Small batch brewpub Staves wins Best NSW Beer award

Glebe-based Staves Brewery, which only launched brewing operations in 2016, won the Champion Draught Beer and Best NSW Beer accolades at the Sydney Royal Beer and Cider Show 2019.

The brewpub, originally a craft beer bar in the Sydney suburb, won the trophy for its “clean, traditional-style” Pale Ale at the awards, run by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW.

Staves is owned by Bournemouth, UK native Steve Drissell, and brewing operations are headed up by Zac Pauling and assistant brewer Nige Smith.

“Winning the awards totally took us by surprise,” said Drissell.

“We put a few beers in, and I kind-of expected to pick up a medal or two, but to win best draught beer and best beer in NSW blew us away.

“We are one of the smallest breweries in Sydney, our brewhouse is about as manual as you can get!

“But the brewers did an amazing job, they knock out great beer all the time, but to win that medal ahead of 300 other beers and a whole load of other brewers was the kicker.”

Staves came from humble beginnings as craft beer bar, but plans were in the works basically from day one to launch a brewery, said Drissell, an IT consultant by day.

“The intention was always to operate as a brewery, but it kind of was a phased approach, we’re not very well funded, as most small breweries aren’t.

It was converted into a brewpub in 2016, having been a craft beer bar without its own brewing operations since 2015.

Since then Staves has doubled capacity, but still remains a small brewpub, with an estimated 4,000 litres of fermentation space and a 500-litre brewhouse.

Brewer Zac Pauling entered the business after winning a homebrewer competition Staves ran in previous years, whilst assistant brewer Nige Smith is a qualified cicerone, but started as a barman at the pub.

“It was risky to give the job to someone who hasn’t got all the experience,” admitted Drissell.

“Both of them have studied brewing at TAFE so they have some formal training, but at the end of the day if those guys have true passion that’s the most important ingredient.

“Technique you can learn but passion you can’t. That was the most important factor, passion for creating something new and making beer as well as you can, and they’ve clearly nailed it.”

The winning Pale Ale, which won against 85 draught beer entries in 15 categories is more hop-driven than its predecessor, said Drissell. Pauling added a mixture of Centennial, Chinoux, Galaxy and Citro hops to the beer, as well as using Australian and Kiwi malts.

“Zac wanted to change the hop profile around so he did that, but it was a little bit difficult for us in that it’s hard to get the hops you want being a small brewer.

“Because we produce so many different beers – bring a new beer out ever 2 to 3 weeks – we use a huge variety of hops and don’t need massive quantities of any particular hop, it becomes tricky to lock that in.

“It’s not all bad though it just means wey have to be a bit more creative with what we do, and substitute lesser-known hops and use lots of different suppliers.”

The plan is to leverage the win and growth over the past year to make a move into wholesale, explained Drissell.

“[The award win] showing us that we’re doing something great and we’ve got our ethos right. We brew it as well as we can with whatever ingredients would be best for the beer, some brewers reverse engineer beer from a price point and we’re certainly not doing that.

“It also shows that although were very manual and a small little brewery, we can make fantastic beers. As we approach going into wholesale it can potentially help us get our name out a little bit more.

“Hopefully it will create some awareness that there’s a little brewery in glebe doing some great things.”

As well as Staves’ award win, Wayward Brewing Company took home Champion Packaged Beer for its Wayward Raspberry Berliner Weisse.

Hunter Valley’s Hope Brewery’s Hope Brewery Barrel Aged Imperial Stout won Champion Experimental or Specialty Beer – for the third year in a row.

Meanwhile Adelaide Hill’s The Hills Cider Company was crowned Champion Cider for its The Hills Cider Company Apple Cider, Napoleone Pear Cider from the Yarra Valley scored Champion Perry and the Champion Bottle Conditioned Perry or Cider went to Small Acres Cyder from the Central West New South Wales for the Small Acres Cyder 2015 the Cat’s Pyjamas.

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