Some may think Queensland surf-spot Burleigh Heads is an unlikely place for a brewery. But its beer is just brilliant
How inspiring is it when you meet someone who is happy – bordering on ecstatic – when they talk about their job? Two such folk head up the Burleigh Brewing Company, the only brewery on the Gold Coast and a good one at that.
“I love everything about it,” says Brennan Fielding of the operation he set up with his wife, Peta, in Burleigh Heads in 2006. “I love the history of brewing, and it turns out I love beer, too!”
Hawaiian-born Brennan began home-brewing while he was studying engineering at university, and ended up working in a brewery. He met Peta while she was living in Hawaii studying for an MBA.
“We met through mutual friends – over a beer, of course,” laughs Peta. “I moved back to Australia six years later with not only the MBA, but a husband and two kids.”
Why leave such an idyllic locale at all?
“Peta is originally from the Gold Coast,” says Brennan. “And it has great surf, but it didn’t have a brewery. We wanted to build a brewery from the ground up.”
And that’s exactly what they did, beginning as a duo and now employing 40 staff – 20 of them full time. They have a core range of seven core beers – four ales and two lagers – in international styles with a local twist, and all with fun names such as FIGJAM.
“Only about half the population understands what that acronym stands for,” says Peta. “It depends on where you grew up.”
[Note: The explanation is unfit to print. Let’s just say it’s something along the lines of “Fiddledly-dee, I’m good, just ask me”]
Then there’s their 28 Pale Ale: “It’s named after the near month-long swell that came through Burleigh in the 1970s. It was perfect surf – no one went to work for 28 days.”
Peta’s favourite, however, is the English-styled My Wife’s Bitter, part of their Bit on the Side department, which produces limited-edition batches that allow the brewers to experiment.
“In Hawaii, we named beers after our kids and I was like ‘where’s mine?’ I had the idea for the name. We say it’s brewed with love.”
All of Burleigh Brewing Company’s beers are free of sugar, chemicals and preservatives. It has a “local first” policy, which sees everything from the packaging to most ingredients produced or sourced nearby (although the hops are sourced from Europe, the US and Tasmania to create traditional beer styles). The base malt is from Toowoomba, and the water is straight out of the tap.
“Gold Coast water is fantastic for brewing,” says Brennan. “You don’t need to change the mineral content or the pH. It’s really soft water.”
Of the company’s local pride, Brennan says: “Traditionally, lager shouldn’t travel more than a one-day horse-and-cart ride from a brewery. As a nod to that, we started a label called Duke – because the duke is the leader of a region, not an entire country. Those beers can only be consumed by Dukelanders.”
Talking to the duo, you get the impression it’s not just beer they love – it’s the community. The first Friday of each month is their fundraiser, Brewhouse Bash, with live music, free entry, and all beer profits going to local charities and clubs, such as footy clubs, the surfing museum or the Gold Coast Disabled Surfers Association. So if you’re looking for community spirit on your travellers, get in there.
Try it yourself
Burleigh Brewing Company is open to the public every Friday night from 5pm to 8.30pm, with live music and a food truck (Brewhouse Bash first Friday of the month).
Brewery tours are held the first Saturday of every month. See their website for more details.
Monday to Friday, you can drop by the brewery for a takeaway six-pack or carton, even though it’s not officially open. Just buzz the buzzer. Keep in mind that no-one will answer on public holidays, though.
17A Ern Harley Drive, Burleigh Heads, Qld. Tel: +61 (0)7 5593 6000; burleighbrewing.com.au
NOTE: This story was originally published in Jetstar Australia’s inflight magazine