There are precious few industries where your co-workers and competitors can exist together in perfect harmony, but that’s exactly what’s happening within the craft beer brewing community right now. Nomadic brewing is a term that describes the practice of would-be beer makers using vacant tanks within other larger breweries on an ad hoc basis.
The nomadic brewing trend is on the rise, particularly in South Australia, and it’s not hard to see why. “The appeal of contract, gypsy or nomadic brewing definitely stems from the ability to be able to produce beer with minimal starting capital,” explains Nic Sandry, who is currently on the hunt for a facility to brew at, having launched his own beer brand, Molly Rose Brewing, earlier this year.
As Nic points out, building your own brewery requires planning approval, time and, often, millions of dollars. “On the other hand, you can approach a production facility and ask them to produce almost a small or large amount of beer for you and it can be ready to sell by the end of the month,” says the Adelaide-born brewer, who hopes to launch his own core range beer before the end of the year.
The relationship between brewer and brewery depends on both parties, says Nic. While some facilities allow nomadic brewers to use their breweries to make their own beer from start to finish, others take your recipe and hand you your final product. However, while nomadic brewing – also referred to as contract or gypsy brewing – undoubtedly benefits smaller brewers, it benefits the bigger corporations too.
“We decided to share our space for two reasons,” says Craig Basford, who co-founded Big Shed Brewing Concern just over two years ago and has rented out vacant tanks ever since. The initial reason was a practical one: the income generated by the contract brewers covered most of the outgoing bills, such as rent. This meant he and business partner Jason Harris were under less pressure to immediately generate sales from their own beer production.
“The other reason was that we wanted to give those who wanted to bring something new to the craft beer industry a way of doing so,” says Craig, who explains that Big Shed Brewing Concern give other brewers the option of brewing in relatively small quantities of 2,000 litres, which allows them freedom to experiment and hone their craft and is a rarity within the brewing community.
“It’s small enough that the risk isn’t too high a hurdle and they can take a shot,” says Craig, who says he loves nothing more than seeing a former contract brewer achieve their ambition of building their own brewery. “This has happened with Mismatch who, after brewing with us for the last two and a half years, are now building their own facility in the Adelaide Hills,” says Craig. “We are proud to be a part of their history. We know that there’s not much point trying to fight over the 4% of the beer market held by craft, but the 96% of the rest!”
Nic shares this sentiment that the craft beer brewing community is a supportive one. “We all share recipes, techniques and ideas with each other,” says Nic, who began his brewing career at Stone and Wood in Byron Bay. “We are a young and fast growing industry and if we can help each other out along the way, it’s only going help the industry as a whole,” he adds. “Also we are talking about beer… If you can’t have a few laughs and help out your mate making some beer then brewing might not be the right industry for you.”