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Newcastle punches above its weight when it comes to providing the Australian craft beer world with quality brewers. There’s Shawn Sherlock at Murrayâs, Keith Grice at nearby Potters in the Hunter Valley, and Richard Watkins plying his trade at Canberra’s Wig & Pen to name but three. And now, throwing his hat into the ring, is Lachlan MacBean, who recently released the first beer under the Grainfed Brewing moniker.
Formerly a brewer at Bluetongue and a judge at a number of the region’s major beer awards, Lachlan will be known to many people from his stints behind the bar at Newcastle’s home of craft beer, The Albion Hotel. It was at the Albion on a couple of prior visits that The Crafty Pint first heard of his plans to release his own beer; in fact, on our last trip to Newcastle for the city’s second Craft Beer Week, we became – unwittingly – part of a small task force on a mission to persuade him that the home brewed pilot batch he’d shared with us simply had to be scaled up for a commercial release.
Within days of the festival finishing, he was down at Illawarra Brewing Company doing just that: brewing the first full-length batch of The Sneaky One, the beer he describes as a Newcastle Summer Ale.
Since launched at a number of venues around Newcastle, and due to make a first appearance in Sydney at a forthcoming beer dinner at the Woolpack Hotel, it marks a welcome return to commercial brewing for Lachlan.
“I’ve been home brewing for 20 years and, like anyone who gets into brewing, you want to start your own craft brewery,” he says. “Then I crunched the numbers and realised I couldn’t afford it, but it’s always been the dream to have my own beers out there.
“I was having a good chat with Richard Watkins about the beer that we drank during Craft Beer Week. He said that while we liked it, would the target market? Cloves and banana can be quite a divider, people love it or hate it. So I backed off on the wheat and made the beer more sessionable.”
The result is a beer with a blend of two different yeasts that uses 25 per cent wheat and 75 per cent pilsner malt to create a 4.2 per cent “really drinkable and really sessionable” beer. So far the signs have been good. The beer was launched at the Albion Hotel – something of an open goal given Lachlan is part of the furniture there – but since then has appeared on a number of other taps around the city and, he says, has even had dyed-in-the-wool XXXX Gold drinkers coming back for more.
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