Young Henrys make craft beer. They make good craft beer. They make good craft beer with a local twist - their newtowner is all about celebrating the culture surrounding their brewery - and they embody that community spirit in more ways than one. So when they said they wanted locally grown lemons for one of their beers, we didn’t bat an eyelid. When they said they wanted the community to come in and help zest the lemons, we weren’t concerned. When they said that Josh Pyke, Newtown local and pretty solidly famous Australian musician, was their collaborator on the brew, we were a bit confused.
The Young Henrys brewery bar is normally quite a cool place to hang out. People milling around tables in an urban/industrial warehouse setting with the Young Henrys range on tap (obviously) and sometimes a food truck out the front is a great time. Today, two of those tables were dedicated to people peeling lemons brought from Grow It Local as well as from people’s actual backyards. The air smelled fresh, the energy was great, the people were enthusiastically telling us that they’d brought their lemons from home and were here to help zest them (including local Sydney band Lepers & Crooks - fun fact). One guy even brought a backpack full of lemons on the train from Canberra - that’s how much he wanted to be a part of the community that Young Henrys has worked so hard to create.
Somewhere in the fray sat the unassuming Josh Pyke, chatting to the people around him about whatever - what do they think of this band, or that song? How many lemons have they peeled? Have you cut yourself yet? I had. He pulled a guitar out of nowhere and edged onto one of the tables, playing gently while keeping up conversation with a couple of people who were clearly fans, here to help out by putting their best peeling efforts into the mix. Josh turns around;
“Do you know Wonderwall?” one of the guys sitting next to him says.
I’m sure he does know Wonderwall, but I’m extremely thankful that he didn’t play it. Instead, he busts out a stripped back, solo version of The Summer, the song for which the beer is named.
“So you came up with the recipe yourself?” I ask him, after the song.
“Yeah, I was into home brewing and I found this one hop called Summer, so I thought it’d be cool to do a beer that kind of coincided with the song” he replies coolly.
“How’d you get into home brewing?” I ask, not expecting anything like what he was about to tell me.
Basically, when he was about 16 years old, Josh and his best mate couldn’t get any alcohol. They couldn’t do the classic “get my older sister to buy it for me” move, and they couldn’t buy it themselves...but they could buy all the things you needed to make beer. They’d get all the ingredients, brew a batch, sterilise the bottles while Josh’s parents were out and then hammer on the caps (‘cause it was the olden days back then). They’d let it ferment in Josh’s cupboard and then a little while later have something alcoholic to drink without permission.
While that is an incredible plan and an even more incredible story, they got busted and Josh didn’t go back to craft beer for ages - until he was gifted a home brewing kit for Christmas a few years ago, when it all came rushing back.
“I found the hop that had the same name as one of my songs, and I thought that would be a great concept for a brew. Something summery, light and sessionable but with some depth and refinement to it. I want people to be able to drink it easily, but also appreciate the undertones.”
“That sounds good, did Young Henrys make any changes to the original recipe?” I ask, just as Sam, the YH head brewer, walks by.
“Not really” she says, “we just sat down with Josh and went through the different types of hops and thought about what we wanted it to come out like, and what would get the best result”
Josh chimes in at this point; “I think the creative process of brewing is similar to the creative process of writing a song. When I’m in the studio recording or producing a song, I’m thinking about what could take it to that next level - what do I need in this part? Is it something high frequency, low frequency or middle of the hill range? I think it’s the same with beer.”
“Yeah definitely, craft beer is a creative process” Sam continues, “and with this one we just kind of sat down and said “Okay you’ve got a beginning and an end let’s give it a bit more middle” and that was it. We really liked his brew from the start, and with Josh being a local it was an easy choice for us.”
To us, it seems like this brew is gonna be something to watch out for. It launches January next year, to coincide with the start of Josh Pyke’s But For All These Shrinking Hearts national tour. It’ll be available at or around the venues he’s playing, and we think it’s gonna go really well with the vibe of the shows. You can tell he’s put a lot of thought into it himself, and really decided on the best ingredients to complement his style of music. As well as that, Young Henrys - one of Sydney’s most successful craft breweries - having his back has gotta be a confidence boost.
Thanks very much to Young Henrys & Josh Pyke for having us at their zest-a-thon, it’s always a pleasure hanging out with you guys, chatting about craft beer and taking some photos.
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thoughts & feelings - extended edition
This is where we at Sydney On Tap post all the things that couldn't fit into the paragraphs on each bar page, or the comments under each beer.