Steeping Leaves with Kym Cooper

Qualified Tea Master and Founder of tea retail and wholesale company, The Steepery, Kym Cooper joins us today for an interview on her journey to acquire and share knowledge of tea. 

She’s also been attributed to educating 2018 World Tea Brewers Championship Winner, Danny Andrade – a name you may recognise from Episode 55, alongside Will Sharpe at Di Bella. 

Kym has travelled extensively around the world – to tea houses, stores and estates – to understand global tea culture and since recording, has also released a nitrogen-infused sparkling tea line called East Forged.

For more episodes, follow the program wherever you get your podcasts.

The Tea Account with Jason Popelier

Jason Popelier is the CEO of FWO Chartered Accountants and CFO of Tavalon Tea Australia and New Zealand. He holds an MBA from The University of Queensland and presented a seminar on tea at the world’s largest coffee roasters competition and conference, The Golden Bean, in 2018.

As a Chartered Accountant, Jason works across a range of industries with High Net Worth individuals and consequently wears many hats – despite this, he’s still always found the time for me and been kind enough to share lessons over our many encounters. 

For more episodes, follow the program wherever you get your podcasts.

Dining Them with Craig Fox

Craig Fox is the Director and Founder of Wine & Dine’m, a full-service catering company that produces over 1250 events a year.

I connected with Craig through one of his staff reaching out on LinkedIn and then again from old colleague and now listener.

I’m really glad we found the opportunity to meet up because Craig has turned out to be one of the most insightful people that I’ve crossed paths with. 

For more episodes, follow the program wherever you get your podcasts.

Going Rogue

Almost two years after recording with The Hospopreneurs Podcast, Blake Hall has solidified his role as the Patient Wolf Brand Ambassador and is the leading mind behind the Front Of House at the popular Melbourne gin brand’s new Southbank distillery.

Outgrowing its original Brunswick site, Patient Wolf has stepped toward co-owners, Matt Argus and Dave Irwin’s vision for an urban distillery, in the heart of Melbourne.

Two years on, Blake is as charismatic as ever and continues to go from strength to strength, now managing an operation with many more moving parts – but an operation that he’s equally as passionate about and proud of.

It was a pleasure to catch up again and hear about their new distillery release, Rogue Barrel (made in collaboration with Wolf of the Willows Brewing Co.), that will be available when the new doors open very very soon.

What is Rogue Barrel? (ABV, tasting notes, barrel and history, cooperage, yeast, is the grain different to what Patient Wolf normally uses?)

We’ve seen some amazing barrel aged gins that are really bridging the gap with whisky drinkers. Instead, we wanted to look at a barrel as another botanical, adding new layers of complexity. To do so, we used a barrel from our friends at Wolf of the Willows, who released a ‘Brett Saison’.

The 200L barrel is made from French Oak and first came from a winery in country Victoria – we don’t know which one. It was used for ageing Chardonnay. Wolf of the Willows then picked it up to use as a fermentation vessel for 100% Brettanomyces Bruxellensis ferments (known as Brett Yeast – more on this available at the bottom of the article), which create their own microflora environment in the wood. This is a very unusual and unique process. The beer fermented in these barrels produced their Barrel-Fermented Brett Saison Beer.

Blake, other than the obvious Wolf-themed name, what made Wolf of the Willows appeal for a collaboration?

Wolf of the Willows is a craft brewery in Cheltenham, Melbourne. We recently did a collab beer for GABS festival – a Tom Collins inspired Sour Beer. It was hugely successful, rating third in the People’s Choice Award. 

Wolf of the Willows are a well respected Australian brewery. Other than the similarity with ‘Wolf’ in our names, there is great brand alignment and fit between us. Collabs such as this, drive a point of differentiation and hype.

How does this release fundamentally differ to other craft gin releases?

The key difference we can see is how unique the barrel is. 

First you have French Oak, imparting more savoury characters than its American cousin. Fill it with Chardonnay and you create something great. Ferment a beer with a rare, unique and aggressive yeast strain in said barrel… How could you turn that down?

Each element – be it gin, beer, wine or barrel – offers something unique to the final product. Lastly, this is a single barrel product. We’ll never be able to recreate the flavours in each bottle, as the barrel has now evolved.

What does it mean for the Patient Wolf portfolio? 

The next big step for us is our new distillery.

With a great bar, atmosphere and new stills on the way next year, this means we have a platform and space to release more experimental gins. This is hopefully the first in a long line of unique and interesting gins, and we’re incredibly proud of the end result. 

Is this a way for you to test the market for a permanent position in the Patient Wolf line-up?

Yes, however we put so much thought and consideration into everything we do, it really is more of a reveal and offering a great gin rather than testing. However if it absolutely kills it and everyone is loving it, absolutely, we’ll consider whether it moves into our core range or we go to a bigger scale with it. 

Do you have any hints on the next distillery release?

We have a few ideas. We have some really interesting barrel ideas among other things. Stay tuned. 

With many other brands now producing pink gins, what’s Patient Wolf’s position on the potential for a pink gin in the future?

We love the creative freedom that gin, as a spirit, offers the producer. We are open to anything, as long as the final product is a world-class product. We don’t compromise on quality.

There is a fine line between a gimmick and a credible product.

More on Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (aka: Brett or Brett Yeast):

Forward-thinking breweries have been looking at Brett yeast for a while now (I remember pouring an expression at Brisbane Brewing Co. in 2017) but what interested me, was its application in the barrel-ageing process of gin.

Blake Hall had this to say:

Brettanomyces (or Brett), is a wild yeast strain. It’s volatile and is considered a bit ‘rouge.’ Many think that Brett beers are funky and dry, however it can produce incredible tropical fruit flavours, like regular IPAs in hyper-drive.

And Scott McKinnon (Founder and Brewer of Wolf of the Willows) made this comment:

‘Brett is a very aggressive mircoflora, and needs to be handled with respect in the brewery. Wine makers loath it. For our barrel, I got lots of white peach and white pepper aromas and flavours from the barrel.’

The use of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis has been tempting-emergence in the United States over the past 18 months but is still currently an underground yeast strain.

Beer-Nerds and Industry are across it but The Common Gin Drinker isn’t.

Listening to Hospopreneurs is free, but not listening could cost a lot more.
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Backing Beef with James Madden

This is NOT an episode for vegans. We tread some polarising ground with animal welfare and veganism with James Madden, who explains why his company’s vision to ‘cultivate a better food world’ sees meat on the table.

Over a number of years, James has worked alongside his father, to shape what was originally a boutique lamb brand, into the portfolio his food service and meat distribution company, Flinders and Co. represents today.  

For more episodes, follow the program wherever you get your podcasts.

Global Table with Stevan Premutico

Scribbling on a napkin made Stevan Premutico a multi-millionaire.

While contemplating digital changes sweeping the hotel industry during the GFC, Stevan drafted in red in a cafe in London. That was the day that Dimmi was born.

After revolutionising the Australian restaurant industry, the popular reservation platform was acquired by TripAdvisor in 2015.

Now, as one of Australia’s leading tech entrepreneurs, Stevan is back to launch me&u – a customer ‘tap, order and pay’ application.

More on that in the episode. 

– Recorded live at Global Table in Melbourne

For more episodes, follow the program wherever you get your podcasts.

Honest Competition

A revealing conversation with bartender and serial-competitor, Alex Boon, by James Henderson

The tried-and-true method for establishing a personal brand, at the retail end of the hospitality industry, is by participating in (and winning) competitions.

In the Australian cocktail industry, Alex Boon has done precisely this – recently voted as Australia’s Top T25 Bartender of 2019, competing at the Diageo World Class Final in Glasgow and winning the Hendrick’s Cultivate The Unusual Mind competition (partnered with previous guest of The Hospopreneurs Podcast, Pez Collier), all within a few months.

Alex has built a strong brand as an Australian bartender, by taking advantage of cocktail competitions and joined Hospopreneurs for an honest conversation on where competitions lack and what they truly offer.

  • What competitions have you participated in?

Diageo World Class, The Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge, The Woodford Reserve Cocktail Challenge, Hendrick’s Hot Gin Punch, Bacardi Legacy – the list goes on and on. There have been so many.

  • How many in total?

Maybe ten different brands?

  • Do you have any favourites or standouts and what do they showcase?

The ones where you take something away from it, even if you lose. The prize is great, sure – obviously you’re looking to win – but when see someone competing who’s doing something cool, that’s pretty inspiring.

I think that’s what you should be doing it for – not just being number one or two, but when you can take something out of it.

  • What have the competitions that you’ve really liked, showcased better than others?

That’s a good question… When I’ve been part of a large group of people and become friends with everybody.

I think the best competitions are the ones where you’re the most comfortable and when you look back, you feel like it was a holiday – that it was awesome hanging out with those people. The comps that have the best people in them.

  • So what are the ‘the best people’ – are they good competitors, are they friends of yours, what are they?

Exactly! Both. In Australia, everyone is close-knit and knows each other – so when they come together to compete, it’s not like you’re competing, it’s like you’re hanging out with your mates.

  • What do competitions allow you to achieve?

So much. They open doors. When you compete for a brand, you’re pretty much jumping on stage and acting like a brand ambassador for them – for the eight minutes that you’re presenting your drink.

It’ll open doors by going to a brand or progressing in your role as a bartender.

  • What’s it done for you?

Obviously opportunities have opened up with other brands and such – but I’ve chosen to stay as a bartender and for that, it’s definitely elevated the style of drinks I make.

I see it when looking back at the drinks I did before and then after taking inspiration from the methods of people I competed against.

  • What’s really driven that decision for you to stay in venues rather than go down a brand route?

I like it! It’s fun, man – I love my job.

It takes a certain type of person to work for a brand and I’m not that type of person.

  • Although it’s the main tool used to build your personal brand, what do competitions lack in conveying about a bartender?

The main problem – and the problem that I see over and over again – is that people will win one and think that they’ve hit the top.

That’s wrong attitude to have.

The problem with competitions is that they can keep people back – they’ll just go ‘Sweet, I don’t have to do anything anymore’.

  • So what is that next level?

There’s no roof – you just keep going. There’s always stuff to learn.

  • Other than a brand or venue route though, what sort of avenues are available?

Look, not many. As far as potentially getting a job for a brand out of it or building your personal brand as a bartender, that’s about it, man.

The holidays are nice but the reason I’ve kept doing them is that it’s a test of my skills – in hopping up and talking in front of people and seeing if I can push myself further each time.

It’s a challenge and I like that.

  • What should the next generation of Australian bartenders be focusing on?

Serving people – making people happy, I think.

  • Is it lacking?

I’m not saying that anyone is lacking, but that service should be everyone’s primary focus, in hospitality – we’re here to serve people.

  • So what, in addition to what we’re doing now, should people be looking at next?

That’s a good question as well… Service.

  • So we are lacking?

Yeah, look, I don’t think we’re lacking but I think it can be better.

Compared to overseas, Australians are amazing but that’s what makes us amazing, our good service.

You can get a great drink in other places but when your bartender is lacking and you’re not getting your water topped up – stuff like that – the experience is lacking.

The new bartenders coming in, instead of focusing on competitions, should be focusing instead on ‘Is the music too loud? Is the temperature in the venue right? Is the person over there being looked after?’

Without trying to rock the boat or anything, I think everyone should be stripping everything back to basics and starting there – making sure the place feels right and that everyone’s happy.

Listening to Hospopreneurs is free, but not listening could cost a lot more.
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Why We Should Now Be Environmentally Conscious

Hint: turtles aren’t the only reason.

By Douglas Gilmour

Sustainability costs time, effort and money.

It’s another headache to add to the list of daily tasks of running a hospitality business. So why should the state of the environment be at the forefront of concerns for operators?

In recent years, being environmentally conscious has become a selling point. We ditch plastic straws, install second and third bins for recycling and compost and make a kombucha from left over pineapple skins to give ourselves a pat on the back.

While these are truly excellent contributions, it’s now time to take a step back and review how we – as an industry – must look at the broader impacts of climate change and future environmental conditions. We have to realise that without serious changes, serious impacts on the hospitality game aren’t far off.

It’s easy to see our industry as primarily a retail-based business. We purchase or produce stock, create a comfortable and engaging environment to sell it in and pass that stock along to guests and customers for (hopefully) a profit.

But delve down hard into what outside influences affect us and you’ll very quickly be reminded that our major commodities are all centred around produce. Be it the sugarcane in the rum in your Tiki Bar, the vineyards producing wines for your underground wine hot spot, the cattle stations providing the beef for the steakhouse or the fruit and veg for your vegan haven – everything we utilise comes directly back to primary producers.

These are the same producers, who are most affected by our climate conditions.

Bushfires tore through Queensland’s major wine producing regions in mid-2019 and I learned from local growers, that they’d never, in their recent memory, witnessed such a perfect storm – with the fires as the final straw on a horror season, plagued by drought.

Some of the toughest people you’ll meet, are crumbling and now asking for help. They’ve been forced to truck in water and animal feed and for the first time, are considering buying grapes from outside the region, to ensure they can produce enough wine to survive the year.

With yields down on everything from vineyards to kale, producers are forced to either decrease quality (an absolute last resort) or increase prices, both of which have a direct and incredibly pertinent flow-on to the bottom line of our businesses. For some, neither option is possible, as conditions have already beaten them into submission.

So before it grows to the point where your venue is rationing the citrus behind the bar or your chefs are forced to bend their ethics and menu due to supply issues, start to think (even more) about what your venue can do to help.

Take that extra step to refine your Sustainability Program, do the research and stay informed – put your business’ weight behind it, for our brethren up the supply chain.

Listening to Hospopreneurs is free, but not listening could cost a lot more.
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Not The Bat And Ball with Skye Blackburn

This ‘cricket’ doesn’t involve a bat and ball. It’s the insect that’s creeping in from Eastern cuisines. 

Skye Blackburn farms them, just outside of Sydney (with her business, Edible Bug Shop – the largest edible insect farm in Australia) and is currently expanding to a much larger site, due to their demand. 

She has a strong position on edible bugs and the future of insect farming – as an alternative protein and culinary ingredient.

For more episodes, follow the program wherever you get your podcasts.

Innovation in Whisky

By James Henderson

Whisky, like all spirit categories, grape varietals, coffee roasts and indeed, life, continues to evolve. It can surprise, delight and even confuse the most discerning of tipplers.

Cameron Pirret was a guest of ours in 2017 – on Episode 9 of The Hospopreneurs Podcast – while behind the bar at the late, Seymour’s Cocktails and Oysters. Their Irish Coffees were known to be the best around at the time.

He’s now the Brand Ambassador for The Exchange (NSW) and back for a comment on what’s happening in whisky in 2019 – and quite possibly where we might evolve…

  • What defines a good whisky? 

Personal preference is king! There are no bad whiskys, (in theory) just different whiskys. For me it’s about distillery characteristics and maturation flavour. A ‘good’ whisky hits all the notes, both pleasing and challenging everyone – balancing simplicity and complexity.

  • How do you feel about wood chips in the ageing process? 

Not a fan! Don’t get me wrong if you use staves or pieces of oak during the maturation, that’s a different story. There are some amazing whiskys that use barrel maturation and oak pieces in conjunction to great effect though (ie: Makers 46).

If you’re trying to replace the barrels altogether you’re living in a pipe dream. Oak chips surrounded by liquid won’t breath and therefore will have one dimensional flavour. Barrels breath, hence Angel Share.

Without getting too technical, this increases some of the chemical processes that take place during maturation, acidification, esterification, ect. The result, and it’s what I alluded to in what makes a whisky good – you get a softer less dominating maturation that vastly increases complexity.

  • In your opinion, does older mean better?

Age is a good indicator of certain characteristics of a whisky and indeed I like it as an indicator and I don’t think it should be completely done away with. But on the whole, older does not mean better. It’s just one piece of a large and ever-evolving  puzzle.

Older does mean more expensive for those who choose to follow it blindly.

  • Who’s changing the game in whisky today? Why is that?

The game is changing at two ends – distillation & maturation.

Distillation – this is happening with the younger guys in the new and emerging regions. They are fiddling with grains, malting types, cut points and still shapes and sizes. The best examples here are Archie Rose (Sydney) and Westward (Portland).

Maturation – happening with the ‘big boys’ – the distilleries that have 200+ years of history. They are not in a hurry to alter their distillery characteristic too much and nor should they be.

But because of sheer production volume, their maturation and blending techniques go to another level. They have access to many types of barrels and quantities to blend.

We are currently doing some amazing things at Laphroiag and Bowmore, with regards to maturation – but I dare say if you ask any of the large distilleries across the world, they’ll also have something new cooking.

  • Who will brands be looking to for inspiration tomorrow? 

Its always the same, Consumers and Trade.

Vote with your feet, whatever we are drinking is what the distilleries are going to make. That’s why it’s important for us to continually (without being pushy about it) educate our customers. Sure, brands will push into new areas but they aren’t going to ignore global drinking trends.

For example, while Japanese whisky is super popular at the moment, many large blenders are finishing their whiskys in Japanese mizunara casks.

Now I guarantee that simply finishing a blended whisky in mizunara, does nothing to impart flavours unique to the native Japanese oak because Mizunara takes at least 15 years to impart flavour.

You can by an expensive Mizunara cask finished whisky if you want, but it won’t taste like mizunara. This could be considered innovation, but it’s fuelled by global trends, not the pursuit of quality.  

  • What will come to define Australian whisky? 

Price, if we don’t sort out our ridiculous excise tax.

Look, there are so many characteristics to Australian whisky – malt-forward, wine cask finished and more – but I cant say what will end up being the defining characteristic. I’m just excited and happy to be along for the ride.

  • Where can innovators learn from traditionalists?

Through seeing that consistency is king.

We all love to try interesting things for sure, however, you need to develop an identity.

It was inconsistency that lead to the rise of blended whisky around the world and distiller consistency that has bought it back to single malts. The new, independent bottlers need to respect that.

Just because something is different, doesn’t make it good – and if something is on every back bar in the world, that doesn’t mean it’s boring.

  • How do you stay on the pulse of whisky trends?

James, you’ve spent enough late nights with me in whisky bars to know it’s all trial and error with trends.

But to stay on the pulse, read, taste and listen to everyone’s opinion and expression.

At the end of the day though, have conviction – it’s ultimately about the love affair you have with the liquid in your glass. 

To find hospitality trends before they happen, follow The Hospopreneurs Podcast.