Meet the Makers: Wayward Brewery

WE CRACKED A BEER WITH SHAUN BLISSETT, HEAD BREWER AT WAYWARD BREWERY, TO TALK US THROUGH THEIR ORIGIN STORY.

How did Wayward get going? What’s the story behind the brand?

Peter Philip started Wayward back in 2012. After homebrewing for over a decade, Pete decided to take his brews to trade, so he started gypsy brewing out of Riverside, Batch and Illawara – which is where I met Pete, as part of the Illawarra brew team. After a few years of contract brewing Wayward beers out of Illawarra and getting to know each other, Pete finally found a location to launch Wayward in 2014. He asked me to come on as Head Brewer, and we opened the doors to our Camperdown brewery and taproom in October 2015.

Pete has travelled the globe in search of little-known beer styles and old-world brewing techniques, and these travels inspired the Wayward brand. He loves the idea of beers that you can only find in one place, beer worth travelling for, and that mindset is really what Wayward is all about.

How would you describe your brewery house style? Is there a company philosophy that underpins what you do?

At Wayward, nothing is out of bounds. We actively try to keep our tap list interesting, and I love the fact that you can come to our Taproom and get more than just hazy brews and pale ales – we're also slinging smoked beers, barrel aged beers, sours, four types of seltzer…you name it. As the name 'Wayward' suggests, we aim to make adventurous beers styles that'll take punters around the globe. At the same time, we make sure our beers remain accessible, both to first time craft beer drinkers and to seasoned vets.

Tell us about your home. Have you always been connected to the inner west? Does that feed into your business ethos and brand?

Pete has lived in the inner west for many years – I guess you can say it's his adoptive Australian home (since he's Canadian). And Wayward has remained in our same Camperdown location since opening. We started out just in units 1-3 Gehrig Lane, and now we've expanded to take over the entire laneway. We love being the only craft brewery with a taproom in the suburb. It's a real locals vibe here. Our inner west location also means we're within the craft beer bubble and get to be neighbours with all of the incredible breweries in Marrickville and surrounds.

What’s the brewery like? How much do you love having a space where you can entertain and connect with customers so personally?

We're lucky to have a pretty expansive Taproom that's set underground and located in the bones of a former wine cellar. The space has a lot of character, and we've converted the old wine vats into cosy seating areas and barrel aging rooms. Behind the bar there's 24 taps, which is a mix of our core range, seltzers, seasonal releases and brewers' pilot series that are exclusive to the Wayward Taproom. Then there's our guest taps, which showcase independent brewers from around Australia. We're also family and dog friendly, and you'll see a good mix of punters of all ages in the bar each day. 

Take us through the process of developing a new beer. Where does it start and how does it end? How much is creativity and how much is science and marketing?

There are a few ways we develop a new beer. One is that we get a new ingredient in – whether that's a hop, malt or yeast – and we'll base a new beer around that ingredient. Another way is that we'll hear of a cool new style or something experimental that we want to have a crack at; that's basically how we started brewing hard seltzers, after seeing the industry going gangbusters in the US. Sometimes we just come up with a cool beer name and base the beer off of that name. Once the beer is in the works, our Creative Director Faye White does her magic to make the beer look and sound extra appealing to our punters, and to get the word out about our latest releases.

Take us through the current range.

Our core range focuses on crowd pleasers that are accessible but still interesting. For example, we use English malts in our Everyday Ale, and our Pilsner is a single hop brew using Vic Secret. It's just these little changeups to the beer style norms that sets our core range apart. Then we have our Raspberry Berliner Weisse, which is one of the first ever Wayward beers, and has become a true namesake for the brand. It's still our best-selling beer – and that's saying a lot, considering it's pretty rare to see a sour in a core range.

Apart from the core range, we put out a new seasonal release every month of the year, which keeps things interesting. Our most recent limited brews include Peaches & Cream (a peach and vanilla sour) and Island Life (a coconut and coffee stout). We try to choose styles that are a little fun and offer something different to our punters.

"There are a few ways we develop a new beer...we'll hear of a cool new style or something experimental that we want to have a crack at; that's basically how we started brewing hard seltzers"

Have you got a favourite? What’s the beer you’re most likely to open on a Tuesday night? What’s the beer you’re most likely to take a sixer over to a mate's for a dinner party?

Pilsner is definitely my core range go-to. It’s crisp and easy drinking, and it's classically styled while still offering a nice bit of hoppiness. If you're heading to a mate's place, that's the brew I'd choose for the likelihood that people are just going to enjoy it. The W Seltzers are also a huge crowd pleaser because they're light and refreshing – and honestly, just bloody delicious.

What’s up next for the brand? Any experiments or new directions?

We're currently in the process of rejigging the brewery to give us more capacity. When we first opened, we had three fermenters, and now we're up to 16 and still expanding. We also just installed a new canning line and an instantaneous hot water system, which lets us brew much faster – though we're still not keeping up with demand just yet. So the plan is just to keep expanding and keep brewing beer and seltzer that our punters enjoy.

Where do you think beer is headed in Australia next?

With more and more breweries opening, independent beer will slowly make up a larger proportion of the market in Australia. It's already happening. The quality of beer in this country just keeps getting better every day. But, in a crowded market, the breweries that will shine through are the ones that are constantly innovating while still offering a consistently great product. In a market where everyone knows how to brew a pale ale, a hazy IPA and a simple sour, it's no longer good enough to just nail the basics. 

Who do you think are the other big players doing exciting things locally? What about internationally?

I'm really excited about Slow Lane in Botany. They're doing some interesting stuff and I've been impressed by heaps of their sours so far. Another beer I'm into at the moment is the Knock on Wood barrel aged pilsner from Deeds Brewing – it was one of the best beers I tasted when judging the AIBA awards in Melbourne this year. And Flowers in the Haze by New England Brewing Company is just incredible, it's the best beer I had at GABS. Internationally, keep an eye out for Bearded Iris Brewing; it's a brewery out of Nashville in the US, and they're kicking some serious goals.

WAYWARD BREWERY BEERS & SELTZERS