Picture the scene: a fresh-off-the-plane chemical engineering student from Asia immediately falls in love with wine from the Hunter Valley. Then, a few years later, a healthy dose of taste-testing, and handful of self-started wine clubs later, this ambitious individual returns home to start a successful wine business in Bangkok and Singapore – all by the age of 26.
For a time, all seemed set for a future in the world of wine, but there was a problem… With a love of European ales that had been simmering away since 2008, it was only a matter of time before our student would find his way back into the world of IPAs and Belgian yeasts.
So it was that, after several years rolling with the industry big boys and selling other people’s alcohol, Karam Khanijou decided it was time to start a family business. Best Of Beers (better known as BOBs) was to be that project, and since beer was now the product Australia was the obvious location.
Karam and his business partners launched their brewpub in Surfers Paradise in 2020, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. COVID destroyed the area's natural footfall and even cost them their head brewer. Not one to give up easily, Karam stepped into the role himself.
"I’m sure the chemical engineering background didn’t hurt," he says, "but brewing is more of a vibe to me: a mindset."
That mindset has led to a lineup featuring heavily-hopped pales, seasonal sours, their Belgian yeast-infused Cosmos IPA (a lasting influence from Karam’s fondness for European styles) and even a turmeric Brut IPA.
"It’s an open canvas for ingredients here," Karam says. "You can do whatever you want!"
Don’t think exploring this brave new world means Karam has forgotten his roots in the world of the vine though: Bob’s wine list is not to be underestimated as he's able to call on good friends from the industry to help stock the shelves.
Rounding out the offer, is a menu that sees BOBs intent on smashing their food game as hard as their hops in the hops you’ll leave there well watered, well fed, and having had a blast. You might even be treated to a helping of 90s dance music (that one of their hazies is called State of Trance should give you some idea of what’s in store).
Long term, the plan is to return to Bangkok/Singapore and start a beer business which his family can one day take over.
"We know a fifth-generation family brewery back home and that kind of legacy is one worth leaving," he says. "It shouldn’t be the case that your project is destined to get handed over to the huge global breweries one day."
As for the present day, here's more on Karam's story as part of our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Who are you?
We are quite a diverse business setup. Our eight shareholders are all family members specialising in various fields: hoteliers, fashion brand owners, property developers and beverage distribution.
I am the managing owner and I have a degree in chemical engineering. I previously founded one of the most successful craft beer distribution companies in Singapore, called TSA Wines. We work with 20-plus breweries from all over the world: USA, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Where do you brew?
We brew on the Corner of Elkhorn and Orchid Avenue in the heart of Surfers Paradise. It was the former flagship Louis Vuitton store in Queensland!
We managed to cram a two-vessel, 12HL brewhouse, six fermenters, two bright tanks, HLT and CLT into 66 square metres of prime real estate. Our grain room is located underground and we had to use a specialist vertical auger to deliver the grain to the mash tun.
Why do you brew?
Having been a purveyor and distributor of craft beer for so long, I thought it would be a great idea to take the leap to create and make our own brand. The long-term idea was to build the brand for the children to take over one day. I have two small boys, three and ten!
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
COVID-19! I had to let my previous head brewer go and I assumed the role. I found it surprisingly easy so I never looked to hire another head brewer.
Thankfully, customers and fellow brewers seem to like what I’ve been creating, even though I’ve only been brewing since COVID.
What's the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Bob’s your uncle, hahaha. Our chairman’s nickname is also Bob, but he likes to keep a low profile, so he’ll hate that I’m spilling the beans. The slogan "Best of Beers" was put in there too, since you cannot trademark "Bob’s" by itself.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Our West Coast IPA, Pearl Diver, and our double IPA Cosmos. I discovered craft beer because of English ales in 2008, but I found myself loving heavily-hopped IPAs from the likes of Dogfish Head, Stone, Flying Dog, Evil Twin.
I then discovered a subcategory called Belgo IPA and that’s why I used Belgian yeast in Cosmos, but I try and keep the esters subtle.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speaker?
It’s a toss-up between house/trance and 80s and 90s rock. Depends what mood I’m in, and depends on what beer we’re making. Our current hazy IPA is named State of Trance…
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be and why?
Mikkeller, because his recipe knowledge would be the greatest of any living brewers. He’s also probably been invited to do the most collaborations, so it would be a great learning experience.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
At home, St Bernardus ABT12 750ml, Orval, Duchesse de Bourgogne… all Belgians at the moment!
What would be your desert island beer?
Afternoon: Saison Dupont. Evening: Stone Cali-belgique IPA.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent times?
Moffat Beach make amazing IPAs and Range Brewing make some great double NEIPAs.
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer that you'd like to explore further?
I’ve been having lots of fun these last two years playing with oak and Brett. I think I will make a barrel-aged stout next using the pilot system. I’ve also just got a 50L barrel from Burly Gin which they used for one of their whiskies, so I’ll possibly release that in a few months’ time.
What beers have you released to date?
In the last two years, we’ve made about 20 different beers including two for GABS. Our first GABS beer was a Turmeric Brut IPA and our second was a British Ruby Ale dry-hopped with 20L of Currumbin Rainforest Honey.
We make a core range Lager, XPA and IPA. Our seasonal beers have been sours – Cherry, Mango and Lychee, saison (wine barrel-aged with Brett), English porter, American red ale, two different Belgo IPAs, chai stout, four different NEIPAs, golden ale, lagers and a pilsner which we released for our secondbirthday. We also released a beer aged in oak for three months followed by one year in-tank with Brett and 50kgs of plums.
Where can people find your beers?
At the brewpub in Surfers Paradise. We also do keg swaps with local breweries. I know that Soapbox in Brisbane are currently serving our BA Saison and we took their Espresso Stout.
Where do you hope your brewery will ten years from now?
Hopefully we will have a brewery in Bangkok and Singapore.
You'll find BOBs at 10/2 Elkhorn Avenue, Surfers Paradise, and alongside hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app.