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Across the Nullarbor
In the Summer of 2014, Perth brewers Jack Cameron and Jared ‘Red’ Proudfoot led a convoy of associates, chums and troublemakers on a journey across the Nullarbor Plain. Their final destination? Adelaide, South Australia - where a modest 1,000 square metre plot in the inner western suburb of Hindmarsh was patiently awaiting their arrival.
It was here that duo established Pirate Life Brewing and with the site keys buried firmly in their back pockets, an ambitious build schedule was put in to place: Install a 2,500 litre brew-kit, hook up six stainless steel fermentation vessels, lock in a semi-automated canning system and begin brewing their very own recipes in just 12 short weeks. Never ones to shy away from a deadline, Jack and Red got to work; and with the help of MC (Jacks dad, hospitality veteran and founding CEO), they promptly began transforming the site previously used to house spare air conditioner parts in to a fully functioning brewery.
Pounding the Pavement
On February 12th 2015, 2,500 litres of fresh wort made its way to fermentation vessel number one (FV1) for the very first time at the Pirate Life Brewery. Fast forward two weeks and the guys would be packaging their maiden batch of 8.8% Imperial IPA in to 500ml, gunmetal grey cans. Next in tank was a 5.4% West Coast style Pale Ale, followed by the full flavoured, 3.5% Throwback IPA. All three were hop forward, unpasteurised and unapologetically bold.
Pirate Life launched officially to the public on Sunday the 1st of March 2015 at the Gilbert Street Hotel - followed by bars and bottle shops across the country. Hundreds of tastings ensued, as punters lined up to meet the crew and get the low down on the beers. By mid December, a thirty capacity showroom had opened on site just metres from the brewery itself. Fresh cans, official merchandise and cracking service were all on offer as a dynamic culture began to form. In ten short months, cellar capacity had increased by 140% and the growing team of seven were responsible for brewing, packaging and distributing just under half a million litres of beer.
One year of beer
Tick, tick, tick, tick...Boom!! The party kicked off in January with the GABS Hottest 100 Australian Craft Beers of 2015. The IIPA and Pale Ale took spot 3 and 4 respectively – not bad for their countdown debut . Eight weeks later and Pirate Life would be back at the Gilbert, this time celebrating the brewery’s 1st birthday along-side a capacity crowd of 1,500 and a fleet of keg juggling acrobats from Cirque Alfonse. Here punters were introduced to the now iconic Baby Blue ‘IPA’ for the very first time.
In May, PL joined renowned Hip-Hop Crew ‘the Hilltop Hoods’ on their national tour, where their recently canned collaboration ale ‘Golden Era’ was a massive hit at the pre-show Warm Up sessions. If it was simply the hop and not the hip you were after, fellow new can release ‘Hopco’ had hit shelves too. The colab 4.8% NZ Pale was big on the citrus and scintillated in a vibrant green tinny. A nod for Champion Small Brewery from the AIBA and a whopping 1.4 million litres produced had the entire team buzzing in 2016.
Mo Tanks, Mo Art and Mo-saic
Mo of everything! 2017 saw the IIPA rise from 3rd to 2nd place in the GABS Hottest 100 Countdown, as the fresh faced ‘Baby Blue’ IPA nabbed 5th spot. Days later the crew would begin work on their brand new GABS recipe - the now infamous ‘Vanilla Malt Shake IPA’.
The 2nd Birthday Bash in March took the Gilbert to capacity once again, as punters were treated to a variety of specialty brews including a 7% single hopped IPA simply titled ‘Mosaic’ - which would go on to electrify a nation of craft drinkers.
The fun didn't stop there, as collaborations with industry giants Ballast Point and the newly renovated Port Admiral Hotel in Port Adelaide took the years can release tally to four. Brisbane based artist Steen Jones got in on the action too, providing designs for both the 'Trans Pacific Partnership' can and the brewery's huge north facing wall.
By Christmas, the team at Hindmarsh had produced over 2 million litres of beer, with a total of 27 fermenters continually filled to the brim. It was also in late 2017 that the crew welcomed new parent company AB InBev, who would help catapult Pirate Life in to the stratosphere…
When Pirate Life Brewing sold in November of 2017, their passion for great beer wasn't sold with it...and neither was their work ethic. In 2018, the brewery’s new site at Port Adelaide went from cut concrete to full scale operation in just five months, while the Hindmarsh facility would max out, producing a mind numbing 3.16 million litres for distribution that year. Just another day at the office.
As was now customary, the first Sunday in March played host to a variety of new birthday releases. ‘Unfazed by the Haze’, ‘Black’ and the collaboration 'Alfonse Ale' flowed relentlessly from the Gilbert Street Hotel's fonts, while a ‘Strawberry Milkshake IPA’ perplexed and delighted patrons simultaneously.
Jack and MC took to the road in August, for what was dubbed the ‘Unfazed Tour '18’. With six fresh releases in tow, the gents hit up nine venues in eight consecutive nights - all in separate states.
By the time they had returned, construction at the Port Adelaide Brewery was well under way, with cranes and fabricators flying in every direction. To help keep things grounded, PL commissioned artist Mike Makatron to paint a 40m flying peacock on the woolshed's north facing wall. It was starting to feel like home already...
A new home for Pirate Life.
2019 would prove to be an odyssey of imagination, wild celebrations, rattling spray cans and genuine hard yakka, as Pirate Life Brewing opened its new world class facility in the heart of Port Adelaide. Built in 1938, the Dalgety Woolstore was once the pinnacle of technology in its field and was now home to a 5000 litre brew kit, a 20 metre bar and a family of excitable Pirates.
After a whirlwind three months erecting the hospitality space, it was launched to the public on March the 9th 2019, where crew celebrated with over 4000 punters across the day. Fresh beers (and some old favourites too), a gamut of local food trucks, Cirque Alfonse tossing kegs and an array of local, national and international artists pulled it all together for a truly memorable 4th Birthday. The venue opened its doors at 11am the following morning, and would keep them open, 7 days a week, from then on.
On a production front, Pirate Life would deliver on its promise to release 50 new beers in 2019, with the official count sitting at 52 by October's end...