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 best, we though it about time to focus on some of Sydney’s most prominent gypsy brewers in a three-part series. On Doctors Orders and Calling Shenanigans are parts one and two, now we’re back for part three with Merchant Brewing Co.
Josh Allen, Glenn Garlick and Dan Taylor have been mates since high school. They grew up together in the small Riverina town of Junee, but all went their separate ways after graduation. Years later, they reunited via a pair of odd coincidences. Separately, they’d all taken up the hobby of homebrewing and somehow, they’d ended up living within streets of each other in Sydney’s Inner West.
It was in the kitchen of 4 Merchant St, Stanmore that the trio decided to join forces and brew something together. “We have a great relationship, having known each other for over 17 years,” says Josh. “We all bring different skills to the table.”
Their first ever brew was what is now known as Three Toe Pale Ale, an award-winning APA dry-hopped with Galaxy. Originally wanting to call themselves the Barefoot Brewers, the prospect of trademark issues resulted in the need to brainstorm a new name.
They landed on the idea of Three Toe, adorning the label with a drawing of a three-toed sloth, named Cecil. “It was originally going to just be for our pale ale, but we have decided to continue on the sloth theme and sloth-personify all our beers. We hope people find it as hilarious as we do.”
Cecil has appeared in various costumes on beers such as Hasselsloth IPA, When Sloths Cry Golden Ale, Smooth Sailor Coconut Vanilla Porter and Earl Pear Blonde Ale, to name a few. The latter features the additions of pear and Earl Grey tea, inspired by one of Josh’s favourite desserts during his time as a chef.
“Our inspiration comes from tastes we have experienced along the way,” says Dan. “With any beer we create, we aim to go above and beyond what’s out there, to make it unique.” “Our brewing philosophy focuses on flavour first, all our beers tend to be on the bigger side,” adds Glenn.
The trio all have full time jobs and must utilise early mornings or late nights for brewing and beer deliveries. Dan is an operations manager for a training company, Glenn is a case manager assisting the homeless, while Josh cell biologist researching cancer replication. Together, they travel to breweries all over the state in order to brew their beers. To date, they’ve brewed in Nowra (Hopdog), St Peters, Alexandria and Penrith.
However, despite the difficulties and odd hours, they still manage to have plenty of fun. “A great aspect of being a gypsy is catching up with other brewers, and this industry is full of bright characters,” says Josh. “One minute we might be having a serious conversation about excise, next minute we’re head banging to a metal playlist while brewing an IPA… because brewing big IPA is metal, right?”
As part of Sydney Craft Beer Week, Merchant Brewing Co will be taking over the taps on October 28th at the Hive Bar in Erskineville as part of their License to Sloth event. There will be a N64 Goldeneye competition – which this writer will not partake in as to give everyone else a chance – and the return of Flower and the Passion Golden Ale. They’ll also be attending the Opening Gala and Gathering of the Gypsy Brewers, so don’t be a Cecil and get yourself down to support our gypsy brewers.
All photos have been taken from Merchant Brewing Co’s Facebook page.