12 May

MAWthority: Stone & Wood Brewer, Zach Wright

Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale took Silver at the World Beer Cup yesterday in the English-Style Summer Ale Category after winning Australia’s favourite beer in the GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beers in 2015. Stone & Wood Brewer, Zach Wright, sat down with Men at Work to talk industry and his personal story.

Name: Zach Wright
Company: Stone & Wood Handcrafted Brewery
Age: 29
Hometown: Nambucca Valley

How did you start with Stone & Wood?
It was three years ago, I’d just got back from a few years travelling through South-East Asia, Central and South America, and I had zero money. I wandered into the Byron based brewery and asked Brad Rogers, one of the Stone & Wood founders, for a job. He said, “You seem normal enough!” – I started putting bottles on the line that week. Two months later I had a full-time job. Being in the right place as they were expanding really helped me get started.

What’s satisfying about your work?
I’m proud that our increase in production we’re still keeping that handcrafted local aspect about our product. Living and working in Byron Bay is the dream, and actually enjoying the finished product of what we’re making is important.

How do you keep work fresh and creative?
Stone & Wood’s main production is in Murwillumbah, but in Byron we have a little pilot plant where we can experiment as brewers. It is our creative outlet to trial seasonal brews using local products from our backyard. It’s got a good feel to it.

What have you been brewing up lately at Stone & Wood?
We are just about to release our annual seasonal brew Stone Beer. It pays homage to traditional brewing by using wood fired stones to assist in heating the brew in the kettle which gives this dark ale caramelised flavours. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say actually but this is the first year we’re submitting a beer to GABS Food and Beer Festival in Melbourne. We’ve created a beer with mixed fermentation, it is really hops driven with local dragon fruit and passionfruit added.

Beer Glass
What’s the best way to bring ideas like that out at work?
The brewing team will come together and brain… I mean beer-storm. We discuss what flavours will work well together, talk through flavour profiles, yeast strains and pitch ideas. Stone & Wood haven’t done things like this in the past, we’ve been keeping up with a growing demand for our product but this is a turning point. Now we are encouraged not only to think creatively about beer, but also create what we imagine.

What do you think of the state of the craft beer industry in Australia?
The Australian industry is booming. We’re still years behind america, the king’s of the craft beer revolution, but we’re catching up. There is some weird and wonderful things happening in craft, for instance a brewery overseas makes a beer using a yeast strain that they’ve cultured out of men’s beards. We’re not ready for that yet.

What is the future direction Australian brewers should be heading toward?
Stone & Wood focus on sustainability. The process of brewing beer uses a lot of water, so we minimise that as much as we can. We have solar panels, water treatment facilities and use our own water for cleaning and irrigation. These sustainable actions, while small individually, add up. I think this is where breweries around Australia need to step up their game. Especially living in the part of the world that we do, we really need to respect the patch of earth that we’re on, and promote conscious consumption.

What hours do you work?
Alarm clock goes off at 4:30am every morning, and then I knock off mid afternoon. The hours can be pretty demanding.

Do you have hobbies outside of working hours?
I’m either at the beach, the gym, the shed fixing my motorbike, or on it riding through the amazing Byron Bay hinterland. And if I’m not being active, I absolutely love cooking anything seafood; mussels, clams, or prawns.

Favourite beer?
The Jasper, but we release a beer once a year called Stone Beer, coming out this month, and it’s my all-time favourite.

What’s a book you’d recommend to a friend?
At the moment I’m reading Keith Richard’s Life. I’m finding that pretty interesting, early days of the stones. I’d recommend that.

Sunday ritual?
Beach, tinker with my broken motorbike, sunset beers, and a cook up with friends.

Favourite app?
I don’t even own a computer. Text and phone calls only on my smartphone.