We talk to Adelaide-based brewery Pirate Life about bold flavours and conquering New Zealand
Words by Jai Breitnauer
If you were at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in March 2015, you would have enjoyed some great comedy, incredible music, and perhaps a new boutique brew called Pirate Life. “Launching at the Fringe wasn’t intentional,” says Michael Cameron, one third of the team behind Pirate Life. “It just so happened the brew was ready. It was great timing.”
Their strong hop-first style of brewing was well received by the Australian market, which was ready for something new. Pirate Life went international that August, taking some really challenging markets – including the UK – by storm. “The brewing team consists of my son, Jack, and his mate, Jared Proudfoot, known to everyone as Red,” says Michael. “They’re young, but they’ve got great experience. They’ve both worked at Brew Dog in the UK, and Jack worked at Little Creatures in Freemantle while Red did a stint at Cheeky Monkey.”
The lads, best mates for many a year, would often meet up with Jack’s dad for a pint or two and talk about what they were working on. “Inevitably, every time we got together the boys would talk about starting up their own brewery,” says Michael. “I used to laugh it off as youthful passion, but after a while I began to get the message – they were serious. And they’re talented too, so I thought, ‘why not?’”
TAKING THE PLUNGE
Experienced businessman Michael set about raising capital while the boys started working on their dream brew. “Jack and Red are passionate about that West Coast American style; full-bodied, full of hops,” says Michael. “We use West Coast American hops that are very full flavoured and we’re proud to be one of the first Aussie breweries to have a crack at that hop-first style. The time was right for that type of beer in Australia.”
Pirate Life – the name was Jack’s idea – quickly became one of Australia’s fastest-growing breweries, and they attribute their success to a personal approach.
“We did more than 270 tastings at events in our first year,” says Michael. “If you can get people to try it, you’ve got half a chance of convincing them to buy it.”
Pirate Life has made 34 different beers to date and has eight core beers in its range including a 7% IPA made from 100% mosaic hops (the juicy yet dry hop variety loved by craft brewers).
“We do a lot of speciality brews in keg only, and always introduce new beers to our range. We’re working on our third birthday special, a strawberry milkshake IPA using nitrogen,” says Michael.
Two years ago, Pirate Life launched in New Zealand and currently all their products in cans are available here, including their award-winning IPA and Pale Ale. This is one Aussie craft brewery it’s worth flying the flag for.
Pirate Life beer is available at selected Liquorland stores throughout New Zealand