After operating without a brewery of their own for two years, Working Title have found a home. They're set to move into Newstead Brewing’s soon-to-be vacated brewpub in Doggett Street, Newstead.
Mark Howes and Luke Shield, the duo that owns and runs Working Title, are taking over the location following NBCo’s announcement last week that they were pulling out of the site.
“Over the last 12 months, we’ve been seriously looking at other venues [for Working Title], and been approached by investors,” Mark says. “A lot of stuff happened at Newstead [Brewing] behind the scenes, and we got access to this opportunity.”
While Mark and Luke have each been involved at Newstead Brewing in various ways – Mark as co-owner, and in the past as head brewer and CEO, and Luke as graphic designer – and have even brewed some Working Title beers on the kit at Doggett Street, Working Title is a separate business owned solely by the pair.
“We're not a sister venue [to Newstead Brewing],” Mark says. “We’re taking over the lease, hotel license etc and running it as a standalone Working Title venue with all new staff.”
Working Title will be taking over the lease from March 5, and will spend the rest of the month working on the fit-out and decor with the intention to launch a cosmetically-renovated venue on April 1.
(The fact they’ll be opening on April Fool’s Day sounds like a joke, but we swear it’s not. Mark and Luke are a big enough joke as it is.)
Since launching in early 2021, Working Title have been known for small batches of beer that play with big flavours, experimental processes and innovative ingredients, while occasionally looking to historical styles for inspiration. Their first two years of operation saw them make 60 beers, including a number of West Coast and red IPAs (which Mark and Luke are partial to), as well as the likes of an oat cream rosé XPA, a stout loaded with Nutella and brownies, and a Scandi-inspired Christmas ale made from an Aussie pine tree.
Given the relatively small brewhouse at the Doggett Street brewery, the pair plan to keep up this variety and experimental approach to brewing as the core of their business model.
“That’s all we wanna do,” Luke says. “Waste our days cutting up trees to make a beer. The sillier the idea, the better. Mark has an abundance of silly ideas.”
However, while they aren’t planning to have a core range at the venue, they are keen to make a range of styles to suit a broad audience.
“We’re known for doing big beers – and it’s something we do love – but we want to do everything. Literally every style, but done well. If we’re going to make a lager, we’re going to make a three-month lager.”
For all that, Working Title's home is set to be more than just a craft beer venue; it's designed to appeal to all kinds of people with all kinds of tastes. As well as the nine rotating beer taps, there will be a house-brewed sparkling wild mead on tap, which they make with honey from a native beehive on the roof of the building. There’ll also be a small, curated cocktail menu, and an espresso machine fed with beans from Coffee Supreme.
With a commercial kitchen in the venue, there will also be a full restaurant offering focusing on Asian fusion cuisine.
“You can’t overestimate how important having a meal is to consuming beer and wine,” Mark says. “We want some cool shit that goes well with these crazy flavours that we’re making in the beer. I think we kind of landed on Asian fusion just because the spice and the chilli and the freshness is something that we want. We can do a burger, but it’s going to be a katsu sando, or something like that.”
“A nice spicy Thai beef salad with a lager is just heaven,” Luke adds. “And also we’ll make sure we have a lot of vegan options.”
As for the venue, they want it to be the complete experience. This goes beyond food and drink to having staff who are passionate about beer and happy to chat with punters, as well as having games and entertainment in the venue.
“Definitely the last 12 months we’ve been talking about the dream scenario for here, if it was ever to come into our hands,” he says.
“We want to make it fun,” Mark adds. “Our vibe is very much retro, 70s, 80s… stuff like bingo makes a lot of sense to us, as long as there’s an interesting twist to it.”
Just as Mark and Luke’s taste in beer and Asian food is shaping the menu, they’re also keen for their personalities to infuse the venue itself. Part of this will see them include a small arcade area with pinball machines, a games cabinet and board games, as well as an original four-player Pong machine set to free play.
“Pinball machines, consoles, all those old school games… it’s very much a ‘Luke Shield’ thing,” he says.
And outside of their venue, Working Title still plan to release beer into the wild as a way to keep supporting the local beer scene.
“We came out as a wholesale brand, and we’re very thankful for the people that supported us – you’ve got your My Beer Dealers, your Netherworlds, your Woods bottleshop… we wouldn’t exist without those guys.”
Even before opening, Mark and Luke have thoughts about what growth could look like for Working Title.
“We know exactly where we want to go. When we’re forced into a decision, we won’t just react,” says Mark. “We do want to grow, but in really particular ways.”
They’re already picturing a boilermaker lounge upstairs at the venue with emerald green walls, dim lighting and Chesterfield sofas, where local distilleries could showcase their wares in tandem with Working Title beers.
Further expansion could look like opening more brewpubs rather than a large brewery with wide wholesale distribution.
“Good beer, good events. Not growing to a gargantuan size. Just do what we do.”
But for now and the near future, they’re just focused on getting the venue open; they're very happy with the Doggett Street location which gives them the ability to brew fun styles and run the kind of small venue they'd want to hang out in.
“I’ve personally been very lucky to have this chance,” Mark says. “I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum [when it comes to brewery size]. I know this is what I want to do: this is our skillset, this is what I love doing. I just want to wake up every day and come and do Working Title stuff.
“Be better if Luke wasn’t here, but you know. You take the good with the bad.”