The story of 2 Brothers Brewery starts out typical enough – two Australian brothers working in the US decided to quit their day jobs to pursue their love of beer. What’s not so conventional is how they set about doing so. Where most craft brewers start out gypsy brewing or with makeshift equipment at home, Andrew and Dave Ong (the two brothers) purchased their first tanks from the defunct Times Square Brewery in New York. They then shipped five shipping containers of equipment all the way to Moorabbin in Melbourne’s south-east. By no means was this an easy process for the brothers; the story also involves dodgy New Jersey trucking companies, questionable interpretations of traffic laws, and having to charm some of New York’s finest to actually let them do it.
10 years later, Dave and Andrew are still using those original tanks from New York to make some of their brews at the 2 Brothers Brewery Moorabbin HQ. The brewery has a strong line-up of five year-round beers, as well as a couple of ciders and some seasonal releases. We recently had a chat with Andrew about beer, brewing, and what the 2 Brothers’ plans are for the future…
Do you each have different preferences when it comes to taste / beer styles? If so, how do they influence what you make?
Our preferences differ on most things, but luckily when it comes to beer flavour profiles we tend to converge. Aside from the occasional seasonal we both like beers that you can sit on (all night). I think the word in the trade is “sessionable”. Our core range is all about beer that you could go a second, or third glass of.
What was the first beer that you brewed together?
Dave and I first started brewing while we were at uni. Back then, we weren’t really enthusiasts – at 28c per 750mL bottle of kit beer, we were motivated by price, not quality! After we built the brewery, our first commercial beer was “Growler”, our American Brown Ale. It wasn’t a complete failure, but brewing on new equipment had its challenges. It took us a whopping 17 hours to chase the brew through from start to finish – Dave went home for a nap half way through. These days, we’ve got it down to a respectable 8 hours of labour per brew.
What’s the most experimental / unconventional style you’ve brewed?
We’ve covered the beer map – from Belgium to Tokyo. And we don’t do sour beers. But the most unconventional beer we’ve made is the Smoking Jacket. Starting with a smooth sweet stout, we aged the beer on wood and steeped it on tea leaves, cognac, and tobacco. After the beer was made but before we made it available for sale, we sent it off for nicotine testing. We assumed that the nicotine content would be nondetectable, but the results showed about 7mg of nicotine per pot! The Smoking Jacket is a one-time seasonal and definitely a sipper.
Which of your beers would you recommend drinking in winter?
Growler (brown) and Grizz (amber) are our winter work-horses. If your timing is good, you might snag a glass of Coffee Voodoo – our porter blended with cold pressed Arabica coffee.
What have been the most popular of your seasonal brews lately?
We made a velvet stout earlier this winter. It pretty much flew out of the cool room. Happiness, our mid strength amber which is also only available in the Beerhall, is popular too.
How has the craft beer scene in Australia changed since you guys launched?
When we started almost 10 years ago, the idea of a beer that wasn’t a well-known domestic brand was pretty unusual. There just wasn’t the awareness or trust that an independently made beer could possibly be any good. Punters were very surprised when they stumbled upon our brewery in the back streets of Moorabbin. These days, there is a plethora of brands and in many bars, there’s a new rotating beer option each week. We’re seeing that the younger beer drinkers, say in the 25-30 year old bracket, expect a craft beer option and rarely reach for the domestic or premium import brands. The growth of our industry has also made things easier – with a greater abundance of speciality malts, hops, and yeast strains available for the brewer to use.
What’s next for 2 Brothers Brewery?
Good beer. Is that enough? We never set out to conquer the world, but we are very passionate about the beer we make. Any opportunity to share one of our brews with a new drinker makes it all worthwhile.