It's a drive many know too well. The early morning commute when the sun is constantly shining in your eyes as though you've somehow wronged that great ball of fire in the sky. After a long day at work, you might be ready for home, but between you and bed is another long drive where you're greeted by that sun once again.
In Western Sydney, those commuters even have their own name. Squinters: the people who drive east early in the morning to get to work then west on the way home.
It's a name Penrith's newest brewery has taken on quite literally, and the local homage doesn't stop there for Squinters Brewing Co either. Their logo features the sun setting over the Blue Mountains and it was that image, enjoyed on a drive home on the M4 Motorway, that gave a group of locals the name for their venture.
“We were driving home from a canning run staring at the sun on the M4," says co-founder Matt Davey. "So I was in the passenger side of the truck and we started a chat on a WhatsApp group with the others who are so used to that drive too.”
They were doing the canning run as part of mobile canning business Can It – Squinters' sibling operation – Can It, which has taken Matt into other breweries and beverages makers. But even with new breweries opening so often, Matt and fellow founders Jarrod Nicholson, Mat Goss and Mitchel Robison felt their own community could use more taprooms that didn't require a trip down the M4. Although Rusty Penny and Casey's both call Penrith home, the options for local beer in Sydney's outer rather than inner west are far slimmer.
“There was definitely a gap where we are here, there are only a few breweries west of Parramatta, really,” Matt says.
The brewery opened midway through August and features an 800-litre brewhouse and ten taps pouring more than their beers: from the off they've been keen to focus on making a broader list of drinks than many breweries.
“We’re very much keeping our range diverse so it isn’t just ten beers on tap," Matt says. "Our third biggest-selling tap is Mango Fizz, which is more of an RTD than a seltzer, and it’s going really well. So we’re really keen to rotate through about three non-beer taps."
As they tick over into their second month of operating, we asked the Squinters squad to join us for another entry in our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Squinters Brewing Co
Who are you?
Jarrod Nicholson: a fridgie by trade who then spent five years pumping grease traps and is now our head brewer.
Mat Goss: someone who's spent 20 years building truck bodies and 40 years of gum flapping.
Matt Davey: who has a degree in business management and is a financial whizz-kid.
Mitchel Robinson: A sparky by trade who is notoriously messy and doesn’t like onions (weirdo). But he does love baths and barrel-aged beers.
Where do you brew?
Our home is 19 Peachtree Road, Penrith.
Why do you brew?
Matt Davey: I have loved homebrewing for the last 12 years and running a mobile canning line has served to whet my appetite even further, getting to pick the brains of some of the great craft breweries around New South Wales.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
I hit a hole-in-one in golf one day and thought, "Well, I’ve mastered this hobby – time to find a new one."
In all seriousness, I bought an extract kit, brewed with it and thought, "That’s terrible" so I started with all-grain homebrewing.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
A “squinter” is someone who lives in Western Sydney and has to drive into the city early morning looking at the sun, then look at the sun again travelling west back home. So the name pays homage to the working commuters of Sydney, particularly in the west.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
I spent the last few years brewing NEIPAs and my wife complains I always sweat too much in bed. Cool Side Of The Pillow is when you wake up hot and sweaty, flip the pillow to the cool side, then get back to sleep.
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Simon Maxwell, formerly of Bay Rd Brewing; he's about to open his own place called Big Little Brewing on the Central Coast. Incredibly knowledgeable brewer and all round big loveable idiot. He makes a mean stout!
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
The playlist is always changing, but recently we have had lots of late 60s early 70s rock and blues like Clapton, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix.
Some days it will be folk music; other days something to pump up the volume.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Our whole range of ten beers is in cans so we're pretty loaded with Squinters beers.
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
Squinters Draught: it's clean ,easy-drinking and shower beer approved.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
I just had Mountain Culture's Vibe Shift NEIPA and Bracket Brewing’s More Toppings NEIPA.
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
Weekend Cowboy is my first ever sour and, personally, I never thought much of the style, but we are all really proud of it: peach and mango really pop out of the glass. It’s a limited release but we will always have a sour on tap and in cans.
Where can people find your beers?
We’re selling some beer to a few smaller bars but we haven’t concentrated on distribution yet because we wanted to have a decent bit of stock for ourselves. But we do have a few festivals booked in so we’re looking forward to getting our name out there a bit more.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
We do have room to expand on our premises. Our focus is on the production side and we will need more production space in the future but we’re also keen to get a beer garden because we do have room for it but are working through it with the council.
Squinters Brewing's taproom is located at 19 Peachtree Road, Penrith. Find it and hundreds of other good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app.