Kobey Smith Slays Beer

March 26, 2024, by Mick Wust

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Kobey Smith Slays Beer

In the second half of 2023, we explored Gen Z's relationship with craft beer, looking at how breweries could better connect with younger drinkers and those considering a career in beer.

Now, with plenty of Gen Z workers already in the industry, we're shining a light on those who are killing it, slaying, or are just generally pretty lit with our Slays Beer series. Just what do these rising stars of the beer world love about beer, why did they start working in the industry, and how do they think craft beer – and the wider world – could be better?


When he started with 7th Day Brewery, Kobey Smith was a surfer who liked to cool down with macro lagers.

“Tooheys Extra Dry, Coronas, whatever I could fit in my mouth easily. They were my perfect idea of a beer: full refreshment, easy to drink, especially after I’d done something to work up a sweat. Those beers ticked those boxes.”

Even after working behind bars for several years, Kobey didn’t have any experience with craft beer. So, when he decided to have a crack at a job in brewing, he was starting from scratch – and when he applied to 7th Day, that worked in his favour.

“My mates had said, ‘In the interview, don’t you dare tell the guy your favourite beer is Corona.’ But I panicked – I’m a terrible liar. He asked a question, I said ‘Corona.’

“Mike and Ash just laughed. Fortunately, it got me the job; they said, ‘We want a brewer to build from the ground up, with no bad habits.’”

So, while many people dip their toe into craft beer and slowly wade in, Kobey was thrown in the deep end with pale ales and porters, hazies and hefes. The brewery’s Mango Hazy IPA was one of the first beers to win him over.

“I didn’t even like mangoes back then!

“Introduction to this kind of beer totally changed my palate. Didn’t take long. As a younger man in Sydney, I couldn’t afford this sort of beer… I got to try some beers I would never have reached for.”

 

Kobey (right) crushing it with 7th Day head brewer and co-owner, Mike Beresford-Jones (right).
Kobey (right) crushing it with 7th Day head brewer and co-owner, Mike Beresford-Jones (right).

 

Nowadays, while he still likes a good lager, Kobey's go-to beers are vibrant, hoppy numbers. Corona with a lime wedge may not be his favourite brew anymore, but he's still all about sticking fruit into beer. And, thanks to the camaraderie between brewers – one of Kobey’s favourite parts of the industry – he gets plenty of opportunities to hit up other brewers and geek out about how they’re using adjuncts: where they’re adding them in the brewing process, how much they use, how the additions affect the appearance, aroma, and flavour of a beer…

“It’s such a wild card with brewing [with adjuncts]. I’m always trying to get some sort of gauge.”

But there’s no one thing about brewing that makes brewing a good fit for Kobey; he enjoys the variety of work involved in his role. He like that it stimulates his mind – he’s constantly coming up with ways to improve efficiencies and make better beer, and thinking up events for the brewery – while also being physically demanding, with plenty of kegs to move and bags of malt to lift. This balance is a huge part of Kobey’s day-to-day enjoyment in being a brewer.

“I didn’t want to sit down all day, and I don’t want to stand all day. It’s both.”

For anyone else thinking of getting into brewing, Kobey can’t recommend it highly enough, although he also wants to give a heads-up that he wasn’t given before he started.

“You get to test yourself in so many different tasks in the one job. It’s super easy to become super in love with it: with the product, and the brewery you work for. It’s a very fulfilling and rewarding thing to do.

“Just know that there’s a lot of cleaning!” he laughs.

But he hasn’t let that put him off brewing as a career.

“I think I’ll do it for the rest of my life.”

 


Words Of Wisdom

As a Gen Z-er, a beach bum, and someone who remembers what it’s like to be outside the craft beer bubble, Kobey sees the beer industry from an angle that many don’t. With this fresh perspective, he’s got a few helpful tips on how breweries can appeal to new fans.

The first thing: don’t spend all your time talking about the quality of your beer. While making consistently high quality beer is essential, talking about it doesn’t win over a consumer.

“Obviously, [you need] a really good product. But these days, you almost don’t need to say that any more.

“There are so many good products, that’s not a point you can sell any more.”

The second: pay attention to your design. It’s often the first thing people notice, well before your brewery’s name or beer styles. And, even with the extensive beer knowledge and palate Kobey’s developed, it’s still the first thing that grabs him at a bar or bottleshop.

“I’m a bit on the creative side, so a really good artwork always sells me. The can art, the decals – that’d definitely catch my eye to begin with.”

The third: it may sound obvious, but if you want to attract new drinkers, you need to be visible to people who don’t know about you and don’t drink your beer. Simply posting to your existing customers on your own social media accounts isn’t enough.

Kobey appreciates the way some breweries are involved with high profile influencers like Mick Fanning with Balter and The Inspired Unemployed boys with Better Beer, saying they act as spokespeople for the industry among people with different interests.

“Can’t have a conversation about [Balter] without talking about surfing,” he says.

“People who don’t even talk about beer think, ‘If [Mick Fanning] drinks it, must be good’… Even I was drinking it just because Mick Fanning was making it.”

Or, in the case of The Inspired Unemployed (who are part-owners of Better Beer), since their comedy connects with all kinds of people, he says their promotion of Better Beer is constantly reaching a new audience.

“Couple of Australian guys making easy, fun content, stupid dances, skits, really locked into that Australian humour… the little bit they do [to promote Better Beer] draws a massive amount of attention to that beer.”

 

Jack Steele & Matt Ford of The Inspired Unemployed showcase the lighter side of life, and showcase Better Beer; surfer Mick Fanning is to credit for many people's introduction to Balter.
Jack Steele and Matt Ford of The Inspired Unemployed and Better Beer; Mick Fanning and his surfing mates helped introduce many to Balter.

 

But there’s plenty breweries can do if they don’t have a celebrity in their corner, starting with ensuring their locals know about their brewery.

There are still many people who, if they think about breweries, only have the macro giants in their mind. Kobey says that, when he first considered brewing, he vaguely knew the craft scene was growing, but still describes himself as “someone who knew nothing.”

“I did know there were a few random breweries in the Northern Beaches, but I didn’t realise there were five or six.

“When I talk about my job to people my age and mention breweries, they maybe have one off the top of their head in Brookvale.”

A key part of attracting people to your brewery is making them aware of it. People are creatures of habit, and have no reason to look outside of their favourite drinks or venues. They’re not on the lookout for new breweries or venues. So rather than assuming people know your brewery is there, assume that people don’t know it exists; then you can brainstorm how you can push into their consciousness.

Which brings us to Kobey’s final point: make sure your venue has plenty of appeal so that people want to come once they know about it.

He says people his age are looking for places to have fun with friends, not just somewhere to drink beer. A venue needs to have attractive drawcards other than "it’s a brewery".

“[Young] people just have a rhythm and a pattern we fall into really easily, and breweries haven’t been in that conversation for a long time.”

The goal, then, is to become part of people’s rhythm. In the last few years, brewery hub Brookvale has become a destination for groups looking to have a fun night out, but Kobey says the beers are only one part of what makes it a go-to spot.

“It’s about accessibility and what’s happening in a brewery,” he says. “Live music, beers, six different joints, get a cocktail, play pool, pinball, axe throwing…

“These days, Brookvale’s the word.”

 

Want punters to think of you as a fun brewery to visit? Have fun!
Want punters to think of you as a fun brewery to visit? Have fun!

Like any industry, that of brewing can become an echo chamber: it’s easy to spend most of your time rubbing shoulders with like-minded people. But, even after a few years as a brewer, Kobey isn’t stuck in a craft bubble. His mates are more into Coronas and RTDs than Cryo and rauchbiers. He loves the big beer ads and catchy slogans of days gone by. And he looks to the diverse bars of Bali for inspiration on the brand identity of a venue.

And, at the end of the day, when he’s not holding a bucket of hops or hauling a keg, Kobey’s got a surfboard under his arm.

“In my head the perfect day is: beach, esky, surfboard, maybe a soccer or football, sun’s out, cold beer.”

But nowadays, when he wants a refreshing beer after a surf, it’s not a Corona to which he turns.

“Coming in from the surf, all salty, the Mango Hazy IPA is probably one of the best beers to have.”

He’s a brewer. He’s a surfer. He’s a kook lord.

This is Kobey, and he Slays Beer.


Kobey Smith

 

What’s your role in beer?

I’m a brewer at 7th Day Brewery on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

My main goal in brewing is to make some seriously good beer. I love the exploration of ideas and wild creations being brought to life, but I believe beer as we know and love it must remain the champion. All the beers I aim to create are designed with the intent for easy-drinking, big sessionability and to hit all the happy receptors that a beer can.


What first got you into craft beer?

I’ve always been a beer lover – maybe even a bit too attracted to it. I worked in multiple different bars for over six years while I studied screen acting, and every shift wished of being on the other side of the bar, out with friends, enjoying some good drinks.

One day I wanted to take a turn in my life and thought about what I could do. I knew I loved beer and the thought hit me: rather than being in front of the bar or in the bar, I wondered what the other side of the bar was like.

Without any real knowledge of what makes a beer – just a passion for her – I emailed every brewery in the Northern Beaches greater area, and luckily received an email back from 7th Day Brewery. I got started shortly after and haven't looked back.


What do you most enjoy about the beer world?

I love the community and unity I feel when meeting fellow brewers. I would've believed this industry may be pretty hush hush, secretive and even jealous about other businesses’ and competitors' beers and successes. However, I've found the complete opposite.

Everyone is extremely passionate and excited about everyone else's creations and craft. When help is asked for, a solution or hand is always offered, drinks are exchanged and shared excessively and some great conversations around brewing philosophies, procedures and dream recipes are discussed.

I also love the process: brewing a beer intently and watching over its life from fermentation up to a glass. Seeing my creation being enjoyed by hundreds of people brings me immense satisfaction.

 


Much has been said about craft beer’s core audience getting older – are your mates drinking craft beer? If not, what are they drinking?

Yes and no. Beer is easy to be loved in all shapes and sizes; sometimes I’ll be impressed and see some pretty interesting tins and bottles of independent craft or foreign beers [that my mates have brought to events], but more often then not, Corona the king of cervezas and RTD lolly drinks are stocking up most of the eskies.


What do they think of your career in beer?

I’m not sure they entirely understand it.

They definitely see enough of the great aspects of the job, but probably couldn’t tell you much about my actual day-to-day, which I understand as brewing is such a unique job. I probably do a bad job explaining it once I start using brewer lingo and getting excited over weird things like heat exchangers and the dangerous chemicals we play with.

Everyone I bring to the brewery for the first time is always eager for a tour, and walks out pretty stunned after hearing what's actually going on. My dad's mates all freak out and have plenty of questions once they find out – more of the reaction I’d expect, haha. 


What’s your favourite way to engage with breweries / discover what’s happening in beer?

I love organising big bar crawls to do with mates, experiencing a few different venues, trying a load of different drinks and having a fun place to end the night.

If I'm ever outside of Sydney, the first thing I do is jump on Google to look for any breweries local to where I’ll be staying [sounds like you need the interactive map in the Crafty Pint app! - Mick]. I shoot off an email to line up a tour or chat and a few beers with a brewer. 

I love seeing the different techniques brewers have and equipment they prioritise space for, which we may not use at 7th Day.

 


How do you think the beer industry could appeal to a broader, or younger, audience?

More advertising. Good spokespersons certainly helped out more recently, but I loved the outrageous ads and repeated slogans that used to get continuously played and rotated during footy and Simpsons ad breaks. I think it’s really easy to find what you like and become comfortable repeating those things.

I think a bit more awareness surrounding these great beers and exciting things happening at breweries need to be more in peoples’ faces to get them out of their routines and trying new things. 


Who is doing it well?

I was in Bali, Indonesia, in May of last year and I loved every joint I entered.

Whether it was a relaxed beach shack playing live Caribbean remixes of songs, where you could walk in sandy in your boardshorts with your surfboard, and enjoy a beer and fish cooked next to you on the beach; or some elegant cliffside bar that had everything top-of-the-line, from the cocktails, to food, service and the furniture; or a place like Pretty Poison in Canggu, which was a backyard-style art bar that had a skate bowl in the middle of the venue.

I loved that venues had a brand and identity, and were allowed to commit entirely to it.


What do you think the craft beer industry could do better or differently?

I wish the rules around alcohol service venues were a lil’ easier in Sydney. It’s a great, safe place to live and enjoy getting out in, but sometimes fun comes with a bit of risk or "danger". The amount of really fun, exciting ideas we’ve had at our brewery that haven’t grown to fruition due to some random rules surrounding parking or seating spaces has been disheartening. 

I think Australia's microbrewery scene would explode if companies were allowed to pull the trigger on some events and ideas more easily.


You can read other entries in the Slays Beer series here.

Know a Gen Z-er in the beer industry you'd like to nominate for the series? Drop us a line!

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