Last month, a group of Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens players joined RUPA for a fact-finding mission with one thing in mind… learning about, and tasting, some great beers!
Camperdown’s Wayward Brewery is fast concocting a reputation as a major player in the nation’s booming craft beer market, and for Sam Caslick, Lewis Holland, Conor Mitchell, Sam Myers, Jesse Parahi and Stephan van der Walt the Wayward Brewery Cellar Bar represented a great place to hear some of the intricate details of running a successful brewery.
“It’s great to have opportunities to do things away from Rugby like this,” Van der Walt said. “(Player Development Manager) Gina Rees does a great job in organising different things that enable us to develop new skills and think about what we’d like to do away from Rugby.”
The experience involved tasting ten different Wayward Brewery beers, a full tour of the brewery and bottling plant and a question and answer session that focused upon the history of the company and some of the struggles and obstacles a small business has to overcome.
It’s a bit out of the norm for what Rugby players are traditionally thought to be learning about in their spare time, but taking inspiration from the two Saracens players who set up Wolfpack Lager in the UK it proved beneficial for the group.
“On the way home, we were all talking about how much we enjoyed it,” Stephan said. “It wasn’t necessarily exactly what we expected, but it was good and we got a great business perspective of what they do and how they started; that’s what I took out of it the most.
“Something that stood out for me was that they need to turn over a million litres minimum per year before they start making a profit! It’s such a significant number, and without their bar they’d possibly be operating at a loss at the moment, but they’re doing it with passion and looking to expand which is great. All of the boys who attended were already quite business-minded players anyway, and we found it all very interesting.
"Opportunities like this take your mind off Rugby and allows you to really enjoy each other’s company as people rather than just players.”
Van der Walt and the other boys were careful to taste the beers responsibly, with an early morning session for some the next day and three of the boys currently rehabbing from injuries.
“Friendy (Head Coach Andy Friend) didn’t give us any grief about doing a beer tasting course on our day off; obviously, we had to be really responsible about it and make sure that we remembered our job comes first and we had training the next morning!
“There was talk of investing in home brewing kits on the way home from the brewery, but we’ve still got a lot to learn. I think Sam Caslick and Sam Myers knew the most about the different beers, but Jesse Parahi had no real clue what was going on,” he laughed.
Wayward Brewery’s Jason Adair enjoyed having the boys in for the tour.
“It was the first time we’ve had a professional sports team come through as a group, and it was awesome,” he said.
“I felt bad that some of the boys were all having tiny sips of beers because they were very conscious of their training first thing the next morning, but it was cool and the boys seemed to really enjoy it. They were full of questions, wanting to know about the different styles of beer, different brewing techniques and the way the hops and malts work together to come up with the final product.
“Now they can start having a crack at home brewing if they’re keen to take their interest further, and they can definitely reach back out to us if they want to learn more.
"At the end of the day who says you can’t be a Rugby player and a brewer as well!”
Wayward Brewery’s Cellar Bar is open from Thursday to Sunday, with food trucks visiting on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; for more information, check out their website.