When local lad Adrian Slaughter (pictured right) discovered that his future mother in law was one of the UK’s first female brewers, his life changed forever. Abandoning a finance career that had taken him to London and New York, Adrian returned to Brisbane determined to bring the craft-beer culture he had seen in his time abroad to his hometown. When he and childhood friend Marc Chrismas open the doors to Green Beacon Brewing Company in Teneriffe (next to Campos) later this year, the gents hope to infuse Brisbane with an appreciation for the art of local craft beer. Alongside their selection of diligently crafted ales, the boys will also be serving up share plates of fresh local seafood, signalling the beginning of many a Sunday session to be enjoyed by locals.
I grew up in Brisbane … I went to Churchie and I graduated from the University of Queensland in 2000. I then embarked on a career in finance that, to be honest, I always detested but just happened to be good at.
I’d always had a love for brewing … For my 18th birthday, my mates gave me one of those rubbish Coopers homebrew kits and we made some horrendous beers during college.
My elder brother … passed away in 2001 and I think that was the catalyst for me to pack it in and take off to the UK. I ended up in Dublin working for the infamous AIG – American International Group – before I was sent to London to work on its trading desk in early 2004.
While living in London … my friends and I would always do daytrips to little countryside villages to visit all the English pubs, where there would be all these obscure beers with ridiculous names. I fell in love with that whole culture – the Slow Food movement and everything that came with it.
I met my wife Abigail … in London and I soon learned the fantastic news that her mother, Penny Coles, was a commercial brewer in the UK. As you can imagine, it was every guy’s dream. After that, I was more or less always in Penny’s brewery. She’s obsessed with real ale and the culture and basic produce that comes with it – all those things that tie into the concept of the Slow Food movement and the philosophy of taking things from farm to plate. It was fantastic. She’d recycle her spent grain from the brewery to the local piggery and then I’d go for dinner at her house and she’d serve pork that had been fed on her spent grain.
Penny is one of my greatest inspirations … She was one of the first female brewers in the UK and she’s been at it for more than 30 years. Now that I’m in the industry, I know that it’s quite male dominated, and that it can be difficult to be the new guy on the scene. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her when she started in a very traditional place like Cheshire in England. I find it so incredible that she stuck with it and became so successful.
I began to take brewing more seriously … after seeing it on that commercial scale that was still tangible and hands on. You’d physically put the malt into the mash tun from a grain sack off your shoulder and then stir it through with a big fork. The process seems incredibly old-fashioned, but it’s very exciting in the same right.
It was actually in America … that the craft-beer movement really got me. We moved to the USA after Abigail was transferred to Ohio for work and, not long after, I was asked to go to work in New York City. I was working on this crazy trading desk and the world was imploding around it during the GFC – it was chaos.
All the guys I worked with … had these refillable draught-beer growlers under their desks. It made me wonder why, in a country like Australia that loves beer, I’d never seen them here.
We used to go down to this place in Brooklyn … called Sixpoint Brewery, where they’d just have a rollerdoor up on this dodgy street. There would be Wall Street guys in suits next to taxi drivers and guys from the meatworks around the corner. It was something that didn’t exist in Australia – that myriad of people and faces and the culture around the beer. The focus was on knowing which beers were local and I loved that. I guess it was then that things just began to stir in me. I knew I was going to walk away from my job and so when I was offered a voluntary redundancy I jumped at it with both hands. Abigail and I then went and drove around Europe for four months before coming back to Australia.
Marc and I have been great friends … since we were about 12, but it feels like forever. He had actually been living in the UK as well, but he came back to Australia to help run the family architecture business after, sadly, both his parents died suddenly within months of each other. By the time I got back to Australia, he was just biding time and I was looking for something to do in Brisbane, only halfheartedly searching for jobs in finance. And that’s how we got started.
It’s easy when you leave Brisbane … to knock it. Or, if you’re from Sydney or Melbourne, there’s often that cultural cringe. But I completely reject that – coming back for me was an eye-opener because Brisbane had completely changed. I love the direction it’s taking but I think we need even more.
It’s very hard to tell people … that you’re leaving a finance career to go into craft brewing. The hardest people to tell were the people closest to me, like my dad. These days he’s our biggest supporter, but initially it was tough to fill people with the same enthusiasm that I had for what I was doing.
What we’re doing is bold … and it wouldn’t have worked in Brisbane ten years ago. But it seems to me now that the place is ripe. People want this and there’s an understanding within Brisbane’s food culture. So we decided that we were going to just go for it and brew the best local beers that we could.
Now when we tell people what we’re doing … there’s hardly anyone who isn’t inspired by it. It’s completely infectious and that’s what keeps you going when things get challenging.
We chose Teneriffe … because the old warehouses there were the only style of architecture that would fit with what we were trying to do. The building we found on Helen Street was perfect. It’s an awesome late-1920s building and we’ve stripped it all back to the original brickwork.
Life has taught me … that things can all end pretty quickly – both through personal experience and through Marc’s history. And if I ended up being 65 and still sitting at a desk, it would not have been time well spent. I don’t want to just be making up the numbers – I want to be at the forefront of something. And I can’t think of many better things to do than being a commercial brewer!
My advice for the world … is to love your wife and love your friends. Make time for people when they need it because you never know when you’re going to need them to make time for you.