Batch Brewing Co.’s Iain McKelvey on running a community minded brewery & producing damn good beer

We at the AU are honoured to have Batch Brewing Co. on board as sponsors for our upcoming 9th Birthday Party in Sydney. Now a staple of the Marrickville scene, we caught up with Iain McKelvey to talk about the origins of the group, running a community minded brewery and producing damn good beer…

How did Batch Brewing Co. get its start?

We are in our 4th year of operation now, and it started essentially in Andrew Fineran’s backyard – two friends, American expats were working over here, they got together over their love of beer, and they started to brew their own batches in their backyard. It all started with the American Pale Ale (APA), which is what’s most likely going to be pouring at the AU’s party.

Were they always planning to move the beer out of the backyard?

Yeah, it was always an intention to be able to start a brewery. Andrew’s background comes from the beer and brewery world, and Chris’s from the Home Brewery world, and they hit the nail on the head with the first recipe, so were able to enter the industry off the back of that. They started out just distributing by themselves; it was Chris and Andrew doing all the deliveries. Then Andrew and I were doing the deliveries outselves when I came on board three years ago, while Chris stayed behind to brew a lot of tasty beer!

Now we’re still distributing ourselves, and we’ve got three reps, and go all the way to Newcastle and Canberra and around all of Sydney.

Tell me more about the community that Batch has been build around.

It’s always been community based around Marrickville, and I think people have really gotten behind the brewery because we have the community’s interests at heart.

We really appreciate the support the community gives us. From coming to the brewery, to the pubs and bottle shops we distribute to, to the businesses we work with in the local community (we buy our stamps and tasting cards tap handles, and lots of other stuff locally!)

One of the ways we started interacting more with the community, too, was by reaching out to artists for gallery showcases, and schools for charity fundraisers, and do things like donate some free tours, or cases, to help raise funds. Supporting education at that grassroots level, and the local arts and culture… if we don’t do that we don’t have a vibrant community. We take that view and apply it to the whole city, not just Marrickville.

What beers will we regularly find on your taps and in distribution?

Our standard is the APA. It always was there and always will be. Now we have four staples – the West Coast IPA, the Just Beer which is a lager and then we have Elsie the Milk Stout which is a sweet nitrogenated Stout. In the tasting room we always have ten taps available and we do single and double batches of seasonal ales (see what they’ve got on tap now HERE).   

Do you have plans to expand the staples beyond the four?

We have made a lot of beers and we listen to the feedback of customers, which is part of that community aspect. We have a vocal customer base which we’re lucky to have. The Big Kahuna makes regular comeback – it’s a beer which returns seasonally in the winter – that’s a Coconut Brown Ale. People always ask for it, even when it goes off the menu.

What are some of the challenges a craft beer company like Batch faces in a city like Sydney?

Creating and maintaining authenticity. You really want to be able to provide good beer and a good product, but you want there to be an authentic message behind it, a reason why you’re giving people the option to try a new beer.

One of the current issues that we’re finding is there’s an unfair excise tax on craft beer at the moment. No other industry has a tax like that. We are providing so much in terms of jobs and income to the economy, we are trying to get that changed. It has a large effect as they look at it in terms of ABV, and when you’re in the craft beer realm, the product tends to go into the higher ABV. So that really affects the little guys like us, who promote the community aspect and do it from the ground level.

What do you hope people experience in a visit to your brewery?

We want to share a beer, a story and good times, whether you be our baker, our barista, our banker, or just someone passing through that wants to try a good beer. We want to create the best beer we can, and share it, it’s a human nature thing that people respond positively to authenticity. Something that’s real, that they can understand… they can see the authenticity in the glass.

What do you have coming up?

The brewers are always pretty busy, we brew six days a week now. Just coming up we have a Vienna Lager, which is quite malty, based on the Austrian old school lagers. Then we have a rye IPA, which is an old favourite. Anything to do with rye we’re interested in, it adds an interesting spice. And we have another sour ale. We’ve found sours are something people are really getting behind. Most of our fruit sours are based on some classic hip hop puns. Method Man-Darin, Mango Mathers the Third, HopFace Fillah, Lemon Fiasco. You can enjoy the reveal of the next one when we have it! And then we have a Roggen, which is a rye lager, and a Bock, so we’re certainly keeping busy with some new beers.

We have a few festivals, too. There’s Taste of Coogee, and the Ramblin’ Rascal tinnie fest. And just this past Monday we had a tap takeover at the Union Hotel. On our website there is a nice updated list of all the takeovers and events coming up. We love getting involved in these because A) it gets our beers recognised, and B) it’s fun for the publicans for us to show up and enjoy some good old beer and banter. Then of course we’re doing the 9th Birthday for you guys next week!

We’re indeed so excited to have you behind our 9th Birthday event. What attracted you in terms of getting involved?

It stems from that community aspect where we want to get involved in the arts and culture scene, because we believe it’s hugely important for a city to have that life blood running through it. And we’ve found event-goers being particularly receptive to craft beer. I think you guys do a great job in exposing new music. And then to combine it with the Lansdowne, to see them pumping music again… it’s the amazing phoenix rising from the ashes sort of story.

So to be able to support the venue and yourselves, and really get behind the new life of the venue is important to us for sure. There’s only so much doom and gloom you can do before someone gives you the cherry on top again, so it’s great to get that win for Sydney again. I firmly believe the scene in Sydney is getting really good, it’s responding quite healthily in response to the jab in the side it received. A lot of people want to write it off really quickly, but it’s really healthy and the Lansdowne is a paramount example of that, it’s booked out every weekend through December I believe!

Learn more about Batch Brewing Co.:

Batch Brewing Co. is located at 44 Sydenham Road in Marrickville and their tasting room is open 7 days a week from 10am to 8pm. They offer private tours for $30 per person, and you get three beers and 45 minute tour included, processes and history included, as you see it from a backyard operation to a staple within the community. To learn more about Batch, head to their Official Website.

Batch Brewing Co. are proud sponsors of the AU review’s 9th Birthday Party, taking place at the Lansdowne Hotel in Sydney on Wednesday, August 30th from 7pm. To RSVP for your free ticket, head HERE.