Craft beer is helping to restore Aussie heritage

Craft breweries are increasingly becoming saviours to old buildings with the Blue Mountains the latest to host an adaptive reuse project.

Co-founded by DJ and Harriet McCready, Mountain Culture Beer Co is being built in an early-twentieth-century building that once housed several regional newspapers and most recently a Civic Video.

With a mother-in-law living in the Blue Mountains and a wife that shares his passion for climbing and hiking, moving to the region wasn’t a stretch for McCready.

“We wanted to build something in an area that we really loved and were inspired by and there are so many other creatives living up here,” he said.

“I just love the ability to be able to be in here working and get outside and go for a climb after work or a trail run and it’s all right around the corner.”

Finding the right property took a lot longer than the McCready’s had anticipated. The property they had originally invested six months in developing fell through forcing the couple had to look elsewhere.

Doubtful about the longevity of a bricks-and-mortar video store, the McCready’s decided to keep a watchful eye on the heritage site.

When it came onto the market, McCready said that everything fell into place.

Because Mountain Culture is being built on a heritage-listed property, McCready said he was initially worried about where to get the money to adequately restore the building.

“With all of the expenses starting up and what we’re doing… I wanted to put any cash that we had into making the absolute best beer possible,” he explained.

“There wasn’t much being left in the way of restoring old brickwork and the kind of things that were really cool about the building but it was just one of those, where I was like, we’re a brewery first.

Thankfully, the couple received a $100,000 grant from the NSW Government’s Heritage Near Me program.

“That grant really allowed us to step in and go above and beyond what we originally thought we could have done,” he said.

McCready said that a collection of old relics found on the property has been curated to create a ‘wall of nostalgia’ for visitors to see what the old newspaper building was like.

“Working with what we have in the area is a big thing we’re trying to focus on as a brewery,” he said.

“We’re really trying to highlight that it’s a heritage building, kind of restore it back to what it would have looked like back when it was completed in the early 1920s.

“So we’re really trying to restore it back to that but obviously just incorporate the infrastructure we need for the brewing system.”

The Blue Mountains

US-born DJ McCready, former founding brewer at Sydney’s Modus Operandi, has been brewing professionally for 10 years. Mountain Culture will be the fourth brewery he has been involved in, having also worked for US-based Oskar Blues Brewery where he managed the specialty program along the east coast.

McCready told Brews News that once he’d decided to leave Modus he and his wife wanted to travel before embarking on opening their own brewery.

“I really wanted to go and check out what was happening in Europe and spend some time at the breweries over there,” McCready explained.

“We also spent some time in the US and meeting some of the brewery owners there and people I had met along the way.

“I thought it was really important to spend my time overseas and broaden my brewing horizons a little bit.”

The brewery floor is being poured this week, which McCready said is a big milestone for the company. Still a little ways off brewing beer, he said that the brewery equipment is about five weeks away from being delivered.

The 10-barrel Premier Stainless brewhouse has been heavily customised towards brewing what McCready describes as old-school, lager-style beers.

“[The brewhouse] can perform like really old-school kind of mashing techniques to where we can use unmodified grain through using the kettle as a kind of cereal cooker,” he explained.

Being able to use unmalted barley or unmodified grain will allow McCready to broaden the grain profile of his beers.

“We can perform things like decoction mashing and turbid mashing,” he said.

“It opens up the grain profile that we will be able to use in creating traditional lager beers and traditional mixed-culture beers.”

Mountain Culture is first and foremost a brewpub, with a licenced capacity of 250 people. To start off with, the brewpub bar will have a constantly rotating tap list of lagers and IPAs.

“I’d really like it to be that kind of thing that when people come up here every three or four months that they can come in and we have five new beers on tap every time they come up,” McCready told Brews News.

A mixed culture program is also being developed my McCready, who – just a couple months back before it got too cold – had been foraging in the surrounding canyons cultivating wild yeast strains.

“We’re waiting obviously till we start brewing beer to really start actioning using that yeast but it’s something that we’re playing with on the side right now,” he said.

McCready said that he wants his mixed culture program to have an appropriate amount of time to age and develop in complexity and so won’t be releasing those styles of beer until about a year into production.

McCready said that Mountain Culture will also aim to be a collaborative brewery. Because the Blue Mountains is a destination location, he said that he hopes to host brewers from overseas and give them free rein to brew the styles they are passionate about in Australia.

Mountain Culture Beer Co should open by September this year.

Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries.

Read more: How to start a brewing company: Part One.

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