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Meet the Makers: 4 Pines Brewery
BECAUSE THERE’S NOTHING QUITE LIKE ENJOYING A BEER NEXT TO THE OCEAN, WE MADE OUR WAY TO MANLY TO CHAT TO THE CHIEF BREWER AT 4 PINES, CHRIS WILLCOCK, ABOUT WHAT MAKES A GOOD BEER (AND WHY A GOOD BEARD HELPS).
Shorty’s Liquor (SL): Tell us the 4 Pines story. Where’d the company come from?
Chris Willcock (CW): 4 Pines was born over a decade ago from a casual conversation between a father and son, post surf, who simply wanted an exceptional beer. Back then options were limited. So a small crew of like-minded people decided to band together to build a brewpub, introduce others to exceptional beer and an engaging beer experience they’d never seen before in Manly. From those small beginnings and supportive community we’ve tried to keep building.
SL: How would you describe the company philosophy? What’s the 4 Pines ethos?
CW: From day one we wanted to offer people great taste sensations through our variety of beers, quality craftsmanship, natural ingredients and traditional, time honoured techniques. It's something we felt we were missing locally and something we wanted to drink and that our mates would be proud of. That same love, care and attention still goes into every brew, only now more beer lovers get to enjoy it!
SL: What makes a good brewer? Is it more art, or more science?
CW: The boring answer is that it's a lot of science, a lot of curiosity and a lot of hard work. The good part is that that ‘hard work’ involves drinking a lot of beer… Also, they say having a good beard helps.
SL: What makes a good brewery?
CW: A committed team and a great community to support it. I really think it's as simple as that. There’s no easy way to make consistently great beer. Even with the best equipment in the world, it’s the people running it that count.
SL: How does a sense of place feed into the 4 Pines beer-making style?
CW: Manly is a hub for beach lovers, tourists, ex-pats and a generation of Northern Beaches locals who are proud to share their peninsula of paradise.
Much like Manly, our mantra at 4 Pines is to be a place where all are welcome, everyone feels comfortable, and where we can make some friends along the way.
SL: Out of your range of beers, what’s the one you personally keep coming back to?
CW: They say practice makes perfect, which must be why I keep enjoying 4 Pines Pale Ale 13 years after we brewed our first batch. It's a staple in my fridge next to the 4 Pines Stout which is a must-have during dark, winter evenings in Sydney.
SL: Any exciting products or stories on the horizon?
CW: There’s alway something new around the corner at 4 Pines. Not only did we brew 100 different styles of beer last year through our Brewpubs, but we also get to make fantastic flavours through our Brookvale Union range of beverages.
SL: Obviously craft beer and beer generally has experienced a remarkable growth in the last decade or so. What do you think is next here in Australia?
CW: Personally I hope that craft brewing helps to ignite a bit of a trend towards local production, both for food products and broader manufacturing. The craft beer industry itself keeps reaching new levels of maturity which will no doubt lead to more brewer confidence in selling more approachable beer styles to their growing audience.
SL: Do you keep an eye on what’s happening internationally in beer? Which countries do you think are leading the charge?
CW: The US has obviously been the biggest, loudest and most turbo-charged market for craft beer. Their rate of innovation and growth has been phenomenal. But it's great to also see many markets doing it their own way.
SL: As a brewer, how much does marketing and packaging feed into what you do?
CW: I used to joke with our Chief Beer Lover (Sales Director) about who came first, the brewer or the salesperson? The truth is both can help each other out enormously. At the 4 Pines Brewery Bar we’re lucky to meet customers who drink our beers every day and are always supportive when we’re pushing the boundaries. Their feedback gives us confidence to keep innovating - both our liquid and our message.