It’s a chilly winter’s evening in a large industrial estate in Marrickville. Here, Mike Clarke and a team of contractors are busy putting the finishing touches on the home for his brand, Sauce Brewing Company. When the brewery opens at the end of August, it will be the eleventh such taproom located in Sydney’s Inner West.
“It’s the best place to put it,” says Mike. “The demand is here. We want a bar that people can come to and have a drink and this is the ideal location.” Indeed, with the creation of the Inner West Brewers Association, the region is hoping to become a tourism hotspot for craft beer.
Upon opening, Sauce’s brewery will boast a line-up of twelve taps, an indoor bar adjacent to the brewing equipment and an outdoor beer garden, capable of hosting up to 200 people. Of those twelve taps, four are to be filled with Sauce’s current range, including Hop Sauce Pale Ale, Extra Hop Sauce IPA, Mega Hop Sauce IIPA and Saucy Red. The rest will be a mixture of guest taps, as well as collection of experimental brews, whose styles were determined by a public poll run in early July.
It’s those one-off brews that will be the first to be made on Sauce’s brand new equipment from Spark Brew. “We want to dial in the system without wrecking our core beers,” Mike explains, “so we’ll be doing some fun stuff, a few trial batches.” At the helm will be Brody French, former senior brewer at Brewpack and Icon, NSW-based contract breweries.
As for the boss himself, Mike is an award-winning homebrewer who will continue to be involved in the brewing process. No stranger to starting his own company, he worked in IT and Telco for two decades, before moving to the beer industry “for something a little more fun.”
“I wanted to do something different,” Mike says, “craft beer was a passion.” Initially intending to construct the brewery before starting a brand, the difficulty in finding an appropriate location led to those events occurring in the opposite order.
“After six months of searching for a place, I was getting a bit stir crazy,” he says. “I thought I’d just launch the brand and gypsy brew so that I could get it out there and get some exposure.” He chose the name Sauce as a pseudonym for beer and began creating the first beers of his core range, which typically conformed to the (India) Pale Ale style. “If I could brew only IPA’s, I would!” he jokes.
Shortly after launching the brand, though, he signed a lease for the perfect location and “everything began to happen at once.”
Thus, Mike was left to juggle gypsy brewing, first at the Australian Brewery then at Hairyman Brewery in Caringbah, as well as fitting out his new brewery. The space, which was once used for steel manufacturing, required plenty of work. “There was a family of pigeons living in here that took forever to shoo out,” Mike says. “It took us a whole three weeks just to hose the place down!”
Now significantly cleaner, work then began on the plumbing, wiring and fitting out the brewery to be as green as possible. “The brewhouse is heated by steam, generated by a gas fired steam boiler out the back,” says Mike. “The whole roof is also going to be covered in solar panels. We’re hoping for up to 25% of our brewing process to be solar powered.”
Optimistic about meeting the late-August grand opening date, Mike is looking forward to the freedom to brew what he wants, when he wants. “That’s the best part about owning your own brewery,” he says. “I always want to brew something different. When I’m brewing at home, I’ll never brew the same thing twice.”
Here’s hoping that it won’t be much longer before we can get ourselves on the sauce, at the source.