Byron Bay, New South Wales – quaint, fresh, simple and relaxed. With its laid-back southern charm, there’s shimmering sandy feet and salty hair all around. Plus, there’s a lighthouse – I’ve always had a thing about lighthouses. It soon became one of my favourite places in Australia. Born and raised in Byron Bay, it’s also home to Stone & Wood microbrewery, producing beers inspired by Byron Bay and supporting its community one keg at a time.
Started in 2008 by 3 guys – Brad, Jamie and Ross, with over 50 years combined experience in the corporate world of big-time brewing; it was time to start something that stood for something. Naturally this decision came whilst at a pub, drinking beer. Unlike most craft breweries starting small from their homes and expand into the market, the founders of Stone & Wood did things the other way around – they decided to open a brewery without any real direction on what to brew.
The idea was to handcraft brews for Byron Bay – a nice refreshing, easy drinking beer for after a day at the beach catching waves or just hanging out. And so their ‘Pacific Ale’ was born – cloudy and golden with a big fruity aroma from the ‘Galaxy Hops’ and a refreshing finish. Big on German-style brewing practices of taking things back-to-basics with nothing artificial added, just hops, wheat, barley, malt, yeast and water (don’t you like them already?). Their philosophy touches on 3 things – community, environment and staff. But the first beer in their portfolio (of now 6 – Green Coast Lager, Garden Ale, Pacific Ale, Jasper Ale, Cloud Catcher and the bigger brother to the Pacific Ale) was even more significant to one producer in particular. The ‘Galaxy Hops’ in their Pacific Ale comes from a grower in Tasmania. Before Pacific Ale this grower was ready to close their doors, but Stone & Wood stopped that.
The popularity of Stone & Wood soon meant that they were at capacity at their Boronia Place location, demand was greater than supply, so instead of selling out to a large brewer and mass producing, they decided to open up a warehouse in Murwillumbah. Anyone with a business knows that setting up a second location has so many risks involved, especially with the operation costs. But this move paid off. It meant the brewery could offer more jobs and produce more beer – from around 50 kegs an hour to 736 kegs an hour, the difference was huge.
Despite growing larger and larger, Stone & Wood have been true to their philosophy, rather than being blind sighted by its successes. Treading carefully on the earth whilst producing their beers they reduce, reuse and recycle, and then some! They donate leftover barley from the brewing process to local farmers for horse or pig feed, there are 480 solar panels on their Murwillumbah site helping reduce their need for electricity, and they currently have a 3:1 radio (3l of water to 1l of beer), where the industry average is 5:1. Now they are looking at installing an infrastructure to harvest water used to rinse bottles before filling the beer, so they collect this water into tanks and use it for cleaning and watering the garden.
The word ‘community’ is definitely ingrained in Stone & Wood. They offer a ‘Karma Keg’ for charity (where they can), with profits from selling beer at the event going to the charity. And once a month they open up their tasting room space for a couple of hours on a Saturday for a charity night, again with profits going directly to the charity.
Doing things properly is usually the hardest way of doing things, especially in the food and beverage industry. Simply put, it costs more. Stone & Wood didn’t have think about their impact on the community, staff or environment, but they did – right from their humble beginnings. There is a story behind the brand and the people they work with, and each decision has made a difference to someone’s lives. Anything small scale or independently owned tend to get lost in the market, but Stone & Wood let their message shine through. Their entire portfolio is delicious, but you can’t help but enjoy their beer more knowing all they do for their community. Supporting local is just one really easy way to make a difference. You can make a difference by drinking beer – all beer round (I like a good pun)! If you like beer, give Stone & Wood and others helping their community a try.
When beer can help do some good, it’s time to raise your glass and drink some more. For the record, I’m drinking to help the Byron Bay community. Now it’s time to ride my bike into town to catch my bus.
Stone & Wood
4 Boronia Place
Byron Bay, NSW
T: (02) 6685 5173