Let me tell you a story about Gladstone Queensland, the veritable centre of the world.
At least, it is according to Michael Comley, owner of Ward’s Brewery.
“Everything big comes from this place,” Michael says, “From coal to aluminium, we’re serious exporters with a lot more to offer”.
True enough, but if heavy industry isn’t your thing, perhaps the beautiful beaches and nearby coastal islands will take your fancy. One way or another, whether it’s work or pleasure bringing you to Gladstone, you’ll be joining plenty of other thirsty folks passing through.
Every good story needs a point of tension though, and it turns out beer is one thing this town doesn’t produce in great quantities. The result? Most imported hop juice on offer has typically been oxidised and sun-baked from travelling far too long either north from Brisbane or south from Townsville.
Fear not though, as William Halsey, Jr. once said, “There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet”,
The team at Ward’s are rising to meet this challenge while tapping into the area's long history by taking over the Ward’s cordial factory, which stretches way back to 1922.
“There’s so much history here and we wanted to respect that,” says Michael, whose family took over the cordial business in the 1970s.
It's a commitment you’ll notice as soon as you enter through the original factory doors. And so it was meant to be, surviving 100 years later and fuelled by the belief that great beer can one day put Gladstone on the map, Ward’s gained a fresh new brewery and began slinging the good stuff in 2022. The brewery's opening has been a major boost to the local beer scene, joining Auckland House in Gladstone Central, which you can read about here.
Stepping inside Ward's, you’ll find head brewer Paul Bergamini manning their 10-hectolitre brewhouse with considerable experience gained from the craft scene in New Zealand. Meanwhile, their full industrial kitchen rolls out eclectic specials like double-fried wings and chicken pot pie on the daily.
As for the beer itself, Ward’s started gently and built-up trust with their clients.
“The standard fare is light and fizzy around here,” says Michael, “So by starting with a solid lager that people could love, they’ve been willing to come with us and experiment”.
Paul’s Hazy Pale has since gone down a storm, while sours have proved a local hit too.
Whatever your tastes though, Ward’s are committed to brewing awesome beer which brings a community of local folks and friendly visitors together. And, after bringing home two bronze medals from the 2023 AIBAs, there are some early signs that they'll be doing their best to put Gladstone on the map.
So, read on and continue their story as we find out, Who Brews Ward’s Beer?
Who are you?
Ward’s Brewery is the creation of Michael Comley, a Gladstone local who returned to his hometown after living overseas for about 23 years where he was a commercial real estate broker in the UK.
The drive behind creating Ward’s is to make something of the family’s old cordial factory, produce and sell a quality product and have some fun while doing it. With his two sisters, Michelle and Robyn, the family combined their skills in asset management, accountancy and hospitality to create Ward’s Brewery, of which Michael is the sole director.
Head Brewer is Paul Bergamini who started home brewing an eternity ago before moving into commercial brewing, he spent the last five years with Good George Brewing in Hamilton New Zealand as their Senior Brewer. Paul designed and brewed many amazing beers while at Good George, the most prolific being his championship-winning Hazy NZ IPA.
Where do you brew?
Centre of the Universe: postcode 4680. That’s Gladstone, Queensland for the unaware.
Why do you brew?
We love beer and thrive on the satisfaction of brewing quality beers for customers to enjoy.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Not really, just a burning desire to brew great beer!
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery's name?
The legacy of the Ward’s name dates back to 1922 when Ward’s Cordials made soft drinks for the local community at The Factory on Auckland Street in the heart of Gladstone. Fast forward one hundred years, The Factory has been transformed to become an open-spaced, brewpub where people can connect, enjoy a meal and indulge in drinking great beers.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
That would have to be our current Hazy Pale Ale, it best represents us because hazy beers - love them or hate them - are Paul’s specialty, so stand by for some more outstanding hazy beers in our ever-evolving lineup.
Michael agrees on the hazy but probably for a load of other reasons. No more questions, please.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Paul: I'm currently enjoying Ocean Alley, The Reubens, Violent Soho & Grinspoon!
Michael: Flashback from Nikki Beach to Dog Star, Brixton - all over the shop really.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
None, nada, zip, zilch! Needs to be rectified.
What would be your desert island beer?
Paul: Saision DuPont, just an incredibly delicious beer.
Michael: Paul’s XPA in a 500ml can.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent times?
Range's Colour Theory IPA and Easy Times' Hazy Times IPA.
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer that you’d like to explore further?
Paul: I’d like to explore spontaneous fermentation, barrel aging and blending! What do you think, Michael?
What beers have you released to date?
Ward’s Lager, Ward’s Pale Ale, Ward’s Session Ale, Ward’s XPA , Ward’s Hazy Pale Ale, Ward’s Raspberry Sour and Ward’s Black Lager.
Where can people find your beers?
Nice and fresh from the Brewery at 131 Auckland Street, Gladstone, a few other venues at Agnes Water, 1770 and around the Gladstone region.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
On fire loving and serving great beers.
You can visit Ward's Brewery by heading to 131 Auckland Street, Gladstone. You'll find them alongside 1300-plus and counting breweries and good beer venues in the Crafty Pint app, designed to help beer lovers find their nearest good beer wherever they are.