“I just really love the taste of the stuff.” – Aaron Heary
For Aaron Heary, there’s a simple reason he started brewing beer. But if you dig a little deeper, the now Gage Roads Brew-chief reveals there’s much more to his passion.
“I really love the creative element of it. I really like how much freedom you have to create all different types of beers. Anything from the lightest Pilsner or lager, all the way through to craft beer and big beers like Little Dove New World Pale Ale (Gage Roads Brewing’s Champion Australian Beer) or a really hoppy beer.
“Along the way, the craft beer movement has happened and there’s so much innovation in beer, and so much that you can do to express yourself.”
Heary’s been with Gage Roads Brewing Co. since day one, when an old factory just outside Fremantle, Western Australia was transformed into one of the country’s early craft breweries. It’s been 15 years since that first beer was brewed, with a lot of beer under the bridge since then.
“Gage Roads was started on the credit card of one of the founders. It’s a great story and early on it was tough. But it was really exciting as well because we were launching beer styles that many people in Australia had never seen before. It felt like we were riding on the tip of a wave that was about to come.
“At that time, we had to explain to people what craft beer was, and we were trying to convince them to drink craft beer instead of mainstream [beer]. Now everyone knows what craft beer is… it was such a different time back then,” says Heary.
Gage Roads was created off the back of two distinct loves – good beer and the ocean. The name itself comes from the strip of water that separates Rottnest Island and Fremantle. It’s a spot that Heary and the brewery founders were always closely connected to.
“It really shaped the brewery. Everyone who founded the business, and myself, love the ocean. Whether it’s diving, surfing, fishing, boating or even just having a swim, it’s what we all love. The guys wanted to name the business after something to do with that love and that’s how Gage Roads came about.
“We’d look out over that strip of water and watch the ships pull up and come into the harbour. It’s also the spot you cross when you go to Rottnest on a boat and a lot of us spend serious time out there. It was a special place for all of us and it made sense to name the brewery after it.”
While the entire Gage Roads Brewing range fits that lifestyle, there’s no doubt Single Fin Summer Ale sits closest to it. Not only is the name a clear reference to surf culture, but the beer itself is brewed with sun-drenched summer days in mind. It’s light-bodied, chock full of aromatic Galaxy and Enigma hops. There’s a tropical fruit aroma, balanced by subtle bitterness and a clean finish.
“Single Fin has this double meaning, it’s not just about the surf board, but the way we brewed the beer was inspired by a traditional-style summer ale which is a light-bodied beer that has quite a bit of wheat in the malt bill. That creates a dense white foam and a crisp beer. But the traditional style doesn’t have a lot of hop character to it.
“We had this new hop back then called Galaxy from Tasmania. It’s got this passionfruit and pineapple flavour, so we dry-hopped this original style beer with that and it created this fruity aroma. That’s what really sets that beer apart. It’s got the sessionability but it also has the craft credentials.”
And that approach clearly worked, with Single Fin now one of the fastest-growing craft beer brands in the country.
While there aren’t too many independent, craft breweries in Australia that have hit the 15-year mark, there is still plenty on the horizon for Gage Roads. Born out of Freo and now shared across the country, Gage Roads is hoping to reach even more Australians in the future.
“No doubt the last 15 years has been a lot of work but one of the values we’ve always had is to have fun while doing it. We take our beer seriously and we want to brew the best beer at all times.
“It’s been a long journey for us and the brewery has grown to become a great success story, but there’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears that have gone in behind the scenes. But one thing we’ve never lost sight of is that we’ve got to have fun doing it.”
Cheers to that.
Gage Roads Brewing Co. is based in Palmyra, Western Australia near Perth, but their beers are distributed all across the country. Find out more about Gage Roads at gageroads.com.au.