Little Creatures' big influence
When faced with a temperature gauge that isn’t showing the right numbers or a tricky yeast pitch, Jayne Lewis’ mind will travel across the country and back 15 years.
While Lewis might run the high-flying Two Birds operation in Melbourne, her time learning the brewing caper in Fremantle is never far from the memory.
There are a lot of quality beer people around the country, and overseas, who think the same way.
As Little Creatures reminisces during its month-long 18th birthday party, the brand is celebrated by many brewers who got their chance to learn the beer caper at the Fremantle operation.
It even goes as far back to Brendan Varis (Feral) and Aaron Heary (Gage Roads) who helped commission the brewhouse in early 2000.
Then there are others such as Ash Hazell (Colonial), Alex Troncoso (now at Lost and Grounded in the UK), Andy Scade (Bevy), Caolan Vaughan (Stone and Wood), Jack Cameron (Pirate Life), Jason Credaro (Brick Lane), Sam Fuss (Philter), Tom Champion (Felons) and others too numerous to mention who graduated from Little Creatures brew university.
It is a certification that carries great weight in the beer community.
And Lewis said to this day that when procedures don’t go to plan in the Two Birds brewhouse she reverts to the lessons from her time there between 2005-08.
“I loved Creatures,” Lewis, who co-owns Two Birds with Danielle Allen, told Brews News. “I really adored the team and it will always have a special place in my heart.
“A lot of my processes today come from what I learned there. The way we do a lot of our cleaning, our emphasis on hygiene and the time we take in the right measures to ensure quality. That is what I did at Creatures so it still makes sense to me. It formed the way we try to run our business.
“(Senior brewer) Dan Heary taught me the practicality of brewing. That means at what stages you could beat up a process and what was not negotiable; how to take things apart, look at what might be happening and putting it back together again.
“I wasn’t a practical person so I had to learn it. I did and use the knowledge to this day.”
Hazell, who, after his Little Creatures stint joined Barrow Boys before heading to Colonial, said having people come into the brewery from different backgrounds provided a lot of experiences from which to learn.
“There were a lot of aspiring brewers who came from various parts and we all did a lot of long days in the brewhouse which showed us the value of hard work,” Hazell said.
“We all banded together into a team and that felt like it was us versus the big guys in brewing and we had to try that much harder to be as good as them.
“There were times we felt we were like Australia’s Sierra Nevada in that way.”
Briton Russ Gosling, who learned the beer game in Edinburgh, had toured Australia with his wife in the early part of last decade and fell in love with Little Creatures on a visit to Fremantle. They hadn’t been home long when they decided to return to WA, and he joined the team in 2005.
In 2010 Gosling became Little Creatures’ head brewer so he has seen many talented beer producers come through the big doors at the Fremantle venue.
And he knows why the brewery continues to develop qualified people who have gone on to create their own mark on the beer scene.
“When Howard (Cearns), Nic (Trimboli) and Phil (Sexton) started Creatures 18 years ago they wanted to make sure the beer was of the highest quality,” Gosling said
“There was no second-hand stuff in the brewery. It is all modern technology and I think that has helped new people come in to a brewery because it is the same exposure you’d get from a very large brewery just on a smaller scale, so you pick up all that learning quite quickly. You can learn in an amplified way.
“And the beauty of it is that in the bigger breweries you have lots of departments but here there is just one department. So you get exposure to the whole process from start to finish.
“A lot of people have since gone to make their own beer in other places. We sat down once and discussed the people who were leaving but we quickly said let’s not worry about that.
They are going to another place making great beer that is going to help the whole sector.
“Let’s just worry about the next line of people coming in to learn our great processes. In the end everyone wins.”