What do you need in order to open a successful brewery in Marrickville’s golden triangle of top shelf watering holes? Well, first, a bit of experience doesn’t hurt. Second, you need to have a point of difference to stand out from your competition. Third, you need to have some tasty beer and people to drink it.
Luckily for Jason Newton, owner and head brewer at Mixtape Brewing & Bar, he has all three.
His experience comes by way of eight years running a small craft beer and cocktail bar in the Sydney CBD. With a mild Star Wars theme, a Nutrigrain nuts & bolts mix, and a vintage spoon collection (both courtesy of Jason’s nana) Spooning Goats opened in 2012 and served bevies and controversy to thirsty Sydneysiders.
"We were trying to think of names around that, and as I was talking about the name with some friends of mine, I had just bought a shirt at Glebe market where you got a free pin badge and mine said, 'I LOVE GOATS'," Jason says. "I had the badge on and someone just randomly said Spooning Goats and it stuck."
Requirement 1: check.
Although Spooning Goats became a COVID small bar casualty, it didn't hold Jason and his wife and business partner Gabi back from their plans to open a second, more beer-focused venue. Thus, in February 2022, Mixtape opened in Marrickville.
In an airy warehouse dolled up with custom wooden furnishings, a commercial kitchen and a grand main bar, Mixtape appears to be a classic Marrickville brewery but with a point of difference: the 18 rotating taps don't just feature the small batch beers brewed onsite but also guest beers from breweries around the globe.
Requirement 2: check.
You can expect to choose from three to six Mixtape house beers while guest beers on past visits included those from Bright in the Victorian High Country, Gold Coast-based Burleigh Brewing, and Heretic from the USA. According to Jason, the criteria for what appears on tap comes down to offering a wide and tasty range of options.
"A lot of people go into a brewery and go, ‘Fuck, what am I going to drink?’," he says. "I make sure that I have every style that people may want to drink.
"If I personally don't have a pale ale, I’ll make sure I buy a guest pale ale – same with lagers, stouts, sours, IPAs, everything. Usually, I like to have a mystery beer like a saison or a fruit beer as well as ciders and seltzers as well."
Jason’s approach to brewing is all about experimentation. At the time of writing, Mixtape had no classic core range, more so a passion for certain styles that are fine-tuned in small batches.
"I generally have a sour where the flavour changes as a core but I’ll mix it up with flavours. I’ve got a pale, an IPA, and I’ve been experimenting with an XPA. Once I nail the recipes to where I wanted, I’ll probably get them made somewhere else in bulk so I can keep our space for weird and wonderful test batches."
This ideology has seen Spooning Goats’ former regulars turn into the Mixtape community, completing the trinity of points that make for a winning brewery in a competitive, but ultimately blessed, area.
"That’s why we’ve got such a big bar," Jason says, "so I can have people sitting there and have service space as well.
"We love the idea of sitting at the bar and chatting to people: it’s just a different experience from people sitting at the table. We’ve made a lot of regular friends, people coming in on their own, and they’re never lonely; we’re like a friendly neighbourhood bar."
Point 3: check and check.
From time to time, you may even spot a regular rocking an enamel I LOVE GOATS pin, thumbing through a bowl of nuts & bolts mix, trying to crack the secret recipe.
What cannot be cracked, however, is the unyielding and uncompromising grilling of brewers that is the long-running series we call Who Brews...?
Who are you?
I’m Jason (pictured above), I used to own Spooning Goats, a craft beer cocktail bar in the city. I've been around the beer industry for ten to 12 years, always loved making my own beer and just really wanted to have a venue where I could play around and experiment with small batches of beer and do weird and wonderful stuff.
I’m a particular fan of sour beers; anyone who’s been to my place knows I’ll try to convert them to sours. Gabi is my wife and partner; she’s not really involved in the brewing side of the thing but she is involved in the business. I bounce ideas off her all the time.
Where do you brew?
At Mixtape on a 300L effective kit: a two-vessel brewhouse, four fermenters and one bright tank.
Why do you brew?
I just love beer I guess. I love the challenge of getting different flavours into beers: creating things that are drinkable and challenging. I love the science behind creating those types of flavours. I just have the passion for beer.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
I can’t ever remember a particular beer that blew my mind that made me say: "I’ll drink craft for the rest of my life." It was just a progressive journey away from mainstream beer.
I grew up on Tooheys then moved on to Coopers and then moved to Malt Shovel when they were new and crafty. Once I started drinking ales rather than lagers is probably the key. Then I went full hog into drinking lambics and sours.
I don’t think I eased into it, I just went for sours and started drinking those stronger flavours right away. Wish I could remember the beer that sent me on the path but I just can’t.
There wasn’t much craft beer around when we started Spooning Goats, I remember scrawling the internet for local craft breweries. HopDog was one of the first breweries doing things that were strange and wonderful for me. Tim Thomas was definitely an inspiration for doing things that are weird and wonderful.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Well, I’m old and I love tapes and music! We played a lot of 90s grunge at Spooning Goats and music was always going to be part of the new place. Because it was a brew bar and I would always have 18 taps, it would be a mix of different beers, a mix of different food and a mix of different drinks. I couldn’t believe it was available as a business name.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Any sour beer basically represents us. The first commercial beer I ever made with Spooning Goats was a blood orange gose – that was the first one I ever came up with and got made somewhere.
The other famous one was for a GABS event, which is the second commercial beer I ever made called Red 6 – a reference to Porkins from Star Wars, a six percent blackberry red kettle sour.
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Far out. What a question. I’d probably go for Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River. He’s really good at doing big IPAs and his sours are phenomenal. His Consecration 10 percent ABV red sour is just so fucking great.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Definitely 90s grunge with a splash of Dead Kennedys when I’m in the mood. We were heavily doing indie music but the nature of being Mixtape is that we are trying to mix it up a fair bit, but generally we play independent indie rock.
Our play is to have our Spotify playlist QR codes on the menus so you can see what’s playing. We have a record player and a tape deck behind the bar. Tapes full of 90s indie rock. The records are a mix of Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Beatles, some classics.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Mainly sours: I’ve got a Frenchies barrel-aged beer, Oude Kreik by Hanssens Artisanaal, and a Cantillon I really want to drink soon.
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
A 3.5 percent ABV kettle sour: nice and light and fresh.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
I think Ida Pruul has impressed me recently. Bracket has been doing some really good stuff. Slow Lane has been impressing me lately. I think Southern Highlands have been making some decent stuff lately as well; I don’t see them many places but everything I’ve got has been really, really nice.
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
This is me giving away all my tips and secrets! Gabi has been getting at me because I’ve been talking to brewers about other beers I want to make and then they start popping up in other breweries!
Playing with fruit, moving into trying some freeze-dried fruit, is somewhere I want to start experimenting with. I also want to start doing co-fermentation with multiple yeasts. Maybe trying some champenoise (champagne methods of barrel fermenting).
Where can people find your beers?
Just on site! The best part about the brew bar model is if you want our beer you’ve got to come get it!
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Hopefully making larger quantities of beer. Potentially a production site. If not, then just pumping out some really good experimental beers.
You can put together your own beery mixtape at 142A Victoria Road, Marrickville. You'll also find Mixtape alongside well over a thousand other breweries and good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app, a curated guide designed to help you discover the nearest good beer wherever you are in Australia.