The art of brewing the right beer styles August 2022

This series on Beer Tourism is proudly brought to you by Australia’s Craft Beer Capital.

Australia is a land of many climates and landscapes and breweries have grown accustomed to adapting the styles of beer they brew to the demands of their locality.

While it can be beneficial – giving customers what they expect whilst leaning into the “paddock to pint” philosophy – the challenge of understanding customer tastes and making beers that suit the climate and character of the locality can be a difficult one to balance.

Hemingway’s Brewery co-owner and chief executive officer Tony Fyfe told Brews News how being a Far North Queensland brewery significantly impacts what the brewery chooses to produce.

“We never do a stout but we’ve done a couple of porters before, but we’ve run them out in the wintertime,” he said. “July is our coldest month, but traditionally our volume is in the lagers.”

While the climate of course plays a role, Fyfe explained that Hemingway’s beer styles are also adapted to fit any kind of customer and what they want to drink in venues.

With a 600-capacity venue in Cairns and a 300-person brewpub in Port Douglas, this is a a necessity as a major hospitality and tourist venue which sees huge numbers of people with different tastes from across Australia and the world through its doors. But it can also be very different between the venues themselves.

“That Port Douglas [venue] is very much tourist-focused,” Fyfe said.

“So we get a lot of tourists from New South Wales [for example]. So actually, our best selling beer there generally is our pale ale because it’s Victorians and New South Wales people. That’s what they’re drinking.

“Whereas in Cairns, best selling beers generally are, mid-strength, 3.5% lagers. A big chunk of our patrons in Cairns are locals and that’s what people consume up here.”

Understanding consumer types and what they’re drinking can mean the difference when customers return to the venue.

“If we started offering the Cairns patrons triple IPAs and NEIPAs, they’d run for the hills. It’s just too much of a change than Great Northern.”

Down in Tasmania, Hobart Brewing Co. also understands the challenge in choosing styles for different customer types, especially when it comes to differentiating craft beer fans and casual drinkers.

“Craft beer fans are collectors and experience seekers. The person in the room that’ll order “one of everything please” and then go looking for more,” Hobart Brewing’s marketing manager Nick Devereux explained.

“They expect seasonal variation but will also immediately compare your seasonal stout to 15 other breweries’ seasonal stouts they’ve tried that week.”

The same concept doesn’t necessarily apply to traditional drinkers who are looking for something specific, rather than venturing into experimental styles.

“I’m not sure if I’d agree that casual or traditional drinkers are hugely affected by climate, or at least not in the same way,” Devereux said.

“They might grab a dark something or two during winter but in my experience, they’ll still favour the well-trodden ground of pale ales and lagers.

“But that’s okay. To be honest, we’re stoked that traditional drinkers are keen to branch out into supporting independent breweries.”

Similar to Hemingway’s, Hobart Brewing also utilises the climate for its beer styles but doesn’t limit itself on seasons strictly.

“Our limited release program is definitely guided by the seasons but we don’t have strict guidelines set in stone,” Devereux explained.

“The question we ask ourselves is: Is this a beer worth brewing? A good concept of not being shackled by strict guidelines means we can have a bit more fun and release things like Smoked Apple Bocks, Flemish Reds, Cascadian Darks as well as the normal porters and stouts with all the bells and whistles that you might expect.”

Customer expectations

While it’s important to provide what customers want, identifying these needs can also be a challenge. Hobart Brewing’s Nick Devereux said it’s important to provide variety as customer tastes evolve.

“Customer expectations around tap lists evolve more and more every year,” he said.

“We try to keep a few different styles of IPA on tap at any given point to keep the hop heads happy.

“Customer knowledge around specific hop varieties and stylistic differences between beers is growing more and more so that’ll keep you on your toes but also give you licence to push some boundaries.

“Over winter the malt influence rises and that affects not only classic dark beers but also IPAs. Hazys and sours are no longer peak summer novelties – they’re an expectation.”

The challenge, however, lies within ensuring everything from marketing, to beer volume aligns perfectly.

“Finding a balanced approach can be one of the biggest challenges – especially in a place like Tassie where our population is a little bit smaller,” Devereux said.

“Beer style, release timing, brew volume, customer demand, and promotion all have to line up.”

Hemingway’s Tony Fyfe explained that despite the challenges of the brewing process, it’s important to deliver what customers want.

“Well obviously, it’s a bit harder to brew lagers than it is NEIPAs but that’s what we’ve got to deliver,” he said.

“We’ve got to deliver really good quality lagers and lighter beers, because that’s what our patrons here drink and that’s sort of what the climate lends itself towards.”

Keeping customers engaged is a balance between experimentation and discipline, according to Devereux.

“For us it’s all about knowing our customers and sharing the journey,”

“Revisiting seasonal staples we know they love but throwing in the occasional curveball that we want to share with them.

“Looking at what we’ve done in the past and learning from it. Brewing a beer we’d be stoked to find on tap at our local.”

Fyfe also acknowledged the important role of marketing when it comes to identifying what customers want.

“Sometimes names have a positive impact on the sales as well,” he said.

“So our 7th Heaven, we call it a tropical ale, given we’re in the tropics, and that’s what’s consumed.”

Back to Brewery Pro