Can’t Keep Them Away – Pirate Life: Meet the Brewer

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Words by Dave Canham and Rob Edwards.

In the midst of what can only be described as a typical British summer, a miracle occurred. The clouds dissipated, the sun beamed down and Birmingham started radiating with uncharacteristic warmth. The only possible explanation – The Aussies were descending on the Midlands.

Back for round two, Pirate Life Brewing, all the way from Adelaide, were hosting another tap takeover at The Wolf – but this time with owner, brewer and CEO – Michael “Mick” Cameron!

Having been seriously impressed by their range last time and not wanting to miss a chance to see our best pal Sean (Robertson, sales and marketing manager for Pirate Life in Europe) again, Rob and I hightailed it down to Brum, with our mouths salivating at the prospect of another Mosaic IPA.

We arrived just before the brewers, who were running late due to some unforeseen train line disruption (on a bank holiday?! Shocker). As we were getting settled and pondering life over the holy grail of Mosaic hopped beers, Sean came over to say hello and introduced us to Mick. From there proceeded 3 hours of non-stop story swapping, beer musing and spirited ribbing.

Wind in their sails

During our time at the event, we talked to the guys about some of the exciting plans Pirate Life have in the works:

  • They are looking into opening a UK brewery! No date yet, but the prospect of this is extremely exciting.
  • Having earlier this year completed their first transcontinental collaboration with Ballast Point in San Diego, the yanks are flying over to Australia soon for round two. The first cans of Pirate Life X Ballast Point – Transpacific Partnership Strong Pale Ale will be reaching our shores very soon. The San Diego brewers may have sold their souls to Constellation Brands, but we’re still really excited.
  • Mick and co have started their first barrel aging programme, with a cavalcade of tremendous sounding beers on the way: Double IPA with strawberries in Chardonnay barrels, stout in whiskey barrels, stout in Shiraz barrels, and a smoked fig porter. If any of these make it to the UK market, I’ll be a very happy chappy.
Ben Shipman from Tomfoolery Wines (left) filling up barrels with beer with Michael Cameron and Jack Cameron from Pirate Life Brewing watching

Mick Cameron (centre) and Jack Cameron (right) filling up barrels with Ben Shipman from Tomfoolery Wines (left)

A series of unfortunate events

Sadly, not all events can go off without a hitch. On our 2nd round of drinks, the Wolf’s cellar regulator had a meltdown, and the taps weren’t pouring right. Luckily, Josh, co-owner of The Wolf, was straight on the case and had it fixed within the hour. We felt for both the owners and for the Pirate Life guys – it’s a situation no one wants to see, and I admire both parties for handling it all so brilliantly. As a punter, we weren’t too put out – The entire fridge was stacked to the brim with Pirate Life cans and other delights.

The beers

And now I’m going to pass the buck and tag in the Edge to my Christian, Rob Edwards, to talk about the beers and give his take on the afternoon…

Hey there! Rob here. I’ll change to italics from here on so you know it’s me and not Posh Dave, as he will forever be known in Australia.

Stout

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At the last Pirate Life tap takeover at The Wolf, this was the one beer on draught that we didn’t get around to trying, so as soon as we heard that the next container was on its way over from Oz, Stout was firmly on the agenda. 

I’m pretty sure this was my first stout of the summer and hot damn, it’s good stuff. At 7.2%, it’s not quite in imperial territory, but it’s a big stout with flavour to match. The aroma brings to mind roasty malt, strong coffee and mollasses, with a hint of earthy hops. In terms of flavour, the Pirate Life boys have really delivered; chocolate, coffee, figs, raisins, rich, smokey, roasted malts, with a satisfyingly bitter finish.

The careful chosen combination of malts and oats really makes Pirate Life Stout for me, providing the full, syrupy mouthfeel that should be present in this style of beer. 

Simply put, this is a proper stout. The sort of thing I’m going to be going mad for all autumn and winter. Needless to say, I took a couple of cans home with me (one for me and one to convert my Guinness loving parents to the good stuff). 

Golden Era

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The second new (to us) offering that we got to sample was Golden era, the result of a collaboration between Pirate Life and Golden Era Records, an Australian hip hop label. The story behind this beer is an interesting one, dating back to co-founders Jack Cameron (Mick’s son) and Red Proudfoot’s days working for BrewDog.

I can’t say I know alot about Aussie hip hop, so I’ll stick to talking about the beer. Golden Era lives up to its name and pours a light golden, straw colour, with a white head (that leaves behind nice lacing on the glass, always a sign of quality beer). On the nose, it gives some citrus notes, with plenty of biscuity maltiness. To taste, cereal-like, biscuity flavours are very much forward, with a refreshing hoppy bitterness arriving later. The light carbonation contributes to a pleasing, medium mouthfeel.

It’s a tasty beer, certainly one that you could imagine enjoying a few frothies of at the beach (if you try really hard. It might make it easier to Google “South Australian beaches” and then try to imagine beach beers with your mates). That being said, this collab doesn’t quite stand up to Pirat Life’s core beers.

Don’t mess with Mick’s cold supply chain

A subject that we’ve touched on before is the care that Pirate Life put into making sure their beers stay fresh when they travel over 10,000 miles from South Australia to the UK. From the brewery to bars in the UK, all kegs and cans are transported in temperature regulated containers that keep to a consistent 3°C. Obviously, when the beers hit our shores, it’s much more difficult to control what happens to them, but on this occasion, Mick Cameron was here to make sure everything was done his way.

Despite my knowledge of the Pirate Life cold supply chain, I still managed to disappoint Mick. With the cans in the fridge selling well, I was concerned that I might miss my chance to take some Stout and Mosaic IPA home with me, so around an hour before leaving The Wolf, I quietly nipped away and bought some beer to take away. I tucked the cans away in my rucksack and rejoined the conversation.

About 10 minutes later, Mick told me he had a bone to pick with me. I knew straight away what I’d done. I’d taken the beers out of the fridge earlier than I needed to. In hindsight, I really could have asked the bar staff to keep some cans cold for me. Luckily, Mick is the nicest man in Beer, he told me so himself, so he was pretty cool about my misdemeanor. Phew.

Keeping international relations strong

Apart from the beer itself, what I believe makes the beer industry so great is how open brewers around the world are to sharing with other brewers and consumers alike. The more established brewing companies always seem to be happy to pass ideas back and with the new kids on the block and there seem to be exciting collaborations happening on an almost weekly basis these days. Meet the brewer events are more and more frequent, so fans like us get to give praise face to face.

Pirate Life Brewing

Co-founders Red Proudfoot (left) and Jack Cameron (right)

It’s pretty special to think that we could spend a Saturday afternoon sat at a table with someone with as much experience in the beer industry as Mick Cameron. Chilled out laid back, sharing a few drinks and telling stories. Despite all the differences in location, climate and general lifestyle, I can’t help but draw certain comparisons between Pirate Life’s home in Adelaide and the West Midlands region of England, where I’ve grown up and still live.

Birmingham and the Black Country often don’t get the recognition they deserve compared to other cities and plenty of jokes are made at our expense by people who don’t really know the area or the people. From what i’ve read and heard, Adelaide is also a great place that probably doesn’t get enough praise and is subject to plenty of snide remarks from Melburnians and Sydneyiders. What us West Midlanders and South Australians share in common is that we both know we’ve got a great thing going on and it doesn’t hurt us to badly if we keep it to ourselves!

Dave Canham

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