Like most good stories, ours started over a beer.
Meeting on opposite sides of the bar, Richard Adamson and Oscar McMahon got talking. It turned out they both shared a love of beer and a view that the Sydney beer scene was behind the times. It should, they thought, be more adventurous, innovative and fun. Since Richard knew how to brew and Oscar knew all the ins and outs of hospitality, they figured they could do more than just talk.
The idea to open a brewery was easy. Doing it wasn’t. At the time, few people understood the concept of hand crafted beer so several development applications were rejected. But in 2012 the green light was given for an industrial warehouse space in Newtown. With the help of a few friends, a small brewing kit was purchased and Young Henrys was officially in business.
The first Young Henrys beers were brewed in March 2012. The idea behind them was pretty simple: brew beer our local community would enjoy and be proud to call their own. Not much has changed since. The same beers that poured back then are the same ones you’ll find at our brewery now.
It turned out that people liked our beer. A lot. Within months we were struggling to meet demand. Doing everything by hand, we worked seven days a week but we couldn’t keep up. More tanks were brought in but that still didn’t help. So we took the warehouse next door, knocked down the wall and built a brewery big enough to ensure no one will go thirsty again. We hope!
A big part of our brewing philosophy is keeping things local and reducing our environmental impact. Most of our beer is sold within a few suburbs of the brewery so we’ve got pretty low ‘beer miles’. We promote the use of refillable glass growlers so people can not only get the best fresh beer direct from the brewery and other outlets nearby but this is the lowest impact on the environment as we reuse the glass minimising packaging waste and the need for glass that generally fills our landfill sites or gets recycled at great expense to our planet. The growler also allows your small local Brewers to get small batch brewing out to you that they cannot afford to package in large canning or bottle production runs, providing the beer lover with so much more variety. When we package our beer in future, it will be in cans rather than bottles; they’re better for the environment, better for the beer and easy to take out on that fishing trip!. And, each day, more than a tonne of spent grain from our brewery gets donated to a local farm where it’s eaten by some very happy cattle.
We’re open to working with anyone that shares our pride, care and passion for what they produce, whether that’s music, art, food or anything else. We’ve been fortunate to host some truly amazing and talented people at our brewery to share ideas and brew beers. The resulting collaborations have been on stage for national music tours, downed at global festivals, behind the curtain at theatre companies, served at restaurants, back in time with an historical society, live on the air at radio stations, written in print and made permanent in artworks.
For all the focus on Newtown, Young Henrys couldn’t be contained. To satisfy growing national demand, in 2014 we took our local approach three steps further by planning new breweries in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. Our beer is meant to be drunk as fresh as possible so, even though it would have been a lot easier (and cheaper) to just send kegs across the country, having smaller breweries in different states made sense to us. People get a better product and we stay true to our values.
Each new Young Henrys brewery will have its own unique personality and every beer that comes out of them will be crafted by local people, for their local community, using local ideas. We may be growing fast but we’re still the same as we’ve always been and still doing everything by hand. The only difference is we have a bigger family now so we have a few more hands to help.
When the Newtown brewery was expanded we took the opportunity to install a brand new distillery, crafted for us by an 8th generation moonshiner from Tennessee. It’s beautiful and state-of-the-art, which is fitting because we reckon distilling, like brewing, is a beautiful art. In the near future, Young Henrys will be making our own high quality, hand crafted spirits using uniquely Australian ingredients.