Tick, tick, tick, tick...Boom!! The party kicked off in January with the GABS Hottest 100 Australian Craft Beers of 2015. The IIPA and Pale Ale took spot 3 and 4 respectively – not bad for their countdown debut.
Eight weeks later and Pirate Life would be back at the Gilbert, this time celebrating the brewery’s 1st birthday along-side a capacity crowd of 1,500 and a fleet of keg juggling acrobats from Cirque Alfonse. Here punters were introduced to the now iconic Baby Blue ‘IPA’ for the very first time.
In May, PL joined renowned Hip-Hop Crew ‘the Hilltop Hoods’ on their national tour, where their recently canned collaboration ale ‘Golden Era’ was a massive hit at the pre-show Warm Up sessions. If it was simply the hop and not the hip you were after, fellow new can release ‘Hopco’ had hit shelves too. The colab 4.8% NZ Pale was big on the citrus and scintillated in a vibrant green tinny.
A nod for Champion Small Brewery from the AIBA and a whopping 1.4 million litres produced had the entire team buzzing in 2016.
Mo of everything! 2017 saw the IIPA rise from 3rd to 2nd place in the GABS Hottest 100 Countdown, as the fresh faced ‘Baby Blue’ IPA nabbed 5th spot. Days later the crew would begin work on their brand new GABS recipe - the now infamous ‘Vanilla Malt Shake IPA’.
The 2nd Birthday Bash in March took the Gilbert to capacity once again, as punters were treated to a variety of specialty brews including a 7% single hopped IPA simply titled ‘Mosaic’ - which would go on to electrify a nation of craft drinkers.
The fun didn't stop there, as collaborations with industry giants Ballast Point and the newly renovated Port Admiral Hotel in Port Adelaide took the years can release tally to four. Brisbane based artist Steen Jones got in on the action too, providing designs for both the 'Trans Pacific Partnership' can and the brewery's huge north facing wall.
By Christmas, the team at Hindmarsh had produced over 2 million litres of beer, with a total of 27 fermenters continually filled to the brim. It was also in late 2017 that the crew welcomed new parent company AB InBev, who would help catapult Pirate Life in to the stratosphere…
When Pirate Life Brewing sold in November of 2017, their passion for great beer wasn't sold with it...and neither was their work ethic. In 2018, the brewery’s new site at Port Adelaide went from cut concrete to full scale operation in just five months, while the Hindmarsh facility would max out, producing a mind numbing 3.16 million litres for distribution that year. Just another day at the office.
As was now customary, the first Sunday in March played host to a variety of new birthday releases. ‘Unfazed by the Haze’, ‘Black’ and the collaboration 'Alfonse Ale' flowed relentlessly from the Gilbert Street Hotel's fonts, while a ‘Strawberry Milkshake IPA’ perplexed and delighted patrons simultaneously.
Jack and MC took to the road in August, for what was dubbed the ‘Unfazed Tour '18’. With six fresh releases in tow, the gents hit up nine venues in eight consecutive nights - all in separate states.
By the time they had returned, construction at the Port Adelaide Brewery was well under way, with cranes and fabricators flying in every direction. To help keep things grounded, PL commissioned artist Mike Makatron to paint a 40m flying peacock on the woolshed's north facing wall. It was starting to feel like home already...
2019 would prove to be an odyssey of imagination, wild celebrations, rattling spray cans and genuine hard yakka, as Pirate Life Brewing opened its new world class facility in the heart of Port Adelaide.
Built in 1938, the Dalgety Woolstore was once the pinnacle of technology in its field and was now home to a 5000 litre brew kit, a 20 metre bar and a family of excitable Pirates.
After a whirlwind three months erecting the hospitality space, it was launched to the public on March the 9th 2019, where crew celebrated with over 4000 punters across the day. Fresh beers (and some old favourites too), a gamut of local food trucks, Cirque Alfonse tossing kegs and an array of local, national and international artists pulled it all together for a truly memorable 4th Birthday.
The venue opened its doors at 11am the following morning, and would keep them open, 7 days a week, from then on.
On a production front, Pirate Life would deliver on its promise to release 50 new beers in 2019, with the years official tally coming in at 62! Bring on 2020...
For many, 2020 was a year worth forgetting. We're happy to acknowledge that assessment - PL weren't immune to the pandemic's sting. Plenty of Pirates did it tough. People close to us did too.
Amidst the calamity however, we managed to push through a stronger and more succinct unit. In many ways COVID-19 brought us closer together. Forced us to bolster the culture. Enabled us to evolve.
By the end of 2020 we'd released sixty-three new beers (one of which, the South Coast Pale Ale, has become our biggest selling sku of all time), established our Port Adelaide venue as premier hospitality destination, and opened a sparkling new bar and brewery in the SkyCity wing of the Adelaide Casino.
It’s easy to look back now with hindsight, but in January 2020 we were firmly bolted to a chassis hurtling at pace into the new year, blissfully unaware of the proverbial ‘c-bomb’ that was about to drop.
Keen to back up 2019’s efforts, MC announced we’d be releasing one hundred new beers this time round - a figure which filled the crew with feelings of excitement, anticipation, and sheer trepidation.
“Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will.”
I reckon I heard him say that once.
The new venue was coming off the back of its maiden ten months of trade and had firmly cemented itself as one of SA’s utmost craft beer haunts. Where else can you find a 22-metre bar framed by a 5,000-litre brew kit in a 150-year-old shed? We’ll let you think about that for a minute…
In March we celebrated our 5th birthday, in what was PL's largest scale event to date. An army of 5,000 were treated to local grub, outdoor bars (including ten specialty beers) fresh tattoos and cracking live entertainment. Hell, rock royalty 'You am I' even stopped by.
It's crazy to think the following week trade restrictions were put in place, and by early April the entire country was in a state lockdown. Perhaps it was by some fortuitous twist of fate, but we’d managed to squeeze in one last hurrah.
As a business, Morrison's announcement on March 22nd caused an extreme dynamic shift, with brewing, hospitality, logistics, sales, and marketing departments getting thumped off course.
As a family and crew, it was equally un-nerving.
Casuals were caught in the crossfire, full-timers set up at home, and brewery operations dropped from a 24/5 roster to just one shift per day. It was severe, but in true Pirate fashion, we forged on.
With the bar off limits, our merch store and food truck were left to fly the flag, offering take away options, 'isolation' packs, and one litre cans of the venue's tapped lines.
A well-timed extension to the canning line saw one-off tins labelled in-house for the very first time, while the implementation of our online beer store in April meant they could be slung suitably nation-wide.
Among them were slabs of our Lemon Grass and Ginger Sour, Masala Spiced Porter and of course the South Coast - a laid-back pale ale with a promising future.
Those of us at home kept in touch via skype. We’d talk, trade recipes, and share a virtual beer. The catch ups proved pivotal in sustaining morale and were a great opportunity to remain connected throughout what was for many a dreary period.
There’s no denying lockdown was tough, but with the support of our retailers, our crew and of course the beer drinking public, we made it through.
On June the 1st, hospitality crew served punters at our Port Adelaide brewery for the first time since trading restrictions were put in place – and man, were we amped to be back on deck.
Business boomed in the months to follow, with venue trade doubling that of the previous year. The numbers were likely due to a variety of factors, but we think our ability to adapt and grow as a team while offering cracking hospitality were key.
That and the fact no-one in the state had enjoyed a freshly poured pint of DIPA in over ninety days.
On a brew front, collaborations with global tea brand Dilmah, local fruit growers Jujube’s SA, and the Port Adelaide Football Club plumped up the NPD (New Product Development) offering, while beers like Jose Gose, Espresso Martini, Whisky Barrel Aged Stout #2, and our first ever New England IPA respectfully rammed the point home.
By September, the tally had hit forty-five, and while it was likely we’d fall shy of MC’s projected century, we were largely unfazed. The brew crew were back to three shifts per day, the venue was busier than ever, and our beers were pouring (once again) Australia wide.
In November, the vibes intensified, as PL’s brand new brewery and hospitality space in Adelaide’s casino was unveiled to the public. The landmark build (which kicked off in July) showcased twenty-two taps, a mezzanine floor and a 5,000 litre Krones brew kit set behind glass.
It was a rousing end to a tumultuous twelve months and supplied the whole crew with immeasurable pride. We could only imagine how it’d feel when Pirate Life Perth opened it’s doors, but that was a feather reserved for 2021’s cap.
We can say with conviction that 2020 was different. At times it was scary and in a lot of ways, to put it bluntly, it sucked.
You can’t go through something like that as a business without it redefining you in some way – we were just blessed to come out the other side intact, and in many ways, stronger than before we went in.
We don’t put it all down to luck though. Our ethos as a brand has always been one of progression, hard work, and sticking together when shit gets tough. We put those pillars to the test last year and were proud to find them anchored deep.