Jason Clifton – Micro Brewer

Comments (1) Interviews

A life long love affair with all things beer has seen Jason develop his craft to where he has become the consummate micro brewer.

Tell us a bit about yourself …

My wife and I have been in Port Macquarie for almost four years. We moved from Sydney to escape the hustle and bustle. Funnily enough, we had been camping at Crowdy Bay for years and had never been to Port, thinking that Laurieton was the big smoke. When I visited Port on business and discovered that there was an opportunity to invest and work in a local brewery, I rushed straight back home to pack.

When did you first develop an interest in beer – was it love at first taste?

My first recollection of the taste was when my dad used to reward me, for getting him a beer from the fridge, with a tiny mouthful. In those days, Dad kept a two litre glass flagon in the fridge, which you filled up via a tap at the bottle shop. The effort involved in lifting it out, pouring the beer into a glass without missing, and then carrying it to him without spilling meant that my mouthful was well earned. I haven’t always been able to drink the best available. While at university, financial constraints meant that the decision was made for me – buy the cheapest! But even back then, I was aware of the emergence of the craft beer industry in New Zealand, with Harringtons, Macs, and the Dux de Lux making some great beers. Since beginning my working life (and in direct correlation my disposable income), I have tried to experience as many different varieties and styles of beer as possible. Holidays and weekends away inevitably involve dragging everyone for a brewery tour or 50 km down a dirt track to find a guy who is brewing in his back yard. Not all of these detours pay dividends, but the majority involve an adventure and learning/tasting something new.

What started you brewing your own beer?

I enjoyed drinking different styles of beer, which very quickly led to a fascination of how they were made; what made them so different to one another; why are some bitter and some sweet; how do they get the banana flavour in without using bananas; and why the different mouth feel and aroma? These questions were very quickly followed by a trip to the homebrew shop, in search of answers. The rest is history. I started like the majority of people, with the can and a kilo of sugar, aptly named ‘Kit and Kilo’. The results weren’t exactly up to commercial standard and were generally drunk while holding my nose, so that I could neither smell nor taste them. I began investigating the processes used by commercial breweries and found a course run by Ballarat University, where the science and techniques used in the process were taught. At last – a class where you drink beer and pass! In essence, I brew beer for the same reason a chef cooks food, which is to experiment with flavours, textures, and to create something unique.

What’s your background in the brewing industry?

Through the various home brew clubs I have been involved with, I’ve met a lot of people. I’ve been lucky enough to meet people who have gone on to own breweries or brew professionally. These ongoing friendships are a great way of staying abreast of industry news and gossip. My move to Port Macquarie was for this very reason – to be part of a commercial brewery and brew professionally. I brewed for close to two years at The Little Brewing Company, before doing a Vintage at Cassegrains Winery. At present, I brew commercially at the Black Duck Brewery, which I then serve on tap at the Boardwalk.

How much beer are you brewing now?

I brew at home most weekends, perfecting recipes and trying new ideas. At present, I only brew commercially once every two months, while I fine tune recipes developed on a smaller scale into something that can be brewed on a larger one. I generally brew 50 litre batches at home and commercially anywhere between 200 and 400 litres.

What types of beer do you brew?

The easy answer is, “Everything”. Every ingredient is fair game. The first beer I brewed using grain was from rice. Other ingredients which have found their way into my brew pot include bananas, chillies, liquorice, candy sugar, nutmeg, pumpkin, plums, oranges, vanilla beans, bourbon, coffee, and my personal favourite, black jellybeans. Each country and area of the world generally has its own style, usually dictated by either a plentiful resource or unique quality. Recreating beers from the various regions, using the specific yeast strains and ingredients they are famous for, is a challenging and rewarding aspect of the hobby.

How much research/practice/development has gone into brewing your beverages?

Literally years. Some of the recipes I brew have been in development for over five years. You might brew them every couple of months, do yeast trials to evaluate how a different strain impacts on a control beer, or even ferment the same beer at different temperatures to accentuate a flavour(s). Ask most brewers, brewing at any scale, and there is always something more that they want to do, a piece of equipment that they want to add, or a change that they want to make. The process of brewing beer is never static.

What types of beer are your favourites?

My personal favourites are dark German wheat beers (Dunkel Weisen), Irish Red Ales, Chocolate Porters, and aromatic American style Pale Ales. Of my favourites, top of the list is the Dunkel Weisen. It is a beer brewed under strict regulations, called Reinheitsgebot, which only allows for the use of malt, hops, water, and yeast. A Dunkel Weisen has a mixture of chocolate and bitterness from roasted malts, and these flavours intermingle with banana and clove esters derived from the yeast and fermentation temperatures. The beer is generally a lot thicker on the palate, as a result of the wheat and crystal malt used, and is very ‘Moorish’ (please give me more!).

What are your plans to establish your own beer/business/label/marketing?

I have brewed my Irish Red commercially, thanks to the guys at the local Black Duck Brewery in Herons Creek. I’ve only brewed a couple of 200 litre batches to date, but there are plans to do a lot more. The beer will be released under the Doghouse Brewery label – aptly named, as that’s where I came up with the majority of my recipes (the adult’s version of the naughty corner). I aim to only produce on a small scale. My primary focus is to educate and get people excited about the variety of flavours and styles that are now available. I will do this through regular beer appreciation sessions, hopefully with the support and co-hosting of local eateries. There is an accompanying bi-monthly column in FOCUS and Facebook page called Beer In Mind. The aim is for people to share their ideas and experiences and to increase awareness of what is now available. Regular meetings will also be co-ordinated through this medium.

Where can people sample your product or contact you?

If people are interested in sampling the beer, it is currently on tap at the Boardwalk. People can make contact and stay in touch through the Facebook page, Beer In Mind. There is also an email address: beerinmind@gmail.com

Beer In Mind … Buy a man a beer, and he will enjoy it until it is gone. Teach a man to brew, and he’ll spend all his money on brewing equipment! Thanks Jason.

Interview by Jo Atkins.


One Response to Jason Clifton – Micro Brewer

  1. Dad says:

    Thanks! I’m now in the dog box. Your mother didn’t know about the reward for getting my beer!

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