Shambles Brewery is good for what ales you
A science teacher, a former banker and an aeronautical engineer walk into a bar. It sounds like the set-up for a joke, but the reality is so much better. Following a “beer life crisis”, science teacher Cornel Ianculovici, banker Nick Blacklow and engineer Bruce Arnold decided to follow their passion for home-brewing and open Hobart’s latest craft brewery, Shambles. And despite what the name may suggest, it’s a seriously top-notch establishment.
They brew a variety of beers, and aren’t afraid to explore unusual styles. The first to come out of their taps were the four core beers: Afternoon Delight, a citrusy summer ale; Dirty Copper, an amber ale; Dances with Hops, an American-style IPA featuring five different hops; and Barry White, a dark, robust porter. So no matter what kind of beer you’re after, you’re sure to find something to cure your ale-ments.
The brewery also serves food, with pub food staples like Portuguese chicken wings and sliders that perfectly complement the beers on offer. A particular stand-out is the waffled mac ‘n’ cheese. The two tempting treats together at last – it sounds so gouda, we can’t imagine anything cheddar!
We had a chat to the mad scientist behind it all, Cornel, to find out more.
Hi Cornel, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? We hear you used to be a science teacher – what inspired the move to beer-brewing?
I studied science at university and a couple of years after graduating I followed this up with a teaching degree. I’m very passionate about science and maths, and teaching was a great way to express this. Getting into the science behind beer brewing is what turned it from a hobby to a passion for me, and eventually I decided I wanted to give up teaching and do it for a living.
Has brewing beer always been a passion of yours?
I started home brewing at uni with some mates. We made very ordinary beer from a kit, and eventually stopped doing it because it just didn’t taste as good as commercial beer. A couple of years later I experimented with brewing a “partial” (using some malt extract, but also steeping some grains and boiling with hops) and it was a huge improvement, so this sparked the desire to figure out how to make better beer. A close friend and I started brewing together from raw ingredients shortly after, which led to regular equipment upgrades and eventually a custom built 100L pilot brewery. From that point on it was fairly obvious that I wanted to make the leap into the commercial world.
Where did you get the name “Shambles” from?
Our building is owned by Mundy and Sons, who’ve operated a butchery on the lower floor for decades. They also had a retail butcher for several years, in what is now our front bar. Before they took over the building it was a smallgoods factory, so the building has a long meat-processing history. When we first looked at the warehouse it really was a shambles. It was completely full of stuff. Years of accumulated storage: broken machines, furniture, whitegoods, cars etc. Our graphic designer later suggested the name, as he found out that the original meaning of “shambles” in old English times was “meat market”. It just seemed so appropriate to connect with the history of the place.
What makes you different from the other breweries in Hobart?
A combination of things, I think. We have a bar on site, where you can sit and drink the beer where it was brewed, see the equipment and talk to the people behind it. We put a lot of thought and effort into giving our bar a unique vibe – not just different compared to other Hobart spots, but also in comparison to what you might find on the mainland. We serve food prepared in-house. We’re really close to the CBD. We don’t have a strict “core range” of a handful of beers, but instead we try to brew a variety of styles. We aren’t afraid to change what we brew or explore unusual styles, and we don’t focus on a particular region (German, Belgian, English, American etc). Science is at the heart of our brewing approach. We don’t take ourselves too seriously – we’re still amateur brewers at heart, and this is meant to be fun!
All the other breweries share one or more of these traits with us, so I think it’s the combination of everything we do and our overall ethos that makes us different. That, and of course we have different beer recipes! Plus we have a table tennis table made of concrete blocks!
What goes into brewing the perfect beer?
Science! (I’m sure you saw that coming…) Longer answer: have a clear idea of what you want to achieve (research, plan), measure, record and note everything you possibly can, analyse your results and use them to inform your next brew. Oh, and this is equally important: be meticulous about sanitation.
Shambles is an impressive combination of brewery, bar and restaurant. How do you match a meal with the right beer?
There are some classic pairings like stout with oysters, saison with fish etc, but I’m no expert here. I like rich, dark beers (eg our robust porter) with desserts, hoppy beers with pork (our IPA goes great with our chef’s glazed pork ribs) and I think beers like our golden ale and summer ale go well with our chicken wings.
I know there are some good books on this topic (and courses). I should probably go on one so I can complete my “beer nerd” journey.
When you’re taking a night off, where do you like to go for a pint and a bite to eat?
What’s a night off? (I have young kids.)
So many good places to choose from! The Winston, New Sydney and Preachers are perennial faves for me personally. In terms of new places, Hobart Brewing Co is awesome. There are lots of cool new restaurants around that have craft beer on tap, but I haven’t really had time to check them out yet. (I wasn’t joking about the “night off” thing!)
Image credit: Andrew Knott from Atomic Blender