I’ve enjoyed a few Pacific Ales at Stone and Wood Brewery in Byron Bay over the years – at industry events, fundraisers, festivals of the stone and village gatherings. But it hadn’t been on my radar to join a Stone and Wood Brewery tour until recently when Mr GFAF and I thought it would be a fun way to spend a rare free Saturday afternoon. It turns out we weren’t the only ones who had that brilliant idea!
Stone and Wood Brewery in Byron Bay is on Boronia Place in the Arts & Industrial Estate. For the best part of the last 10 years it’s been the company’s HQ where the first batch of Pacific Ale (my favourite) was brewed by Brad and his businesses partners in beer Jamie and Ross. Today, small beer runs are still brewed onsite and there is a cellar door for tastings, merchandise sales and brewery tours.
Stone and Wood Brewery tours run every day of the week except Tuesdays and cost $20 per person with a maximum group size of 12. Our afternoon brewery tour included two couples and a gaggle of female Norwegian university students with a penchant for beer. Where were you boys? I strongly recommend you book your brewery tour about one week in advance as they sell out quickly. Heads up – you also need to arrange a ride home from the brewery or walk home – safety first!
The tour starts with a cleansing ale as you wait for stragglers to arrive. We had a Green Coast Lager. Over a second bevvy – Pacific Ale this time – Karlin our tour host recounted the Stone and Wood story to the group – from the beginnings at Boronia Place to the second brewery opening in Murwillumbah during 2014 to plans for the future on the new site just around the corner.
We then learned about the ingredients in beer, before a costume change into ‘high vis’ vests and gum boots. Karlin walked us though the brewing area and upper deck where we learned about the beer making process and met Amy Winehouse. You’ll have to do the tour to find out! We also tasted some beer mid-brew straight from the vat. Are you counting the beers?
Time to derobe, collect our tasting paddles and gather around the table for a final taste of the Stone & Wood spectrum. Karlin explained that when Brad, Jamie and Ross started Stone and Wood they wanted to create a beer that you would drink at The Beach Hotel in Byron Bay after a flop in the surf with the sun on your back and the salt on your skin. That beer is Pacific Ale. Today, Pacific Ale is Stone and Wood’s best seller – making up more than 80% of their beer sales.
On our tasting paddle we also tried Cloud Catcher – a hops driven brew, Jasper – a malt driven brew, ESB – which stands for extra special bitter and was a bit funky but nice and The Prequel – which was the precursor to Pacific Ale. You can taste the similar nuances.
Karlin explained to our group that the Stone and Wood mantra is to be:
- Community minded
For example, all profits from the brewery tours are passed on to charity – just one way this very conscious brand likes to give back to the community. Last year they gave away $50,000 from brewery tour tickets.
- Fiercely independent
Stone and Wood is Australia’s second largest craft beer brewer behind Coopers. It’s not bad for a business that started with three beer drinkers who wanted to make their mark on a scene dominated by a pair of very big players.
- Environmentally conscious
Brewing waste is fed to cattle or composted and Stone and Wood has recently installed its own water treatment facility.
If you like beer a Stone and Wood Brewery tour is a must do when visiting Byron Bay – and you’ll be supporting a good cause at the same time. If you’re a Byron Bay local who enjoys beer, then why not play tourist and sign up for one of the Stone and Wood Brewery tours. It’s a great way to spend a few hours.