Question time with Wombat from Young Henry's
Interviewed by Kate Bettes
How did Young Henry’s start?
Young Henry's started just under four and a half years ago. It’s two founders were Oscar and Richard - Richard had a background in brewing, and Oscar, in beer in general! They got together and used to run a few beer clubs. For YH's, they initially looked for a place in Surry Hills, but the council knocked it back, so they ended up finding this spot here (in Newtown) which was probably a blessing in disguise really.
What was it like back then?
Well, they started off with the lot just here and the one next door. This lot has always been a bar, but as we grew we got another one and the two warehouses across from us. We just did a big renno, as in the beginning we just grew organically.
We now have a still, so we just started making gin (interviewers note - best martini gin you will ever find!). We make it different to most distilleries in Australia, as we make the base spirit here - 100% wheat malt We also put botanicals like juniper berries, hops, green tea, citrus, liquorice root, pepper berries...We only started making gin in the past year or so.
So all this space is YH’s, but we sublease out the office space to artist studio - Snake Eyes Studios.
Who are they?
SES is a bunch of independent artists: Sindy Sinn, Honey Rogue Design, Ross Radiation, Brooks & Amos, Anthony Huckster and Scrimworks.
So YH’s is a pretty big art hub. Did you initially set up to find artists or did the process happen pretty organically?
Well pretty organically actually. Setting up in Newtown was a real bonus for us. For one, people in this area were so ready to get behind a local brewery. We had lots of people coming in: we got to know the locals, and there's a lot of cool artists in the area. Pretty much anyone who came to us and said, ‘hey, we want to do this’, we were like, ‘hells yeah!’
We saw artists as so close to beer-making, as people like to see art when they come out to drink - same as music, we do a lot of things with music as well. Actually, a big reason we went to cans instead of bottles is that they’re so much easier to get to festivals (and they’re better for the environment and the beer). Our marketing team are all massive fans different styles of music and art, so we have pretty well-rounded team to do different things.
So you do a lot on the artistic side?
Yeah, we try do stuff with the pop culture side of things, but also getting local artists to do murals in here and paying local artists to go to local pubs and do them there. Ginger Taylor did the mural under the stairs (‘Beer is a Girls Drink’) - she’ll be doing another one next to it.
Sindy Sinn did the GOTR one (in collab with Mumford and Sons), and Phibs and Puddlr did the cool room. (Did you discuss the ideas with the artists?). Honestly, a lot of what we do is saying yes to things, and providing beer! For example, Nathaniel Radcliffe and the Nightsweats came and made Moonshine with us!
Collaboration is a really big thing for you guys - what’s the difference between making a beer with a musician or a DJ, and making a drink with another brewery?
It’s probably not that dissimilar - when you work with a musician and we talk about what they like, we’ll polish it up a little. Well, we make a lot of adjunct (untraditional ingredients) beers - for example, bacon and truffle beer. Some things might not work, but there's always a way to work around it. Though, often working with the musician is more fun, as they’re not coming from that constrained point of view. They’ll say, ‘I want to put hibiscus in it’, and we’ll say,’sweet,’ and go ahead.
You guys have a few pun-related beer names: punniest beer name?
Definitely, 'Stupid Sexy Flanders’: a Flanders ale that was red, like Flanders’ ski suit… “feels like I’m wearing nothing at all!” 'Mother Chucker’ was our oyster stout. But Flanders is my favorite as it doubles as a Simpsons reference.
Tell me about your collab with Australia Comic Con – and the creation of the character, Dr Röt Fifer.
The character was one of Richard’s brain children. He's slightly based on the Pied Piper; a sort of a villain, who tempts people to drink beer with his evil flute. It came out the same time as the Lockout Laws, when all the drink companies were seen as evil corporations, and we thought, well we’ll just play into it. And then Doug Holgate was the comic-book artist who did the artwork, and helped us polish it.
Why the family friendly focus with YH’s?
It just ties into being apart of the community - we don’t want to be exclusive. Lot of dogs and dog walkers - is that taboo to say? We’re a warehouse and we don’t do food here, so why not? It’s a bar still, obviously, but it's pretty relaxed as we have restricted hours and we only do midis - we don’t really ever have to deal with intoxicated people.
Tell me about your eco-friendly stance?
Well we try and be as eco-friendly as we can. Brewery uses a lot of water, lot of power, you're making cans and bottles…so we try to do as much as we can to minimize. So we use growlers (large glass bottles) as takeaway and then we re-use them when people bring back. Cans are almost 100% recyclable (as opposed to glass).
The brewery as well, we’ve tried to set it up as smartly as we can. We have a high efficient brew system - we can make more beer out of less grain., We also need a lot of cold water when we transfer heat, usually it gets run out on the floor. Now it’s been set up a way so that the water can be re-used. Lastly, the biggest thing is that we signed up with Pingala. there Sydneys first solar power volitive and they’ve crowd sourced for solar panels for the brewery roof. It’s cut our emissions by a fair part.