Oliver Stubbs & Shannon Crawford

Inspired by some of their favourite pales, Oli & Shan set out to create a beer packed full of citrus and tropical fruits using heavy whirlpool and dry hop additions of Amarillo and Simcoe. A lean malt base with a touch crystal keeps things balanced and finishes with a firm bitterness that makes you go back for more - the perfect summer ale!

Brew day at Watts River Brewing (Ben from Watts River - bottom left, Shan - middle, Oli - right)

Brew day at Watts River Brewing (Ben from Watts River - bottom left, Shan - middle, Oli - right)

We interviewed Oli & Shan to get to know them and their brewing journey.

So let’s begin at the start, how did you guys meet?

Shan:                Both of our first born kids were born in the same month. Our wives were in the same mother's group, they became friends and we got to know each other. We both had similar interests - lived close together and we both liked beer, and at heart we are both nerds.

Oli:                   That’s right! Most Friday night we would catch up for drinks, and chess. Now pretty much every Friday night it’s chess and beer… We also watch quite a bit of YouTube, which are usually brewing videos.

Why did you choose the American Pale Ale?

Shan:                For a while we've been trying to brew a really good American Pale Ale that's something we can always go back to and have on tap while we experiment with other beers. We were trying to nail the perfect pale ale, really. We tried quite a few different things and eventually zeroed in on something we were really really happy with. And it's a beer that every Friday night, it could be in the middle of winter or on a hot day in summer, and we'd be happy to drink it.

Oli:                   A good pale is something that appeals to a lot of people. Obviously we're really into our IPAs and similar brews. A lot of our friends don't like beers like that, so just having a really good pale on tap that we can always go back to. We knew it was gonna be really good.

Brew Day at Watts River Brewing

Brew Day at Watts River Brewing

Tell us about your setup at home.

Shan:               So we've got a single vessel brew in a bag setup. It’s really simple and really ghetto. But, we make it work for us. If we do a single batch we no chill in a cube, although we stick the cube in an esky with ice and try to get the temperature down quick.

Oli:                   So we've got no immersion chillers or anything like that.

Shan:              No, nothing fancy. We do have a fermenting fridge though, so we control our temperature during fermentation. We think that's pretty important. So, if we do a double batch then, because we're only brewing a smaller amount we can make it up with cold water or ice and try and drop that temperature close to pitching temp. We keep everything nice and clean and we haven't had any infections. First thing the next morning we chuck the yeast in, temperature control during fermentation and then into kegs.

Label design by Oli himself!

Label design by Oli himself!

Tell us a bit about the process of brewing the pale?

Oli:                   Yeah, it was a brand new recipe. New hops we were trying, everything was pretty much from scratch. We also wanted to brew something that appeals to our tastes rather than having more of a mass appeal.

Shan:               Because we weren't really happy with the pale ales we'd made previously. I mean, they were all good enough and they were nice beers, you'd drink them. But they just weren't that killer beer we were after. I guess the goal post changed a bit too because at the start we were really aiming for a pale ale that anyone could drink and then probably we did that but we weren't satisfied with that I reckon.

Brew Day at Watts River Brewing

Brew Day at Watts River Brewing

How would you describe the Pale Ale?

Shan:                In terms of flavors and aromas, I get a good amount of orange and mango and maybe a little bit of passion fruit and grapefruit as well. It's got a nice lingering bitterness that after you've had a mouth full and the fruit flavors subside, you get that bitterness that makes you want to have another mouth full just... it becomes quite addictive then.

Oli:                   And different people we're giving it to as well are picking up on different aromas and flavors as well so I think it's a very interesting thing where people have such different palates as well. And that sort of came through from the judges comments as well, how varied it was. Lots of grapefruit, passion fruit, orange, and a nice bit of bitterness as well in the back end.

So why have you picked the name String Theory?

Shan:                I was saying he's a bit of a nerd before. We were saying earlier that on a Friday night we'll often sit there and watch videos on home brew. If we're gonna be bored with that we'll often watch videos on YouTube of astrophysics.

Oli:                   And it gets pretty deep.

Shan:              Depending on how many we've had and what type of mood we're in. So, it's just an area that interests us both.

Oli:                  We're talking about long term, if we continue this and turn it into a business, what could be a bit of a theme for the beers that we put out as well. Sort of finding a common theme that sort of represented the two of us. Sort of taps into that.

That was my last question. In terms of where you'd want to take this next year. Are you happy with the setup and to keep it running as it is? Or are there aspirations to take it bigger?

Shan:                I'd love to look at contract brewing and effectively do what you guys do. I'd like to establish a little bit of a brand name and see if we can get our beer into a few pubs and bottle shops around in our local area, and so far the people we've spoken to are really keen on supporting local produce so to speak.

Oli:                   It's one of those things that we've talked about a bit and I think winning the competition was kind of like we can actually brew good beer so potentially this could be an option for us.

Shan:              Yeah exactly. It gives us also a bit of a head start if you want to do something like this, this competition enables us now to

Oli:                  To get a brand name.

Shan:              And then we can try to market that a little bit. It's not a huge investment to then go ahead after this competition's over to go and do another batch and get it out there. And if we can't sell it then it's not a huge loss.

Oli:                  We can drink it.

Shan:              Well that's not the worst thing in the world either, is it? Its not like we have to invest a heap of money to be able to contract brew. There's not much returns, but it's about establishing a brand. It'd be great if we could sell our beer. You see people who really like cooking and they cook a meal and then someone eats it and the joy they get out of seeing someone really enjoy what they're eating. Whenever I see someone drink a beer I've made and they say "this is great, I really like this" it's -

Oli:                  It's very fulfilling.

Shan:             The more people that can drink my beer, the better!

If you are keen to try Oli & Shan’s Pale Ale, click on the big buy beer button below