Trent and Kylie Butcher have all the reasons in the world to smile at the moment, and that’s not just because they run Smiley Brewing. The Pakenham brewery opened its doors a few weeks ago after a four-year journey to turn their brewing dream into a reality.
They initially decided to turn his passion for homebrewing into a pro operation in 2019 but, after multiple factory sites in Melbourne’s southeast fell through and COVID came along, they finally locked in a space in an industrial part of Pakenham in early 2021. As a major growth corridor in Melbourne’s outer southeast, it’s the kind of place you’d think could use a local brewery.
But, over the course of a year, they were hit with delay after delay, as the Cardinia Shire’s planning department kept requesting more information while concerns over car parking eventually saw them recommend to the council that Smiley shouldn’t go ahead.
“They didn’t have much exposure to breweries,” Trent says of the decision, adding that, while Howler are in the same council area, the Lang Lang brewery launched as a bar before adding brewing.
Although they considered leaving their dream behind at that point, in the end they decided to take the planning recommendation to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) while also talking with local councillors about their vision for a family-friendly local brewery.
“It almost felt personal at that point,” Trent says.
“We ended up with a two-pronged approach: we’d launched a VCAT application and I’d gone the other route of trying to get the councillors on side.”
After visiting the brewery space, the councillors unanimously voted in favour and, in 2022, Trent was able to order and install a 10-hectolitre system from Bespoke Brewing Solutions. Finally, Smiley opened to thirsty locals at the end of last month.
It might have taken an age to reach that point, but they’ve been quickly embraced by the local community, many of whom had been patiently waiting for the day they could enjoy a fresh froth. Despite being the first brewery in the suburb, Trent says there are plenty of craft drinkers among the locals, with their hazy pale outselling their pared-back lager at times.
“We had some people that came in [on the opening weekend on] Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Trent says.
“We always wanted to be a local pub. Just somewhere locals could drop into for a drink.”
It’s enough to put a smile on your face so, to find out more about the brewery, we invited Trent to join us for the latest instalment in our Who Brews...? series.
Who are you?
We are Trent and Kylie, a husband and wife team who have been together for 13 years. Trent’s worked in the health and aged care sector for most of his life project managing equipment and furniture fit-outs of hospitals and aged care facilities. Kylie has been involved in the banking sector, working for most of the big banks as a business analyst.
Where do you brew?
We are located in Pakenham, Victoria – Melbourne's outer southeast.
Why do you brew?
We love it! To be able to turn fantastic local ingredients into a product that everyone loves and enjoys.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
I remember having Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in 2012 when we were travelling in the USA. Prior to that, I had mainly only drunk mainstream macro beers, and that started a love of craft beer, which then turned into brewing my own in 2014.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
The brewery is named after the street we live on. Kylie had got some custom bottle labels done for me when I started brewing as a Christmas gift, and she had them made up as “Smiley Way Brewing”.
When we started the process of setting up our own brewery we just dropped the “Way” out of the name – everyone we ran it past loved it and we did too!
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Probably our Smiling Hazy. It’s the beer that I’ve brewed the most, has had the most amount of review and refinement, and the beer I most like to drink. It’s a hazy pale ale that has that smooth juice taste you expect without being too complicated. An easy drink that everyone can enjoy – like us!
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Gordon Ramsay. Why? I think he would be good to have a banter with during the process – although I would imagine we would be swearing at each other the entire time. Plus, with his knowledge of food would likely have some unique suggestions on ingredients.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
At the moment it's usually the radio. I’m fairly open to most music, so a good mix of new music and classics! Although commercial radio can be repetitive, we had a joke going during the build that every time Fast Car by Luke Combs came on, it must be 11am. It was pretty much dead on 11am every time!
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
Something easy to drink. If it wasn’t my own beer, I would have to go with a nice pale ale, something like Jetty Road Pale.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
I’ve been working towards using as many Australian-grown ingredients as possible in beers and I would like to go further with this. We have some awesome producers in Australia with so many good options!
Where can people find your beers?
At the moment at the taproom over the bar. We hope to have packaged product available shortly.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
It’s a big outlook and so many have asked if would we set up another one. I don’t think we would but could possibly consider another taproom somewhere – we will see.
You'll find Smiley Brewing alongside hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app, designed to help you find your nearest good beer wherever you are in Australia.
Photo credit: Narns & Jay Studios.