The Change Makers

Written by
Ben Canaider
February 16, 2017
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Find out who's making waves in the Aussie drinks industry.

The drink business is a particularly fickle beast, however, not dissimilar to the fashion industry, where today’s black is tomorrow’s beige. Managing change and adapting to consumer sentiment, setting new trends and leveraging the mood of the moment; drink industry professionals have to be acutely aware of these often intangible and emerging trends, whilst at the same time remaining true to some of the more immutable traditions of their area of expertise, whether it be winemaking, brewing, or distilling. Here are three snapshots of three change makers who make walking this tightrope look easy - and inspiring.

Will Edwards - Founder, Archie Rose Distillery, New South Wales

Opening a distillery in Sydney’s Rosebery with a bar attached, not to mention all the establishment costs and legal and licensing regulations might have been why the Emerald City had not had an operating still for 160 years. "We have to go back to about 1853 to find records of the last one", says Archie Rose’s founder, Will Edwards (pictured). Now a year old, this distillery has not only wowed drinkers with their range of spirits, but has also won an international award for their bar design. Best International Bar, if you don’t mind, at London’s Restaurant and Bar Design Awards. Edwards thinks Australia’s growing interest in small scale, local distilleries very much mirrors what has happened in the USA over the last decade, where local stills and bars with eateries have grown from tens to hundreds to thousands. A similar thing seems to be happening here. Of course, such a trend can’t work without a product of high quality behind it. Archie Rose Original Vodka and Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin are proof of the quality. The gin has each botanical component individually distilled before blending, and includes a few native Australian botanicals, such as lemon myrtle and blood lime. The team are also making a rare but very much in-demand white rye whisky, which bartenders go crazy for. It’s rye without the barrel ageing and colour, and is incredibly subtle and versatile. Oh, and Archie Rose? A 19th Century alias for a renowned Sydney bootlegger, so the story goes...

Nick Stacy – Founder and Managing Director, Vinaceous Wines, Western Australia

Nick Stacy discovered wine was special when he was 16 and got his first job in the hospitality business. His love for it - and, soon enough, selling it - led him to establish his own highly successful wine distribution business, which he sold to international luxury goods conglomerate, LMVH, in 2003. Shortly thereafter he set up Vinaceous Wines. These well-priced, engagingly and cheekily labelled wines represent some of the best wine varieties from the best regions in Australia - McLaren Vale Shiraz, Margaret River Cabernet, to name a few. He also chases the wine trend zeitgeist with Vinaceous’ Salome Tempranillo Rose and Voodoo Moon Margaret River Malbec - both wines feeding into a need among newer and younger wine consumers to find wines and wine styles they can call their own. Never stopping for breath, Stacy’s new Right Reverend V range of wines is bringing that sense of authenticity and location to wine drinking, with wines from special regions and single vineyards that speak more truly of from whence they come, as opposed to tasting like cut-and-paste Australian varietals.

Ben Kraus - Founder, Bridge Road Brewers, Victoria

Like many of Australia’s best craft and boutique brewers, Ben Kraus’ journey to beer was shocked into being by European experiences. A boy from North East Victoria’s Beechworth, he worked in a local winery after finishing high school, which led him into viticulture and winemaking. Working in wine and travelling overseas it was in Austria where he met two very important, life-changing things: amazing beer and an amazing woman. They later came to Australia and worked in Margaret River. Kraus was impressed by the burgeoning local craft breweries and had his Eureka moment, realising that he could do this - and wanted to do this - back in Beechworth. Bridge Road Brewers was set up much like a winery, with a café, a tasting room and a brewery that afforded visitors the ability to see the brewing process in action. As Kraus says, "The beers I drank so much of in Austria were so different to the Australian beers I’d drunk back in my university days. Beer, now, wasn’t what I thought it was…" Innovation is key at Bridge Road. Their Chestnut Pilsner is a flavour-packed beer made from chestnuts grown in the Beechworth Hills and using Galaxy hops from the hop gardens of the local Ovens Valley. Age old brewing practices adapting to local products - it’s why Bridge Road is helping to change the Australian beer landscape, for the better.