Perfect Harmony

Perfect Harmony

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The word “collaborate” has been thrown about quite a bit lately. In fact, the word probably hasn’t had such wide usage since 1990 when Vanilla Ice had a number one hit after urging the world to stop, collaborate and listen. In the first five months of this year, overseas brewers have checked in and out of this country’s craft breweries with such regularity that it’s often difficult to recall who’s been brewing what, where and with whom. From the well known to the up-and-comers, hardcore craft connoisseurs to brewers of international brands, they all seem intent on coming down to Australia to get their hand on our malt sacks.

Richard Adamson (above right) and Oscar McMahon of Young Henry’s brewery have seen the potential that collaborative efforts can have in bringing new ideas, new techniques and new ingredients to a brewing process. But rather than teaming up with any big name foreign brewers, they’ve decided to take more local approach to collaborations, one which better reflects themselves and their Newtown home. What they came up with is a couple of genuine rock ‘n’ roll collaborations.

Their concept was to invite some of their favourite Sydney musicians into the brewery, do some head scratching – or head banging, depending on the genre – and see what sort of a beer might come out of it.

First on the bill was Peter Fenton (above left), frontman for seminal Aussie rock band, Crow. The band had achieved a measure of success and popular following in the 90s before splitting towards the end of the decade. In recent years, the band has reformed for several performances and planned recordings. Adamson is a longtime Crow fan and the two met backstage at a Grinderman concert. While they were talking, Fenton found out about a certain brewer’s background and it turned out that the respect for their art was mutual.

“I asked what Richard did and he said ‘Oh, I’m a brewer’ and it turned out that he used to make one of my favourite beers when he was brewing at Barons – the Black Wattle lager,” says Peter. At a later point (while having a beer, as tends to be the case) the pair got talking about what sort of creative project they could do together and the wheels were set in motion.

When we visited the brewery a couple of weeks ago, the brew was already underway with the collaborators in the midst of sampling the wort. Fenton explains part of the creative process that had gone on to get the beer to that point: “We’d been talking a bit about the history of the land around the brewery and the Newtown and Enmore area, about its Aboriginal past and the Cadigal people, how it used to be scrubland with kangaroos hopping around, then its more industrial days up to the point we’re at now.

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