Peter Philip’s journey to success has been a wayward one. It all started in 2012, when the experienced homebrewer took the leap to commercial gypsy brewer, utilising any venue generous enough to offer him a tank. It was at one of these breweries he met Shaun Blissett, now Wayward’s head brewer, with whom he had an immediate connection.
“Our philosophy is to make really dry beers, beers that don’t weigh on the palate and really let the flavour shine through,” says Pete. “We also always try and do things a little bit differently. Not to say we’re inventing trends, but maybe doing things that haven’t been done in Sydney or even Australia.”
Wayward’s first ever release was an India Red Ale named Charmer – a favourite of Pete’s friends during his homebrewing days. After that came Devil’s Advocate, an Eisbock, then Lilliput, a session (or “Tiny”) IPA, weighing in at 3.7%. “We did that one so people wouldn’t say that we only made strong beer!” Lilliput was also a labour of love for Pete, a keen sailor, who wanted a light yet flavoursome beer while he was on the water.
Pete’s ethos and Wayward’s motto is to “take the road less travelled” and that’s exactly how Pete approached his brewing research travels in Europe. “I always try the thing around the corner,” he says. “When [my wife] Yvette and I did this beer pilgrimage around Bavaria, we’d inevitably find ourselves in this small town, chatting to someone about a beer and they’d eventually invite us around to their brewery.”
“Every village in Bavaria has their own Kellerbier. I thought, when I come back, I’m going to make a good lager. Lager is not a dirty word.” Thus, Keller Instinct was born. It’s brewed with traditional ingredients – a touch of wheat, Noble hops and finished with a long, cold fermentation.
“Lagers generally use Noble hops, because that’s what the region had access to,” explains Pete. “If they had access to American hops, they’d be doing IPL’s with them.” That was enough inspiration to create one of his own – FUSAMI Victory. It was originally brewed in response to a successful legal battle against SABMiller India, who claimed the name “Wayward” was too close to its brand “Haywards 500”, virtually non-existent in the Australian market.
“It took us two years and over $25,000 – but I was determined not to give up.” Once the battle was won, Pete began researching a name for his Victory brew. “I did some research about the Fusami people, an ancient Sumerian group who reportedly invented beer 10,000 years ago.” The links to Pete’s own story were strong – brewers of beer, geographically close to India and ultimately victorious. Of course, some troublemakers have suggested “FUSAMI” may be a certain acronym containing the phrases “FU” and “SABMiller India”, but this is trivial industry rumour that Pete firmly denies.
Unfortunately, a drawn out legal battle wasn’t the only snag Pete hit along his path. There were four instances of landlords pulling out of a lease at the last minute, troubles with bottling runs and difficulty finding brewing equipment. “Dave [from Akasha] is one of my best mates,” says Pete “for a while, we were going to co-locate in Rozelle… but that place fell through .” “We heard that Mountain Goat were upgrading their brewhouse, so we went to Melbourne to look at the equipment… a week later Dave called me, saying ‘you’re going to be really mad at me, but I bought the equipment’. I had nowhere to put it though, so I’m glad he went ahead.”
Throughout it all, a certain Barley Cowboy has been by Pete’s side. Mikey Lowe, AKA Wayward’s very first employee, is one of the brewery’s most recognisable faces. “I was hired in 2013,” says Mikey “when Pete was still travelling – through China, through America.” “At the time, I was getting paid to be the host at the Wild Rover, greeting people and sitting down for a drink with them.” Mikey has been honoured with his own beer – Midnight Barley Cowboy Hopped Porter – whose artwork depicts the same tattoo he proudly wears on his arm.
From Mikey, the team has expanded to over nine full time employees, as well as numerous casuals. Pete, who took a three month break from work when the brewery opened in September 2015, has not gone back. The brewery is already expanding in capacity and a bottling line is on its way. “We originally thought we’d have to expand in a year to 18 months, but really it’s been six. Currently, we have six [40 hectolitre tanks], going to twelve – which is probably the maximum we can go to without putting them on the roof!”
As of last Monday, Wayward’s bottling machine “is five days away from landing in Sydney and probably another five days in customs,” says Pete. “We’re going to start out with a core range in 330mL four packs – FUSAMI, [sour raspberry Berliner Weisse] Sourpuss, Charmer and Keller – as well as seasonals in 640mL longnecks.” “We’ll bring back old favourites like Devil’s Advocate as well,” adds Mikey.
Also in the works are plans for plenty more new beers. “We use our test batch tank to try out some of the weirder and wilder ideas,” says Mikey. Some of Wayward’s most recent releases include Dad Rock Imperial IPA (8.1%), The Tender Trapp Belgian Quad (8.5%) and Black Pearl Oyster Stout (9.7%). “These are particularly huge beers, very unusual for us to be doing.”
With the difficult journey now behind him, Pete remains humble. “I’ll always consider myself a homebrewer,” he says. Pete and the brewery support other Sydney gypsy brewers, who are reserved several taps at the tasting bar. He’s launched the Craft for a Cause initiative, whose first charity kegs of Rose Kolsch raised over $15,000 for Cystic Fibrosis NSW. And – of course – he and Mikey are willing to chat with and support amateur writers such as myself. Although, as former Bartender Magazine writer Mikey puts it, “I’m not a writer, I just know a lot of words.”
Photography Credits: M.C.J. and Wayward Brewing Company’s Facebook Page.