Zarah Prior aimed for the top from the moment she decided to work in the beer industry. Her path started while attending university in Sydney when she took a job at Redoak, the city’s legendary boutique beer café and Australia’s most awarded brewery. At Redoak Prior worked under the tutelage of beer sommelier Simon Beveridge, who she credits with teaching her everything she knows about beer and giving her her first big break.
As many young Australians do, after graduation Prior took a trip to the UK to see what awaited her. It turned out to be a life-altering decision. “I never intended to stay that long,” she says, “but I discovered BrewDog and fell in love with their beer.” Prior liked their beer so much, in fact, that she joined their first-ever graduate program in 2012, went to Aberdeen to work with co-founder James Watt, and stayed at the company for more than four years.
She liked that BrewDog “weren’t afraid to do something different and shout about it,” but eventually felt the need to return home and told Watt to call her if he ever wanted to expand into Australia. That call came sooner than she expected, with the iconoclastic Scottish brewery recently announcing plans to build a brewery in Brisbane with Prior in charge.
For BrewDog, the cross-continental expansion ensures that their beers will be served as fresh as possible, “especially for the hop-forward styles of beer that we love to make,” says Prior. You may have heard, however, that Australia is a fairly big country. For example, the Brisbane brewery will still be more than 4,000km from Western Australia, which presents significant logistical challenges.
“We didn’t come in with a grand master plan that covers everything,” Prior laughs. “We just want to brew great beer. We will figure these things out, unlock the supply chain, and find ways to cold freight the beer around the country.” That supply chain may stretch as far as New Zealand, but Asian markets will still be getting their beer from the UK brewery thanks to a route that takes it from Europe to China in refrigerated containers in just five days.
As well as brewery-fresh beer for Australians, the expansion means that BrewDog will have access to new ingredients and techniques. “I know [co-founder] Martin Dickie is a huge fan of some of the Australian and New Zealand hops,” Prior says, “so he’s really looking forward to experimenting with some of them.”
This year’s annual Beer & BBQ Festival, held in Sydney and Adelaide, saw the release of BrewDog collaborations with brewers from five Australian cities, including a smoked pineapple and jalapeño gose (with Canberra’s Capital Brewing Co) and a pilsner brewed with such native Australian ingredients as lemon myrtle and green ants (with Adelaide’s Mismatch Brewing Co).
Once the Brisbane brewery—including its canning line, taproom, and restaurant— opens in June 2019, Australian beer enthusiasts can expect many more inventive releases alongside BrewDog’s core range. And with plans already afoot for BrewDog bars in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth, it seems that the Scottish brewer is here to stay.
All photos courtesy of BrewDog Australia.