Brew & A: Madi Bruce

March 7, 2024, by Will Ziebell

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Brew & A: Madi Bruce

For a brewer, making beer is your day-to-day undertaking. You might love your job and be learning continuously, but there's still an element of routine involved: mash in, look at your phone, transfer liquid, add hops, clean.

Bring in some non-brewers, however, and your own day isn't just far more exciting, it also gives others the chance to learn too. For Madi Bruce, Bright Brewery's annual International Women's Day brew is the chance to help empower women who work throughout the business, with the idea stemming from the first Pink Boots brew day she attended at Brick Lane. 

“I went to every meeting for about a year," Madi told The Crafty Pint, "and said, ‘When can we make this beer?' 

“I wanted to make a beer with all the female staff to encourage and empower. To give them that power in a situation when a male comes into the bar and says to the male bartender, ‘Can I have a beer?’ and disregards anything a female bartender might know."

While many within the craft beer industry are pushing for change, there are still beer drinkers who believe beer is a drink for men, so Madi she sees brew days as an important way to arm women who work in beer so they can disarm such notions. 

“The industry itself wants to be different, it does," she says. "But sometimes it’s the consumer and you can’t change that. You can’t change how bad a day that person has had when they walk into the bar, that’s not your power, but your power is being able to change their perspective.”

This year's release, an Apricot NEIPA, is the third time they've made Fred's Beer, which is named after the High Country brewery’s late co-founder Fiona "Fred" Reddaway and raises money for Pink Boots Australia. 

The first beer, a Blackberry Pale Ale, was something Madi had long wanted to brew but the following two have been picked by women working at the brewery. Given last year's Fred's Beer was a feijoa, orange and guava IPA, clearly combining fruit and hops is popular throughout Bright, with this year's release seeing the team combine season and style. 

“[Apricots are] a late summer fruit so they are in season at the moment,” Madi says. “You can get some really delicious stone fruit and apricot flavours from hops so I think that helps drive the interest as well."

 

The women of Bright Brewery making Fred's Apricot NEIPA.

 

On their brew days, there's always a mix of new staff members, who are often younger and work at the brewery's taproom, and those who have been at the brewery for years.

“For some," Madi says, "it’s always new and exciting, and they might not know how the brewing process worked if they started just ahead of these crazy summers we have here.

“I try and keep it interesting for long term staff members so the activities around the brew change a bit. One year, we talked about all the ingredients and why we chose them, last year we did sensory analysis where I spiked some beer with off-flavours. 

"This year, we had three different NEIPAs from three different breweries to go through what they are and how they can be brewed in different ways.”

Madi's own pathway into brewing started when she sent out a cold email from the cold mountains of British Columbia. Having grown up in Warrnambool, Madi and her husband knew they didn't want to move back there or to Melbourne and instead wanted their home to be somewhere where they could continue to follow their passion for snowboarding while she worked in a brewery. 

“We really liked living in the mountains and the lifestyle that it provides for us," Madi says. 

“I looked at breweries where I could snowboard in winter and hike in summer and Bright was pretty clear.”

After firing off an email along the lines of "Hi, can I please have a job?" Madi was soon in Bright, joining the brewery's front-of-house crew in 2019. It was a hectic time to move to the High Country, given that summer's bushfires which led straight into COVID, during which Madi combined work with studying brewing through the Kangan Institute. 

Since midway through 2022, she's been a permanent member of the production crew, which means she gets to brew and enjoy the balanced lifestyle the alpine town provides. 

“That’s what really attracted me to Bright," she says. "Our core values are active, authentic and sustainable, and it’s about being active in your community as well as at home. So, if you want to go for a bike ride at three in the afternoon, then you can work seven to three.

“We live somewhere where people constantly come to vacation, we need to be able to enjoy that.”

Ahead of the launch of the 2024 Fred's beer, Madi joined us for a Brew & A to tell us about brewing, crushing cucumbers and Workplace Noise...


Madi Bruce

 

Why are you a brewer?

I just love the blend of creativity and science that brewing requires. It’s rare to find that in a job. I love that each day is different and brings a new challenge and something new to learn.


What would you be if you weren’t a brewer?

When I was little, I wanted to be an Event Manager like J-Lo in The Wedding Planner, so I studied Event Management and I did that for a while, but I really didn’t enjoy it. I also always really wanted to be a mum.

Becoming a brewer was a passion born while travelling. I was living in Golden, British Columbia, in Canada and I emailed Bright Brewery saying: “Hi, I’m Madi and I want to be a brewer. Can I please have a job?” 

And here I am! Now I can’t imagine doing anything else. And I am also about to become a mum!


What was your epiphany beer?

I got into beers by drinking sour beers, but I really fell in love with beer when I started drinking wheat beers. 

 


How did you first get involved in the beer world?

While travelling, I would go to my local brewpub, Whitetooth Brewing Co in Golden. It was a great way to meet people and try different beers. I fell in love with the brewing industry under the ski hill.


What's the best beer you’ve ever brewed?

The first Fred’s beer will always be one of my favourite beers. It was a blackberry pale ale that I created and it was the first beer I brewed on my own as a trainee brewer.  


What's your single favourite ingredient to use in beer?

This is hard as there are so many that I love. I think yeast is my favourite category of ingredient. There are so many different strains and you can do so much with them.  


Are there any beers you’ve brewed that might have been better left on the drawing board?

The original Cucumber Basil Sour was something I’ll never forget. We had to cut, crush and juice 200 kilograms of cucumbers by hand and it was an absolute mission. That said, it was a great beer at the end day, so it was almost worth it. 

Almost. 

 

Madi and fellow Bright brewer, David Stockie.

If you could do a guest stint at any brewery in the world, which would it be and why?

I would love to go back to Whitetooth. They were so generous with their time and it would be cool to go with the knowledge I have now and see their improvements.


Which local breweries inspire you?

Nathan and the team at King River Brewing in the King Valley are making some amazing beers. I also love Garage Project and some of the non-alcoholic beers from One Drop are great, too. 


What inspires you outside the world of brewing beer?

Cooking, hiking, being in the snow and the team I work with - we are so tight that it’s like a family. And we all really just respect each other’s ideas, which I love. 


What's your desert island beer – the one to keep you going if you were stranded for the rest of your days?

Can I have a mixed case of all the different styles of beers so I can study them and choose depending on my mood? 

If not that then maybe our M.I.A. IPA. 

 

Madi and trainee brewer Claire Lock.



And what would be the soundtrack to those days? 

Our ‘Workplace Noise’ Spotify playlist. It’s a collaboration between all the brewing and packaging staff. It’s about three days long now and is so weird with such a huge variety of music. 


If you couldn’t have beer, what would be your tipple of choice?

Prosecco or Ringer Reef Sparkling Rose. There are so many amazing wineries around the Alpine Valleys so I’m spoilt for choice!


What's the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a brewer?

That it would challenge me and that every day I would be learning. I love those things about brewing, though. 


And the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering a career in craft beer?

When you work in a brewery, always have a spare set of clothes. You never know when you will need them.


You can find other entries in our Brew & A series here. This year's Fred's beer officially launches at an International Women's Day Lunch at Bright Brewery, with tickets available here

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