Kieran Medhurst has been around Sydney’s beer circles for some time now. His latest venture, Medhurst & Sons, is a specialist craft cider and beer shop in Glebe.
“I do the occasional celebrity shift on a Monday or a Sunday,” says Kieran on his time at Beer Cartel, “but yeah the inspiration actually came from there.
“There were a lot of people coming in and asking whether we had any good cider and when I said no they’d then ask where they could actually find some and I just couldn’t give them a particularly good answer.”
Kieran’s time at Beer Cartel provided not just the inspiration for Medhurst & Sons but also a considerable amount of practical advice.
“It was rather helpful being able to ask a lot of the stupid questions of the owners of Beer Cartel. And they’ve been very good ever since, acting as mentors.”
But Beer Cartel isn’t where it began for Kieran in the craft beer world. After graduating with a degree in aviation management just as airlines were laying people off, Kieran began a career in IT. It’s a path into craft beer which is surprisingly common.
“I started home brewing probably pretty much when I started in IT, which disturbingly is the trend for a lot of people in the industry,” says Kieran. “It’s disturbing, IT’s representation in craft beer. There’s something wrong that’s sending people from IT into craft beer.”'It’s disturbing, IT’s representation... There’s something wrong that’s sending people from IT into craft beer.' Click To Tweet
After a while, Kieran’s enjoyment of brewing and the quality of his beer led him to do it on a larger scale.
“I got chatting to Tim from HopDog Beerworks,” says Kieran, “and he was kind enough to let me brew the initial batches down there.
“So I drove down there, brewed them down there and very thankfully had Tim watching over correcting any major fuck ups.
“There was a really good manager working at Frankie’s at the time who now runs the Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern and yeah, he effectively bought all the beer I made. He didn’t actually like the beer… but he bought every single batch as soon as I brought it back to Sydney which was really helpful.”
Challenges For Gypsy Brewers
Pixel Brewing has taken something of a back seat since Medhurst & Sons opened, mostly because of the time it takes to brew but also because, as Kieran says, “Sydney has a distinct lack of a gypsy brewery”.
“There’ll be a little bit of spare space here and there but it generally lasts for two or three batches.”
Kieran speaks of his frustration with nailing the process after a few batches on a brewery’s system only for them to run out of capacity.
“It’s very difficult to get particularly good consistency when you’re gypsy brewing. And just in Sydney finding any spare capacity, in a brewery where you kind of trust the processes to result in a good product, is particularly difficult.”
The Australian Craft Cider Landscape
“It’s a lot, lot, lot younger,” emphasises Kieran. “In Australia there’s around about fifty or so producers and at the moment I’ve only been able to get my hands on about thirty of them.”
The increase in demand for local craft cider has come from an unexpected place; the rise of sweet “ciders” (Kieran uses finger quotes when he refers to them), such as Rekorderlig.
These beverages have drawn growth into the craft cider market through a raised awareness, particularly as people begin to look for increased variety and quality.
Whereas craft breweries are popping up in inner city suburbs all over the world, cider making lends itself to apple growing areas. In Australia that’s limited mostly to Victoria and Tasmania, with some in New South Wales, a few in Western Australia, and “nothing in Queensland because it’s too bloody hot”.
Cider Drinkers And Beer Drinkers
While cider is the focus of Medhurst & Sons, Kieran also stocks an incredible variety of canned beer.
Kieran finds that people come into the store wanting either beer or cider, but rarely both. But that doesn’t mean beer drinkers can’t be sold on craft cider.
“I think the best way to get beer drinkers into cider is to introduce them to ones that are small and handcrafted and actually taste like a real unique flavour.”
Craft Beer Tinnies
“The biggest factor in it was space,” says Kieran on why cans feature so prominently. “Having a fairly small space I needed a somewhat unique niche that I could kind of sell to people as a reason to come by. And no one was really doing a focus on tinnies and it was a part of the market that was very, very quickly growing.”
While beer in cans is starting to take off, and people are getting more familiar with the benefits of tinnies, there’s still an education process for some consumers.
“After about three months of answering questions I got a little bit shot of it,” says Kieran, “and just spent about an hour going through breweries’ websites and articles and noting down all the reasons cans are technically better than bottles and put them up so every time the question gets asked there’s a much easier and simpler way of letting people know.”
As Kieran talks about this he glances over to chalk board wall, scrawled with dozens of reasons why the humble tinny is so good.
A Trendy Pseudo Bar
The trouble many beer venues in Sydney have with licensing is well documented. Fortunately, Kieran Medhurst found it relatively easy but it wasn’t without some interesting debate and unique restrictions.
“I did pretty well actually. I managed to get my licence in about four months.
“The police had some very interesting comments on my licence. They were under the assumption I was opening a,” and Kieran uses finger quotes here, “‘trendy pseudo bar’ on the premises.”(The police) were under the assumption I was opening a 'trendy pseudo bar'. - @medhurstandsons Click To Tweet
“They expected it to be a small bar and bottle shop, which truth be told I’d like it to be but it’s not really legal under New South Wales’ liquor laws.” (Something that Johnathan and Clint at Bucket Boys know all about.)
Kieran can’t provide large samples, only 30ml pours, the opening hours for the store are shorter than they otherwise could be, but most interestingly of all, he’s only allowed to sell independent products.
“That’s to stop me from selling the store to Coles or Woolworths and it becoming a BWS or a Liquorland.”
Credit where it’s due, a least someone is thinking about the future of Glebe. And the restriction to independent products is in keeping with Kieran’s aims for Medhurst & Sons.
But Why Glebe?
Glebe seems a natural fit for Medhurst & Sons, and being a part of the local community is important to Kieran, especially in these early days.
“I’ve got a particularly good base of locals which is nice. Everyone seems to appreciate having me here and I’ve not had any complaints or problems which has been good.”'I’ve got a particularly good base of locals which is nice.' - @medhurstandsons on life in Glebe Click To Tweet
Kieran points to the practicalities of it being close to the city but with ample parking and with relatively little competition nearby.
“I just fell in love with this space. I love the little heritage shop front.”
However, word soon gets around whenever anything like Medhurst & Sons pops up. People are soon attracted to a new and exciting specialist offering that can’t be found elsewhere.
“I’m slowly starting to see more people come in chasing the range of cider which is pretty good because that’s effectively what I want to be doing, bringing people in for the widest range of cider.”
As for what the future holds for Medhurst & Sons, Kieran’s sights are on “getting a feel for what goes down really well with customers and just focusing on that.”
He plans to grow slowly and bring in a few more ciders. “But while doing that,” he says, “refining the range so it’s only particularly high quality cider that people are going to enjoy, talk about and come back for, and rave to people about.”
Find Out More About Cider
“Apart from that,” Kieran says, “it’s just tasting your way through what’s available to try and see what takes your fancy.”
A lot like craft beer then.