Dave Phillips is the man behind Dave’s Brewery Tours, one of the most interesting ways to experience beer in Sydney. Jamie Carlyon is his right hand man.
Thanks to David and Jamie (pictured) for taking the time to answer a few questions for SydneyBeer.
There are many ways to experience craft beer in Sydney. Dave’s Brewery Tours is up there with the best. It’s a unique and interesting way to get into the nitty gritty of Sydney’s awesome beer scene.
Passion and Timing
We all know how much craft beer has grown in Sydney over the last few years. Dave’s Brewery Tours has grown with it so I asked Dave Phillips whether he got into it at the perfect time.
“Our involvement was well timed, but not strategically, it just happened”, says Dave.
As with many people who get into the craft beer industry, the trigger was a combination of dissatisfaction with a routine and a great love of beer. That’s what did it for Dave.
“I was not enjoying what I was doing in my 9-5 and simply loved having beers close to the source, learning about those who make the beer and simply being within the production environment,” explains Dave.
“It was a bonus that the beers being brewed were tasty! We struck upon an alignment of things – our passion, a growing interest in local beer, good relationships with the breweries and some money to make it all happen (tourism start ups are not gold mines).”
Jamie Carlyon Comes On Board
Jamie Carlyon is the Ops Manager for Dave’s Brewery Tours. His first encounter with Dave was as a punter on a tour in August 2014.
“My wife bought a tour for me as a birthday present”, says Jamie. “Me and three of my mates – we had a great time, we had a really fun time!”
“It wasn’t what I expected at all. I expected it to be more of the Carlton United or Toohey’s experience but it was exactly what I wanted it to be. We saw a whole bunch of new places and tried a whole bunch of new beers. I thought ‘wow this is amazing, I’ve got to be involved in this somehow’.”
On meeting Dave, Jamie says, “Dave was awesome. You could just tell he was absolutely loving what he was doing.”
The Business Starts To Grow
And the enthusiasm was infectious. Jamie is forthright in saying he always wanted to be involved in the beer industry but again it came down to serendipity. “It was the right timing and apparently it was the right timing for Dave as well.”
The pair started running tours together later that year, with Jamie starting to work weekends when he could tear himself away from his regular job. At the beginning of 2015 Jamie started running tours on his own and it’s already changed a lot since then.
“We’ve started running tours every single day so it’s really changed a lot and we’ve found some good guys to work for us,” says Jamie,
There are many who consider themselves massive beer geeks, myself included, who come away from a tour having learned something.
And Jamie seems the same, as he says, “I learn something on every tour because everyone brings something new to the story, whether it’s an anecdote or a story or a joke.”
However, for many others who might not be knowledgeable about beer or the brewing process, the tours present a massive opportunity for learning. Both Dave and Jamie share an opinion on the role they play in educating guests.
“We play an informal role in educating drinkers”, says Dave. “I love helping people learn more about beer and brewing, but what I love more is doing our bit to highlight and showcase our local producers. This is the core of what we’re about.”
These sentiments are echoed by Jamie, “I think the teaching is secondary to giving them the experience and the opportunity to try the different range of beers that are out there.”
However, it’s not just about beer styles or the brewing process where education is important but about a better culture of drinking.
“We’re also trying to show people that it’s not necessarily about the quantity of the beer,” says Jamie, “but more about the quality of the beer you’re drinking, and tasting sizes are a really good way of finding that out.”
The moment of beer epiphany is a really interesting concept, so to be able to witness them regularly, according to Jamie, is very rewarding. “For us it’s great because we can see that we’ve changed someone’s perspective on what beer is.”
Dave adds, “we do get guests who aren’t into beer and it’s satisfying to help them move from not being a fan early in the tour through to being an appreciator by the end. I have a few guests who still email and message me with photos of their beer adventures from across the globe. It’s great!”
Furthering That Education
Dave describes the tours as “an entertaining education in beer, brewing and our local scene.” While experiencing local beer is the primary focus, Dave is starting to turn his attention to more formal education.
“It’s led to me working with some other beer industry leaders to form the Institute of Beer (IOB),” says Dave. “We recently completed an agreement with Cicerone to bring their programs to Australia and New Zealand, and have completed the first round of Cicerone exams in Sydney and Melbourne.”
“IOB and Dave’s are working on a range of beer education offerings, from informal to certification and it has something for everyone, from casual consumers, hospitality staff through to brewers,” adds Dave.
The Future For Dave’s Brewery Tours
Dave’s Brewery Tours is constantly evolving. For Jamie, it’s about “giving people lots of opportunities.”
He explains that this includes running corporate tours with some of the bigger players in beer. These industry folk are looking to train their managers so “they can see and understand the ethos behind the craft beer industry.”
With beer consumption overall declining but the craft segment growing, Jamie says, “it means that they’re not pretending that it doesn’t exist.”
Elsewhere, the business is expanding through new tours or extending existing tours. There’s an ever increasing number of breweries that are worth including both in Sydney and up and down the coast.
The Sydney Beer Scene
If you’re reading this you probably won’t be surprised to hear that people are generally very positive about beer in Sydney.
“I think most people are fairly impressed with what they see,” says Jamie. “I think people come to Australia and go ‘wow, it’s really impressive’ and at the moment there’s a lot of great beers, a lot of great flavours, and a lot of really interesting things.”
On people’s reactions, Dave says, “by and large, it’s surprise. Locals and visitors alike tell us how surprised they are with how many breweries we have and the quality of beers on offer.”
Introducing people to an industry about which he’s so passionate is an obvious perk of the job for Dave Phillips. “I’m proud to be able to show off our local beer scene and to make it easy for so many people to learn about what we have and get a behind the scenes view and taste. We have a great local beer scene, full of terrific characters and stories, so it’s great to be a part of people’s discovery of all of it.”I’m proud to be able to show off our local beer scene. - Dave Phillips, @DavesBrewTours Click To Tweet
Diversity And Growth
As for the most exciting thing happening right now in the Sydney craft beer scene, both Dave and Jamie seem united.
“Diversity and growth,” says Jamie. “Even for the hardened beer nerds, they are having a hard time keeping up with the range of beers on offer across our city now.”
“And for the uninitiated, it’s exciting to think they have all of it yet to explore. For me, watching and being a part of the growth of so many local businesses is encouraging. There’s nothing better to a local beer fan than seeing new stainless steel being installed in your local breweries.”There’s nothing better to a local beer fan than seeing new stainless steel being installed in your local breweries. Click To Tweet
And this growth looks set to continue. “I think that there’s a lot of people out there who are looking at what’s being done or what has been done and they’re starting to get some really good ideas about what they can do,” says Jamie.
The Craft Ethos
The Dave’s Brewery Tours website mentions collaboration, community, passion and stories. These are more than buzzwords. Like here on SydneyBeer, they are an ethos. It’s an ethos shared by the wider craft beer world and, in essence, what makes craft “craft”.
Dave sums this up nicely. “To me, it’s community. I love the places and people we get to go and meet whilst doing what we do, and what links them is more than beer, it’s their passion, scars and stories of doing what they love and sharing it.”
That’s a sentiment I can get behind wholeheartedly.
If you get the chance, I’d recommend going on a Dave’s Brewery Tour. I wrote about my experience of the Northern Exposure tour which should give a bit more of a taste of what to expect.