Chef sets up regional Queensland brewpub

Psycho Suzie’s co-founder Dean Alsford

Psycho Suzie’s Brewing opened earlier this month in the Queensland town of Warwick.

The latest in a growing number of regional breweries, Psycho Suzies was launched by chef Dean Alsford along with partner Tamika Sullivan, and is named for a close friend.

Alsford has had an extensive career as a chef, working at Michelin-starred restaurants including Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and Restaurant Gordon Ramsey in London, as well as restaurants in Melbourne and the Hunter Valley.

While he ended up as head chef at The Peak restaurant at Spicers Peak Lodge in Maryvale, he has also dabbled in brewing.

“I’ve homebrewed for probably 10 years. We had a lockdown, we had our second kid, and cooking is very fulfilling, but I’ve done it and hit the peak of what I can do in that industry,” Alsford explained.

Despite the lack of a big homebrew community in Warwick and working long hours, Alsford still managed to indulge his interest.

“I really honed in on the homebrewing and instead of it being a hobby, it was a bit more of an obsession.

“After lockdowns we were back at work and it kind of got to the point where I spent so much money on the setup at the time – a 100-litre setup with glycol and all that jazz – that I thought we should probably start making money off it!

“Tamika is front of house by trade, but she runs front of house at a local restaurant at the moment. So we’re got probably 20-odd years of hospitality between us.”

Hospitality and managing that side of the business can often be a challenge for small breweries, especially for brewers coming from other backgrounds.

“We’ve got the experience of when you do get those customers in, how to win them over. And some breweries don’t do wines…I’m passionate about wine and learning about wine so we’re still trying to get some really good Queensland wine and just have a range.”

During its initial period of trading, Psycho Suzie’s sold beers from other Queensland breweries such as Madocke Brewing Co. and Fonzie Abbott.

But remaining approvals came through last week, and now brewing can start. Alsford is brewing on a 300-litre Cheeky Peak kit currently.

“I’ve been here every morning at five o’clock just doing beer – we know Queensland, it’s lager country so we have a few pilsners, helles, those crushable beers. And people like big beers, we’ve got big red IPA, and I’ve got a black IPA fermenting at the moment. Sours are probably another big seller.”

Building Psycho Suzie’s

As there are no other breweries in Warwick, Alsford said, it was a tricky one for the council and there was a lot of back-and-forth, but he advised on reaching out to others.

“It had its frustrations. There’s no other brewery in town, we’re the first but if you can reach out to somebody else who’s in a similar position [that is really helpful].”

While initial plans were to build a small production brewery, with advice from Russell Steele at RSA Pro, Alsford realised that they needed a taproom.

“We knew we needed a taproom to make money, and we have plans to open it up almost into a beer hall. We’re a fairly small set up [but] we’ve got the space to upgrade.”

The next steps will be introducing a kitchen to the site.

“I just want to have good brewery food like good burgers, fries, fried chicken, good tacos. What I’ve got in my head is like a beer in one hand and a taco in the other.”

With their experience in hospitality, the change has not been as major as those experienced by people coming into brewing from other industries.

“We have a bit more of a balance, having the business in town means my kid’s school is round the corner, I can see him after school for half an hour [even if I’m working late].

“I mean, I’m still doing a 15-hour day, but you have to put the hard work in to begin with to make it easier later on. But if you step away too early everything will fall apart,” explained Alsford.

“We will expand but I don’t want to be this big massive brewery going through thousands of litres a week. I still want to be the one making the beer and be the one behind the taps.”

Psycho Suzie’s Brewing is now open at 79 Fitzroy Street, Warwick, QLD 4370.

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