Byford’s latest opening comes from a pair of the brewing industry’s key players, with their new microbrewery offering a range of ambitious beers and French dips aplenty. And there’s more to come.
For more than a decade, Will Irving and Steve Finney have been shaping the tastes of Western Australian beer drinkers. The pair were integral in the growth of Feral Brewing Co in the Swan Valley before Finney went on to be a key player at Fremantle’s Otherside Brewing Co. Now, with the opening of microbrewery Found Lab in Byford, they’re embarking on their own journey.
“Found is a concept that has been in the works for a number of years,” says Finney. Originally slated to open in the old Perth Girls School precinct in East Perth, challenges in the building industry have seen the redevelopment delayed. Rather than wait until the project is completed, Finney and Irving decided to look at other opportunities to focus on.
“While we were plugging away at the original development, we came across a little glass box on a lake down in Byford,” says Finney of the space that now houses a prelude of what’s to come at the Perth Girls School. “Our whole mantra for the East Perth location is to bring a regional brew pub experience to the city, and we’ve kind of done the opposite down in Byford, where we’ve got a little bit of a city style pub-restaurant-brewery in a semi regional location.”
Irving, long seen as one of Australia’s top brewing talents, says Feral Brewing founder Brendan Varis taught him not to be a one-trick pony only committing to hoppy beers or one style. There’s no fear of that, as he jokes they’re “just doing everything.”
The flagship is a hazy IPA called Super, which has elements typical of the style, citrus notes and is easy drinking. Weighing in at 5.2%, it’s “silky and pint worthy,” says Irving. He promises there will always be a lager on tap with a seasonal rotating dark beer and the team will play around with a sour using seasonal fruit. A “Wanderer” range will be their launchpad for exploration, allowing them to create outside of the core offering and work closely with hop farmers and dive into barrel-aged beers.
The team has sourced barrels from Whippersnapper distillery in East Perth, that Irving says they will “fill with a barley wine or a dark brown and extend into a funky range as well, introducing Brettanomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus before ageing them for 12 to 18 months minimum.” While the approach is broad, Irving tells me it fits within their vision of being balanced while also “keeping it fresh.”
“Craft beer has been around here since ’83,” Finney says while reflecting on Western Australia’s thirst for good beer. “Compared to the United States, Australia has crammed what should be about 50 years of craft into 20 years,” adds Irving. The result, says the pair, is a nation of mature, knowledgeable craft-beer drinkers.
On a recent research trip to the states, Irving and Finney say they encountered a craft beer culture no more richer and developed than what exists in Australia today. One inspiration, however, that the pair did decide to bring home, is the French dip. The meat-packed, French roll sandwich that’s doused in roasting pan juices is set to be the star of Found Lab’s bar and kitchen menu with at least three iterations. “There’s a classic [beef] French dip with a four-day jus reduction, a fried chicken and kimchi French dip, and then also a smoked mushroom French dip with a porcini broth,” says Finney.
Looking to the future, Finney, Irving and their partners envisage more than the completion of the Girls School project: they’re looking to nurture a culture within Found. “We’re named Found because the five directors have all found their place,” says Finney. “This is now our place not someone else’s. We’ve been part of say, the Little Creatures sale, the Feral sale, and Matso’s. You work so hard on building team culture and that gets taken away very quickly once there has been an acquisition. Our motives are very much about developing our own people and culture for the long run.”
Found, 1 Olsen Gardens, The Glades, Byford; foundlab.au; @found.perth