Sometimes it feels like brewing is less of a career you choose and more one that chooses you. Once upon a time, people became brewers to make beers they couldn't readily buy but as craft beer has become more available, it hasn't stopped passionate people from joining the industry.
For Rachel Feeman, senior brewer at Temple Brewing, she's had an interest in craft beer for as long as she could legally drink and in hindsight, her career seems to have started back then too.
As an 18-year-old in Geelong, Rachel did what so many university students do: got a job pouring beer. The venue itself certainly wasn't a dedicated craft beer bar but Rachel quickly started advocating for what she liked to drink.
“It was a Lion dominated bar and I was drinking Little Creatures,” Rachel says.
“I don’t know what it was; I didn’t have much of an idea about craft beer but pushed so hard for them to expand their range.”
Before long, more crafty options were appearing in their fridges and soon enough, Rachel was hosting local breweries for beer tasting nights.
“So, I was 18 and I was running beer tastings with local craft breweries," she says. "I was just always surrounded by it and passionate.”
After moving down the road to Torquay, Rachel landed a job at Blackman’s Brewery and before long, the homebrewer's passion for the science behind beer made her realise it was a career path she wanted to follow.
“I got a job there in the bar,” Rachel says. “Then quickly I realised, ‘Hang on a second – this is pretty cool.’
“They needed help on the canning line, so it was a couple of days a week, then three and then four and then eventually I was out of front-of-house altogether.”
In 2020, Rachel made the move to Melbourne (as far as we know nothing else happened that year, no long lockdowns, no five-kilometre travel limits – nothing). There, she started working at Bad Shepherd before taking on her current role at Temple in August last year.
“It was a bit daunting to begin with; to step into a more senior role and I’ve definitely learnt a lot,” Rachel says about her position.
“It’s the first time I’ve been able to do my own recipe writing and have that freedom to do my own thing.”
One beer Rachel is particularly proud of is just being released, Temple's IWD DDH IPL, which is officially launching at the Brunswick East brewpub on International Women's Day. It is pouring beside two other beers brewed by women who work at Temple, while proceeds from that event, plus the sale of every can of the IWD hoppy lager, are raising funds for the Ovarian Research Foundation.
The lager itself is a double dry hopped with HBC 586, Amarillo and Mosaic and came about thanks to Rachel’s long love for hoppy lagers.
“[Blackman’s Juicy Banger] was a beer I got to brew and that is such a good beer, so that was a massive inspiration,” Rachel says.
But, having made it to Oktoberfest twice, and counting Temple’s own Oktoberfest pilsner as another brewing highlight, Rachel’s love for lagers, clearly runs deep.
“You might be able to tell but I really like lagers,” Rachel says.
“It's such a traditional style and I'm still learning the art of it. It's such a simple beer but to get it right is definitely not easy, so I love that challenge.”
Ahead of Temple’s International Women’s Day celebration, here's Rachel to chat lagers, DuPont and how she fell into brewing for our latest Brew & A...
Why are you a brewer?
There are so many reasons. Aside from obviously loving beer, it allows me to learn something new every day, it’s a job that’s fun yet challenging and being in a brewery is where I feel most at home.
What would you be if you weren’t a brewer?
Before becoming a brewer, I was studying to become a Nutritionist/Dietitian. And while I still do have a love for that, now having worked in an industry that is so physical I think I would have to do something quite active, maybe a personal trainer!
What was your epiphany beer?
This question is harder to answer than I thought it might be, because I feel like I have always been drinking craft beer. I guess that is a perk of the craft beer boom already being well underway when I became of legal drinking age.
How did you first get involved in the beer world?
I was a uni student needing a part-time job, already with a love of craft beer and dabbling in some homebrewing, when I got a job pouring beers for a local brewery in Blackman's Brewery. It was from there that everything fell into place, I came to the realization that craft beer was more than just an interest, but potentially a career.
Two years into working there I made the decision to leave what I was studying and jump full-time into brewing, and I haven’t looked back!
What's the best beer you’ve ever brewed?
It would have the be the beer I’ve just made for IWD, which is a DDH IPL. Its everything I love in a beer and I’m really happy with how it turned out.
What's your single favourite ingredient to use in beer?
I would probably say hops due to the sheer variety and versatility of how they can be used. There are also a few new hop products on the market that we have been trialling recently which is exciting.
Are there any beers you’ve brewed that might have been better left on the drawing board?
I don’t think so!
If you could do a guest stint at any brewery(s) in the world, which would it be and why?
Really any of the traditional breweries in Munich, to perfect the art of lagers.
Or one of the many amazing breweries in Belgium with a focus on wild ferment, barrel aging and blending, as it would be so different from anything I’ve done and their knowledge would be invaluable.
Which local (Aussie or Kiwi) breweries inspire you?
I think Wildflower are doing amazing things and their passion and knowledge speaks for itself in the quality of their beers.
What inspires you outside the world of brewing beer?
Being out in nature, camping and hiking. Anything to do with moving my body, and exercising - which is lucky considering how many calories beer has! Also, good food and my dog.
What's your desert island beer – the one to keep you going if you were stranded for the rest of your days?
Saison Dupont. I don’t think I could ever get sick of it!
And what would be the soundtrack to those days?
Something I could sing along to, to help keep me sane- probably some blues or indie folk.
If you couldn’t have beer, what would be your tipple of choice?
Either an Irish whiskey, or a gin.
What's the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a brewer?
A better knowledge of chemistry definitely would have helped!
And the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering a career in craft beer?
Be prepared to work really hard, take in a lot of new information, maybe make a couple of mistakes, and then learn from them very quickly!
But most of all just have fun with it.
Temple's International Women's Day celebration kicks off at 5pm on March 8 - further details can be found here.
You can find other entries in the Brew & A series here.