Interview: Charlie, head brewer at Mash Brewing

Thank you Charlie, it was great to chat with you and I loved reading your interview answers, I’m sure others will too so without any more rambling from me, here we go!

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I recently wrote an article for Crafty Pint about Mash Brewing’s win at the recent AIBA (Australian International Beer Awards), as always James, the man behind Crafty, put a far better title on it that I could manage – “Copy That“. Damn that man is good.

Mash website for everything Mashy

Another good man is Charlie, the head brewer at Mash. Not only is he a good man because he makes tasty beer but because he was good enough to give me his time so I could write the article.

Charlie with the AIBA trophies at Mash's tap takeover at Five
Charlie with the AIBA trophies at Mash’s tap takeover at Five

Thank you Charlie, it was great to chat with you and I loved reading your interview answers, I’m sure others will too so without any more rambling from me, here we go!

How did you become a Brewer?

I started home brewing in the late 90’s with can kits and got more and more interested in “doing my own thing” (having more input) with the beers I was making! I moved onto partial grain and then moved into full grain once I had scraped together enough gear to get the job done! While all this was happening I started work at Houghton Wines in the Swan Valley as a Cellar Hand (2000) and was there for  six years. I learnt all my cellar trade there; line and pump selection, tank sanitation, lots of oak work and learnt a few different types of filtration. I studied for and passed my General Certificate in Brewing and Packaging in 2005 and was lucky enough to get a position at Gage Roads Brewing Co in 2006 as an Assistant Brewer.

How long have you been brewing at Mash?

I have been the Head Brewer here for two and a half years.

What was it about Mash that appealed to you?

It was/is the dream job really. Brad (Business Owner) has been awesome with me and pretty much lets me do my thing.

“I love designing and refining beers and get a huge amount of job satisfaction out of what I do here!”

Mash has been brewing great beers for a long time now, Dan Turley did a fantastic job here as the original Head Brewer and the opportunity to help build on that was also very appealing

Who else is in your Brewing team? How did they come to work with you?

I have two guys that work with me here. Eddie Still is our Brewer and takes care of most things in the brewery from a production point of view (and is very good at it!!) We worked together briefly at GRB before I left.

Evan Lamb is our Cellar Hand/Delivery man. Evan was in the right spot at the right time when he came in to look for Brewing work and is very important to what we do. Evan has done a fantastic job for us and we have just promoted him to an Assistant Brewers role.

How would you describe Mash and your beers to someone who’s never heard of Mash?

Mash Swan Valley: 10250 West Swan Road, Henley Brook

Mash Bunbury: 2/11 Bonnefoi Blvd, Bunbury

Mash Rockingham: Syren Street, Rockingham Shopping Centre

We are fairly traditional brewers with a subtle twist! There are so many fantastic beer styles that have stood the test of time and been around for centuries! We love to throw in old school raw materials like Peat and Rauch and always have something with Rye in it. We are also enjoying having a play with a little bit of oak during ferment in our “Grasscutter”. Our beers are generally extremely well balanced and we work very hard to find and add elements of complexity that you may or may discover in the product!

We are a nice open and friendly Brew Pub in the Swan Valley. We also have a venue in Rockingham (one hour south of Perth) and another in Bunbury a couple of hours south of Perth. All of the venues have their own feel and vibe, well worth having a look at all of them.

Pretty good views from Mash Bunbury
Pretty good views from Mash Bunbury

What changes did you make when you joined Mash and why?

Most of the changes I made were production focused initially while I got a feel for the beers being brewed. The boys were doing a great job but just needed some direction and a bit of fine tuning. I could then turn my hand to looking at the beers we were making and also giving them some focus and putting my own spin on them.

How would you describe your approach to brewing?

I like to brew by feel (taste). I’m not the greatest technical brewer around but have a very solid understanding of brewery hygiene and sanitation, process control, hitting targets and batch to batch consistency. I love to taste and refine when necessary, most of our beers evolve slowly over time! Where as some don’t get touched at all from a design/recipe point of view.

Do you have a favourite style of beer to brew and why?

I do like to lean towards English style beers but these days unless a beer is loaded with hops or bitterness it can be hard to sell. We need to be mindful of what the public and more importantly the craft beer drinkers want to drink which is why we felt we needed to take on the challenge of brewing a big AIPA (Copy Cat) and what a result that was! I do like to indulge myself a fair bit though and have a nice little Rye Porter in the system at the moment.

What trends do you see emerging in the Craft Beer Scene and do they have an impact on what you brew?

The craft beer scene is certainly on the move and getting busier and busier. The range of beers beers available and “styles” can be quite daunting and/or exciting depending on you being new to the craft beer scene or lining up to taste the next crazy sub style being released. It does have an impact on what we brew but I am pretty firm on us doing our own thing, sticking to brewing what we love and know best.

A few of the taps at Mash Bunbury (please note this photo is from 2012)
A few of the taps at Mash Bunbury (please note this photo is from 2012)

Did you have any expectations heading into AIBA?

We try not to have any, but each year we make sure we have fresh tanks of the styles we will be sending ready to keg as late as possible before they get shipped. We are always very excited about the beers we put forward for judging.
We knew the Copy Cat was special but that doesn’t always count for much come judging day. This year was very special for us and the brand and we hope to build on that.

What was your reaction on hearing Copy Cat had been awarded Champion Australian Beer?

Still hard to explain! A massive amount of pride in myself and our brewing team!

How did the Copy Cat come about?

To put it simply if you can’t beat them, join them! Such a fashionable style, it was hard to ignore! I wanted to stay the course and do our own thing (continue to build on the support for our English IPA), many breweries have several IPA’s of varying styles in their line up these days. There are some other pretty special styles out there to brew.

We thought we would play Copy Cat with the style and essentially turn our Pale into something big and brash and go to town with some of our favourite hops!

Mash Pale Ale
Mash Pale Ale

What does winning Champion Australian Beer mean to you and Mash?

It’s huge for myself and the brand! For me again, a huge amount of pride in a recipe I designed (my first ever AIPA!) and also very proud of Eddie and Evan for getting it through the system in fantastic shape.
For the brand its super important to get not only the Copy Cat into the hands of the public now but our other products as well.

“Mash in my opinion is and has been a bit of a sleeper in the craft beer drinkers opinions”

Hopefully this will earn us some cred and we can show off what we can and have been doing week in and week out since the Brewery opened in 2006.

Do you consider judging style guidelines when you create a new recipe? If not what guides you in creating a new beer?

Yes and no. We certainly do for beers that fit into guidelines. We look at them and have also started trying to judge them impartially against those guidelines to see how they stack up and make changes if needed.

Some beers, especially these days are hard to fit in for many reasons. Then they go into the speciality class and that class was huge this year!

“I love playing with raw materials and some things just sound like they should go together!”

A little 4% Rye Porter is in tank now, a classic subtle new age spin on a beer style that originated a couple of hundred years ago without going nuts on it (big alcohol, crazy grists etc)!

Rye the Hop Not - English ESB which was delicious but sadly no longer brewed
2012: Playing with rye gave us Mash’s Rye the Hop Not, an English ESB

What is next for Mash? Any future plans for Copy Cat?

As mentioned earlier, we need to make hay (beer) while the sun shines and while our name and brand is in the spotlight show the public how good and consistent all of our beers are. Copy Cat will be in bottle by mid July*

*being the clever reader that you are this is where you realise I did this interview some weeks ago but didn’t get around to turning my article into Crafty until this week

If someone was to visit Mash for the first time, what would you recommend them to eat and drink?

I’d like to say a Charlie burger (steakless steak sandwich) and a GrassCutter but that’s not on the menu. Russell, our Amber Ale with the pie and chips is a winner!



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