From small beer to a taste for success

THE return of the tiny welcome swallow bird to farms and barns signals the first day of spring which means sunshine has come and at Welcome Swallow Brewery the beers are ready to be brewed.

But now, as winter approaches, there is no slacking off at the brewery there are important days ahead.

In an old building that was a part of the historic Willow Court complex in New Norfolk dating back to 1827, Welcome Swallow Brewery is a product of love and desire for good, crafty, thirst- quenching beer.

Starting off as a home brewery, Welcome Swallow owner Nigel Graham has been a self-taught brewer and first started brewing 20 years ago. He says it’s been a lot about trial and error and he brews and brews until he can get it right.

“I think nothing compares to experience with flavours especially, you need to taste stuff, it’s a bit like cooking I guess,” he said.

“We like to take a ‘cheffing’ approach.”

The accomplishment for Mr Graham and his partner Jodie Goggins and business partner Elias Eichler was a result of trialling and building breweries until they stumbled on the one it currently occupies, an artsy jungle wonderland.

“I always thought, jeez that house has nice bones for a brewery.” Mr Graham said.

“I saw a ‘for rent’ sign in the window and thought we’re going to have to give it a go.”

The building is an old factory that was a part of the Royal Derwent Hospital. Mr Graham saw its potential and said it had a really good backbones but needed work.

Starting the project and the build in 2019, the team found themselves amid the Covid pandemic, hitting sales but giving them time to build the place up.

“Since opening it’s been great,” Mr Graham said.

“The locals have been supportive and amazing. It’s been very humbling really,”

“The intention of making it here was to help foster a bit of community.”

Much like their plants, their beers are bursting with flavours inspired by seasonal fruits locally sourced or grown.

Mr Graham grows his own fruits and uses some of them in his beers. Before the brewery came alive Mr Graham has always been brewing and experimenting with his own ingredients and he’s glad he can continue to do so.

“It’s always great to be growing ingredients and brewing with them.” He said.

“We actually used to have a nice little hop field with about 250 plants before the brewery started to take up all my time.”

Welcome Swallow currently has a blueberry and raspberry sour beer on tap which have used raspberries and blueberries that are home grown.

“We now buy in some fruit from Westway. The beers are very seasonal, it’s just like eating.” He said.

“Heading into winter now we start to shift and concentrate on malt flavours like darker beers.”

“We pretty much brew a new beer every time we brew so to keep it exciting, sometimes we do come back and use the same malt beers and maybe switch up the hops and a couple of things.”

Mr Graham said that their hop beers are always popular with their pilsner is popular in the warmer months.

They have an Espresso Stoututini that is a chocolatey stout aged on fresh Mexican coffee beans which are roasted by Bean Smith in Cygnett.

Mr Graham creates and experiments with different flavours and distributes a very small amount of kegs to local businesses.

“A lot of the hoppy beers are exploring the different characters of the hops, with some really nice fruity hops. There are a lot of flavours in the modern world hops.”

“All of our are base malt is certified organic and the only place I can buy certified organic malt is from a small craft Moultrie in New South Wales.” Mr Graham said.

“They were farmers and they were grain growers and they set up a small craft Moultrie on their farm.”

“They’re the kind of people we like to support like smaller business in the agricultural side of things.”

Welcome Swallow sources their hops from Hops Products Australia in Bushy Park on the Eastern side of the River Derwent.

Apart from beers, the plans to expand are also brewing but for now, Mr Graham is focusing on brewing enough to get ahead and fill the cool rooms again.

This year Welcome Swallow Brewery has joined the Fresh Hop Beer festival with their “super smooth, easy drinking Hazy IPA called ‘Hop-Hugger.”

The event brings in the collaboration of local Tassie Brewers to celebrate the annual Tasmanian hop harvest and enjoy a weekend of entertainment.

Tasmania’s cold weather makes it an ideal climate to grow hops so enjoying the product it creates makes for a coming together of the community.

With more and more breweries coming about with lots of focus on the craft beer market, the Fresh Hop Beer festival is a great way for small breweries such as Welcome Swallow to get their beers out there.

“It’s a growing area, but it’s becoming very saturated because everyone wants to own a brewery.” Mr Graham said.

“I think people see the money coming in and don’t quite understand how much it costs to produce a beer.”

“It’s a really small margin, and anyone who is going to be successful will be big but the more larger breweries we have the more pressure it puts on the fridge space.”

“So I see the future of craft beer as being more community established. It’s about creating experience where people can come and drink the beer in a place rather than just flooding.”

“Large production just loses its soul a bit with the beers and one thing our beers have is a lot of soul and a lot of love.”

“It’s all fun and a lot of hard work but at the end of the day it’s satisfying to create something that is larger than the sum of its parts and have people come in and enjoy it and get a buzz.” 

The Fresh Hop Beer Festival welcomed 13 different breweries from across Tasmania at the event over the weekend.