Brodie French, Head Brewer at Hawke’s Brewing, spoke with Beer & Brewer about his brewing career, from its unusual beginning to his mentors, to now heading up a flourishing craft brewery.

French first decided to explore a career in brewing 10 years ago, during a road trip with his wife. Wanting to escape the rat race, the pair left their jobs and bought a campervan to travel around South Australia.

“Along the way we kept running into these little breweries in towns, and one in particular got my attention: Woolshed Brewery up in Murtho, South Australia. We were camping on the Murray River, and we popped in for a beer. The brewer there, Jack, was running around pouring beers, brewing, basically doing everything on his own, but having the time of his life and I thought to myself, when I get back, I am going to look into how to become a brewer. I love beer and it looks like bloody good fun.

“When I got back a few months later I emailed a bunch of breweries asking them if they wouldn’t mind having me in unpaid, to see what it’s all about. A couple got back to me but Matt Donelan from St Peters Brewery at the time took me in for a few weeks to show me what it was all about,” French said.

A week after finishing up with Donelan, French applied for a job as a Junior Brewer at Brewpack, now Tribe. This is where French met many of his mentors, including Tom Fleay, now Head Brewer at Indian Ocean Brewing, Luigi Mensi, now Head Brewer at Drink West, and Kieran Brigham, now Senior Brewer at Hawke’s.

“Those three gave me a great foundation which I have built from. Matt Brynaldson at Firestone Walker is definitely someone I look up to as well. I was lucky enough to meet him a few years ago when he was here for BrewCon, and he is a super impressive guy.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, brewers have this openness and willingness to share knowledge and experience for the betterment of beer and brewing,” French said.

Many of French’s major career milestones have come during his time at Hawke’s Brewing.

“No doubt being a part of the design, build and commissioning of Hawke’s was challenging but it was an incredibly valuable experience. Then, ticking off the one million litres produced in a year was also a nice milestone. Visiting hop harvest down in Victoria this year was a bucket list item, and it did not disappoint, and releasing Hawke’s Half XPA was another,” he said.

As well as the welcoming company culture, French believes that one of Hawke’s greatest strengths is the consistency of its brewing.

“We pride ourselves on the fact that you can grab any batch and it will taste identical to the previous ones. We aren’t interested in having variety between batches. There is a really strong focus on producing repeatable high-quality beers and that comes from strong operating procedures and parameters in which to work within.

“We also put a strong emphasis on ensuring we’re all reading from the same Bible, so every brewer here is put through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling qualifications, whether that be the General Certificate or Diploma. That just ensures we are all on the same page in terms of theoretical knowledge and understanding,” he said.

Looking to the future, French hopes to continue to grow the profile of Hawke’s Brewing.

“I just want to do my bit in ensuring we pump out great beer and help grow this brand into a national beer brand that you can grab from any corner of Australia. We’re not there yet, but that’s the goal.”

This story was originally published by Beer & Brewer, click here to subscribe to the weekly newsletter.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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