Gypsy brewing can be a tough gig. Working odd hours, maintaining consistency and finding host breweries can be some of the toughest challenges. Yet, gypsy brewers contribute more to the craft beer scene than we often realise. They brew irregularly, usually only a few times a year, so each release needs to be interesting enough to stand out from the permanent fixtures. Thus, gypsy brewed beers are often highly unique, pushing the boundaries of traditional styles – typically well before more established breweries.
In order to show our appreciation for who we consider to be brewing pioneers, we though it about time to focus on some of Sydney’s most prominent gypsy brewers in a three-part series. Unofficially, part one was published way back in July, when we wrote about Doctors Orders for Froth Craft Beer Magazine. Now, we’re back for part two with Shenanigans Brewing.
One evening in 2012, established Sydney homebrewers Sam Haldane and Dan Beers met over a beer at the pub. Most great ideas start in a similar fashion and this was no exception. Together, they decided to join the rapidly expanding craft beer scene and start their own gypsy brewery.
It took almost two years before they brewed their first batch of beer, a farmhouse saison named Grisette, released in February 2014. Shortly after, they released a beer that “doesn’t fit squarely into any style guidelines” – a beer with a light malt and oat base and a heap of Kiwi, Australian and US hops. The reception was extremely positive and as a result, Winston has now become synonymous with the Shenanigans name.
“We brew beer that we ourselves would want to drink – beer that we find fun, interesting and want to share,” says Dan. Shenanigans’ seasonal range is a series of ‘seasonally adjusted beers’ – including Summer’s Grisette, Autumn’s Flight Path (red ale infused with coffee), Winter’s Malt Assault (a dunkel / altbier hybrid designed to take a stand against hop bombs) and the latest, Spring’s Red Sky (American style IPA brewed with hibiscus and jasmine).
Inspiration for the beers can come from anywhere, according to Dan. “Everywhere from food combinations, new ingredients, reading about old or new beer styles and what’s happening overseas. At the moment, I’m playing around with some of the newer craft maltsters like Voyager and Gladfield.”
“I love trying classic examples of styles,” adds Sam. “I like to keep up to date with new brewing trends too, such as emerging styles like New England IPA and funky and barrel aged beer techniques.”
Shenanigans’ Stunt Beer range is designed to allow the pair to experiment with radical styles outside of their core and seasonal releases. They range from the somewhat nonthreatening Holey Porter! a spiced porter aged on rum soaked oak, to the more challenging Hoppy Gonzales, with added jalapeños. “Chopping and de-seeing 20kg of jalapeños is dangerous work!”. Then, there’s the downright insane, like GABS 2016 release Sabotage, an oatmeal coffee and chocolate stout containing Jolokia (or Ghost chili) – one of the hottest varieties of chili in the world.
“In the future, we’re going to keep expanding on our Stunt Beer program, releasing new and interesting brews as often as we can” says Dan. “We’d also love to have our own brewery and tap room, but that’s probably a little while down the track.”
This year, Sydney Craft Beer Week has two Shenanigans-oriented events for those who are feeling a bit curious after reading this article. On October 23rd, Erskineville’s Hive Bar is having a Shenanigans Sunday Session, incorporating a tap takeover with a special SCBW exclusive release and Shenanigans-inspired cocktails. Then, on Wednesday October 26th, the Union Hotel will host a Gathering of the Gypsy Brewers, tapping 22 gypsy brewers from around Australia.
Be sure to go along to either or both, to support our local gypsy brewers and undoubtedly take part in a few shenanigans of your own.