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Brew & A with Brew Cult

Posted by richard on 8th Apr 2014

If you haven't met Steve "Hendo" Henderson from BrewCult you're missing out, if you haven't tried his beers it's even worse. Hendo has been around the traps fo a while, having spent time at Murray's Brewing, Prickly Moses and more recently at Southern Bay Brewing. Now he's out on his own, showing the world his unique beers, such as "Acid Freaks", a balsamic vinegar porter, under his own label BrewCult. Read on to get to know the man behind the awesome BrewCult range....

Where do you see the Australian craft beer scene in the next 2 – 4 years?

My dream is to see the punters more discerning and more educated about beer quality.  All too often at the moment, it seems that just because a beer is new that it automatically equals good.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  My beloved BrewCult beer freaks pay top dollar for my product and I owe it to every one of them to make the best craft beer that I can.

I also see some people cellaring beer that just shouldn't be cellared.  I mean if you're going to cellar an IPA why don't you cellar milk too?  I'd like to see all the craft beer fans out there following my mantra of "Drink Awesome. Drink Fresh."

Favourite beer at the moment (that’s not yours!)?

Riverside 77 IPA.  You can't get it in Melbourne and I'm lucky that much of my beer is sold in Sydney which means I often get to visit.  All my friends down here get so jealous when I tell them what a cracking beer it is.  Dave Padden has done such an amazing job on that beer and it still blows me away every time I drink it.

What would be the weirdest beer you’d like to brew? Funds, time, ingredients being unlimited and at full disposal.

Oh that would be the barrel aged, dry-hopped, sour, burnt horse hair, funky trappist IIIPA with unicorn tears that I've been meaning to brew for ages.  Can't seem to find a supplier that will give me enough unicorn tears for a 3000L batch though so I'm thinking of substituting the tears of Carlton Draught drinkers instead.

What is the one thing that you most dislike about your job?

Apart from only having one liver which limits ones abilities to drink loads more beer, I would say that the stuff that needs to be done to keep BrewCult running that I'm not yet great at.  Things like financials, business planning etc.  While I'm enjoying and relishing the challenge of learning these things for the betterment of BrewCult, I dislike the not-knowing that I experience now.

What was your beer epiphany, i.e. the beer that got you hooked on craft beer/brewing or convinced that there was better stuff than the mainstream?

Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale.  When they brewed it in North Fremantle.  I used to live in Perth and I still have fond memories of Sunday Sessions at The Queens drinking copious pints of the stuff.  Don't get me wrong, Little Creatures Pale Ale was in my life but it was Alpha that made me go "wow!".

Who is the person/people in the industry that you look to as beer “godfathers” for direction / inspiration / advice?

To name a few: 

- Brendan Varis from Feral. He inspires me to become a more quality focussed brewer. He's highly decorated at beer awards such as the AIBAs and one day I'll be that good.

- Shaun Sherlock from Murrays.  Still one of the local industry's innovators who was doing things with beer that no one thought of doing well before anyone thought of doing it.

- Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head.  Reading his books has given me the ideas to come up with the business and product model that has become BrewCult well before I even tried any of his beers.

What got you into brewing?

I won a year's supply of Evian water. Ran out of things to do with it. Decided to turn it into alcohol through home brewing.

Which beer are you most proud of and why?

Southern Bay Hop Bazooka IPA.  The fact that the awesome crew and I put that beer together in a really old, labour intensive brewery that had such amazing aromatics.  We produced a beer that was in the Hottest 100 in 2013 from a brand previously known as a "lager factory" and that the beer scored at least as well in competition as Hop Hog in the Perth Royal Beer Show and AIBAs.  All this really floated my boat.

What is one thing most people wouldn't know about the brewery or your beers?

Normally I'm fastidious about pilot brewing a beer before it's released. Supa Fly Rye IPA was the first beer where this never happened and it went straight to 3000L batch without testing.  It was the first time for me where the training wheels were off.  It went on to become the top placed BrewCult beer in this years Hottest 100.

Where do you get your inspiration for your beers from?

Many things.  I keep an evernote of beer ideas and beer names.  The imagery of each beer is as important as the beer itself as it gives each beer its own unique personality.  I think about a style of beer that I want to make, then think of a name and imagery for it.  If I smile, or better still I laugh, I know I'm on to a good thing.  Popular culture, movies, drug references (I'm an old school 90s raver) are all inspirations for my beers.

What's one key tip you'd give to people starting in home brewing?

I love home brewers because I am one myself but many home brewers try to control every minute aspect of the brewing process as if it were a mystery that needs to be deciphered.  My advice to any home brewer at any stage of their hobby is to take Charlie Papazian's advice: rather than trying to control and know everything in the brewing process, "Relax. Have a home brew."

What do you like most about your job?

Right now it's the travel.  I'm making some of the best beer of my life at the moment and the best part of the job is getting to travel all over the country and drink BrewCult beer with the punters and the trade.  This direct line of feedback - positive or negative - is so important to me and it's how I know if I'm doing a good job or not.

Want to try out the BrewCult range? Click here.