mr Otter into an English tracksuit-wearing chav. I believe the artwork brief to Studio Papa was something along the lines of "Guy Ritchie meets GTA".
Nowhereman’s fifth birthday celebrations are taking place tonight (July 27, 2022). They're also hosting Mr Otter’s Barley Wine Feast on July 31 – tickets here.
You can check out other entries in the Five Years In Five Beers series here.