So long Charlie and thanks for all the Copy Cat

It was great to sit down with Charlie, literally in between his time at Mash and the beginnings of a new venture over in Brisbane called Helios Brewing, and reflect on his time in WA and what’s coming up!

While I was chatting with Charlie Hodgson last week, on his last day as head brewer at Mash Brewing, it had clearly been a weird day for him, closing such a significant chapter of his life. We sat down over a pint, both choosing local brews by Cheeky Monkey Brewery, and I think Charlie was just happy to stop for a moment in between finishing up at Mash and the removalists coming the next day.

Over Charlie’s six years at Mash he created award-winning beers while the brewery has continued to grow. The brewing schedule has been jam-packed to meet a very thirsty audience, they’ve added a sales team, launched a range of cans and gone through a re-brand, trust me, breweries are busy places.

I’ve known Charlie, we figured out during our interview, for about a decade, starting when we were both at Gage Roads Brewing. It’s where Charlie began his brewing career, coming from the wine industry, and where I also started something new as a sales rep after years of bartending and late nights.

It was great to sit down with Charlie, literally in between his time at Mash and the beginnings of a new venture over in Brisbane and reflect on his time in WA and what’s coming up.

As I write this Charlie is driving to Brisbane, he’s moving from one side of the country to the other to be the head brewer at Helios Brewing. Though daunting to move from WA particularly given Charlie’s self-confessed aversion to change, he is feeling very positive about the move.

Helios Brewing is named after the Greek sun god, a theme that carries through in their beer names such as Poseidon, Aphrodite, Zeus and Hades, and is estimated to open at the end November.

Image from Helios Brewing Facebook

Charlie’s role will be a lot different to the one at Mash, he’ll be brewing plenty of beer, don’t worry about that but he will also be taking on some different tasks which he says will involve a little sales, some bar work and maybe even washing dishes in the kitchen! Charlie listed these tasks all with a smile on his face, he is looking forward to the variety and a less frantic production schedule.

A career in brewing wasn’t always on the cards for Charlie, in-fact he worked in wine before and it wasn’t until his late-twenties he realised beer was where he wanted to be. His brewing career started in 2006 at Gage Roads Brewing where he learnt under Aaron Heary who is still at Gage today, now their Chief Operating Officer.

When the opportunity to take on the head brewer role at Mash came up, it was a chance to showcase what he could accomplish in a leadership role and, like anyone would, at first he had to ask himself, “can I do this?”

Six years on and the answer is pretty clearly ‘hell yeah’.

I asked Jack Purser, head brewer at Indian Ocean Brewing, for a few words reflecting on his time as an assistant brewer with Charlie at Mash.

“He’s been a massive influence in my life so I’d gladly say a few words,” Jack said.

Working with Charlie was hands down the most significant learning curve I have had during my time as a brewer.

Everyone knows how brilliant of a brewer Charlie is. But this isn’t necessarily the reason behind why people in the industry respect him so much.

Charlie once said to me “I won’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself”. This wasn’t just a statement, he then followed this up during the 3 years I worked alongside him (even if I razzed him for always being upstairs shining his boots).

The most valuable slice of information I gathered from Charlie, is his simplicity in his approach. He preaches knowing your ingredients, simplicity in recipe development and a host of non-negotiables with regards to processing.

Charlie with three of his past assistant brewers (L-R) Charlie, Robin, Eddie and Jack

One of the most significant beers in Charlie’s time at Mash is Copy Cat, an American IPA which, on its very first batch, took out Champion Australian Beer at the 2014 Australian International Beer Awards.

“This was obviously huge for us,” he says with a smile.

A barrel fermented version of Copy Cat

By now it is pretty well documented that an American IPA wasn’t a style Charlie was tripping over himself to brew but Copy Cat is still the Mash beer he is most proud of, though he was reluctant to choose just one of his “children” of beers when I asked him this question.

Charlie had preferred a beer like Challenger, an English IPA, would have been the beer to make a big splash but it was the bold American hops that people wanted and boy, did he give it to them.

Charlie with the Australian International Beer Awards trophies in 2014

“The consumer drives us very hard,” Charlie says and we’re seeing it again with the current hazy IPA trend, one that Mash have jumped on relatively early with only a few local breweries having brewed the style, like Feral’s Biggie Juice. When Charlie read up on the NEIPA style he said he knew exactly what he wanted to brew,

“I thought, man, this reeks of a mid-strength; lower bitterness, enhanced mouthfeel, hop forward, hazy.”

The beer is called Little NEIPA and is available on tap now, “three tanks in and we are having trouble keeping up with it,” Charlie says and 375ml cans will launch towards the end of October.

“I’m a traditionalist with a spin,”

“I like to pay respect to a style and then turn it on its head a little,” he says. Grasscutter is one of his favourite beers and a great example of his brewing style,

“Grasscutter is probably the smartest beer I ever made, ever. It was a light clean beer, fermented on oak, clean, summery but really complex,”

Commissioning the new brewery at Helios will be new ground for Charlie and amongst other factors, appealed to him when considering the role. The brew kit is an 18 hectolitre Premier Stainless setup, the same size as West Leederville’s Nowhereman Brewing.

Helios will open with six core range beers and two speciality brews though Charlie predicts those six are likely to change in the early stages as they play around and see what people respond to.

So what were your highlights at Mash, I asked Charlie.

“Mash, in general, has been a highlight,” he replied and I have to say, it has been for us too. See you later Charlie!


WA Beer News #18

New beers from Nowhereman, White Lakes, Boston, Mash and Eagle Bay + more!

There is a lot of stuff happening in WA’s craft beer scene that it’s genuinely hard to keep up with all the new beer releases and WA really is kicking ass when it comes to craft beer and so I thought I’d try and make a regular feature out of all the new beery goodness our state has to offer.

The girl+beer Facebook page has a list of upcoming beer events that you might find worth subscribing to!

new beers out now …

Nowhereman Six Seasons

  • 5.5 percent ABV
  • Saison

Head brewer Paul Wyman describes Six Seasons “as a beer for those people who say they don’t like beer.” If you ask me, there is not enough Saison in the world so it is great to see not only a new Saison kicking around but one by a local brewer! Brewers notes on this one include gentle bitterness, banana, bubblegum, clove, pepper, spice, musk and lemongrass.

Boston Sinker Bay Oak Aged Stout

  • 7.5 percent ABV
  • Limited release

White Lakes Festival Amber

  • Marzen style beer
  • Limited Release
Marzen is a German amber lager known for its bready and toasty malt character and White Lakes have put their own modern twist on the style using New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops which provide fruity and white wine notes.

Mash Brewing + Petition Boys to the Yard

  • Chocolate Milkshake Stout
  • 6.3 percent ABV
  • Launching 28 September

You gotta love a great pun and cheesy beer names and Mash’s limited releases have been killing it lately! The beers have also been fantastic and so I’m expecting this chocolate milkshake stout to be no different.

coming soon …

Rocky Ridge brewing

Busselton’s Rocky Ridge will be releasing their 500ml cans in early October!

Eagle Bay Citrus IPA

  • Brewers Series
  • Available in 330ml bottles and on tap

Brewed with grapefruit, lemon and orange zest Eagle Bay Brewing released this beer back in late 2015 and it was stunning! Expect the new batch of Citrus IPA out soon but if you’re the impatient type, they’ve got a sneak peek of it at this weekend’s Beer & Beef Festival.

news …

4 Pines Brewing

The big news in Australian beer this week was the acquisition of 4 Pines Brewing by AB InBev, bringing the New South Wales brewery into the global portfolio that also includes brands like Yak Ales, Great Northern and Goose Island.

Of course, if you prefer to drink independent craft beer then sadly you’ll have to cross 4 Pines off your list but it has to be acknowledged that the brewery has had a big impact over the years on the brewing scene and have worked very hard to brew great beer and get it all across the country. Not too shabby for a couple of boys from WA’s south-west!

Read: Crafty Pint – 4 Pines: Behind the Sale

Read: Australian Brews News – AB InBev Buys 4 Pines Beer

See You Later, Charlie

After six years at Mash Brewing, head brewer Charlie Hodgson is leaving WA to go to a new brewery opening in Brisbane called Helios Brewing. Charlie has been hugely influential to the WA scene over the years and has been responsible for introducing some great beers to local drinkers like the multi-award winning CopyCat AIPA and Sarcasm to name just two.

See ya Charlie and thanks for all the beers!

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!

You can follow AIBA on Twitter

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!