After close to four years without a local brewery, Bathurst again has a beer to call its own following the opening of Reckless Brewing. The brewing company, which previously operated without a home before taking over the former home of Two Heads Brewing, quietly opened the doors to their taproom earlier this month and are set for their grand opening next week.
It follows a whirlwind few months for the team behind the brewery. Grace Fowler, Jarrod Moore and Alice Wilson secured the lease to the historic flour mill towards the start of the year; previously, the site housed Two Heads Brewing, which shut its doors late in 2018.
Grace (pictured above right with the Reckless crew) says that, after spending months overseeing the fit-out, brewery install, hiring staff and everything else that comes with opening a brewery and venue, the founders are experiencing a flurry of emotions.
“It’s super exciting, it’s terrifying and, really, it’s everything,” Grace says. “But the overwhelming emotion at the moment is relief; we can finally get back to brewing beer rather than project managing 15 different things.”
Assuming everything goes according to plan, brewing is set to commence later this week, with their final batch of beer brewed at Akasha done and dusted. Their 13-hectolitre brewhouse, where Grace is joined by Stephen Szabo, and multiple 26 and 39-hectolitre fermenters will give them a fair bit of capacity to comfortably send beer beyond their taproom doors too.
When it comes to the beers, they'll be sticking with the mantra they've had since day one, a mantra that's only become further ingrained since they decided Bathurst was the place for them.
“Our philosophy has always been for everyone,” Grace says. “Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t making anything boring but it is dialled back a bit.
“Having said that, I don’t think I’ve seen a beer that has as many hops in it as our red IPA. But the way we brew it sees us add them really late, so it’s a much more approachable experience rather than an old school West Coast where it’s like – bam, in your face.”
Grace certainly knows a thing or two about brewing with hops and West Coasts, having started brewing at Akasha five years ago.
“It was just me and one other brewer at the time,” she says. “Now they have six or seven brewers and went through two expansions when I was there, and another since I left.
Before working at Akasha, Grace fell into a job brewing at Sydney’s now-closed Icon after her mate and fellow brewer Brodie French asked if she knew anyone who might like to join the team. Located in the city’s outer south-east, the production site was built to contract brew for others – including some of her favourite Sydney brewers such as Young Henrys and Lord Nelson, on a substantial 150-hectolitre brewhouse.
By the time she started there, Grace had already fallen for the beer industry and left her role in film production to start working at a craft beer-focused bottleshop.
“I was brewing all my favourite beers,” is how Grace puts it.
It proved to be a fast learning curve: Grace was hired as an assistant brewer before quickly being elevated to a more senior role.
“It was definitely a baptism of fire, I’d never brewed before that,” she says. “Except for maybe one or two Coopers homebrews that were OK, but certainly weren't anything special.”
It might have been daunting, but Grace thinks learning by doing is the best way she could have started out in brewing, as she quickly found herself problem-solving and having to think on her feet.
“Suddenly, I was there at 5am by myself brewing hundreds and thousands of litres of beer,” she says.
“I made a hell of a lot of mistakes but that’s the best way to learn.”
Now, with those mistakes behind her, her own brewhouse to play with, and plenty more to learn along the way, we invited Grace to take part in our Brew & A series.
Why are you a brewer?
Such a profound question! I’m a brewer because it seemed like a good idea at the time hahaha. I’m still a brewer because I fell in love with the industry, the work and the people on both sides of the bar. Also beer – you get to make beer!
What would you be if you weren’t a brewer?
Before brewing, I’d had a pretty varied career. I’d worked in bar and bottleshops, at summer camp in the US, and for film production companies. I still have a passion for filmmaking, so hopefully something like that. But I think I always would have wanted to do something in hospitality as well. So maybe I’d be running a bar and not a brewery?
What was your epiphany beer?
I actually can’t remember what it was called. So sad!
I’d been travelling around the US with friends. We were poor uni students, so $1 Bud Lights were a very appealing option. We were in Portland and stumbled across a craft beer bar, I had my first IPA, and the rest is history – and my wallet is lighter!
How did you first get involved in the beer world?
I’d worked in bars and bottleshops. I was a beer fan. After reconnecting with an old friend, I fell into a brewer job at a large contract brewing facility, Icon. That old friend was Kim whose partner worked at Icon and they were looking for a brewer. I said: "Yeah, that sounds like a bit of fun."
Brodie French is the friend's partner and he's now the head brewer at Hawke's in Marrickville. He was and is an excellent mentor, colleague, friend and all-round great bloke.
What's the best beer you’ve ever brewed?
That’s like asking me to pick a favourite child! The first beer I ever brewed solo will always have a special place in my heart. It was a Young Henrys Natural Lager, and it turned out perfect! I’ve also brewed some amazing beers at Akasha like Korben!
But the Reckless Red IPA has to be the best; it was first brewed at the very beginning of the pandemic. We had originally planned to brew a different beer but when talks of lockdowns became too prevalent to ignore, we threw caution to the wind.
I had about 12 hours to write the recipe before it would be too late to order the ingredients. It was a game-changer for our company and is our favourite beer and an AIBA gold medal winner.
What's your single favourite ingredient to use in beer?
Hops, although yeast gets a huge shoutout.
Are there any beers you’ve brewed that might have been better left on the drawing board?
If you could do a guest stint at any brewery(s) in the world, which would it be and why?
Cantillon. I just love their beers, so I’d learn as much as possible, and sample as much as possible!
Which local breweries inspire you?
Akasha will always have a place in my heart. I learnt so much there and it was such a great place to work and I hope we can be as successful as them both in terms of beer and work environment.
What inspires you outside the world of brewing beer?
Dogs – they are just too damn good for us!
What's your desert island beer – the one to keep you going if you were stranded for the rest of your days?
Cantillon Kriek, please!
And what would be the soundtrack to those days?
A bit of classic rock mixed in with some indie rock.
If you couldn’t have beer, what would be your tipple of choice?
Easy – G&T all the way!
What's the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a brewer?
How much it would consume my life hahaha.
And the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering a career in craft beer?
Do it! We make beer, it’s a pretty sweet gig! Know your worth and capitalise on any transferable skills you have.
Reckless Brewing's Grand Opening takes place from September 22 to 25. You can read about what's involved here.