She's a Pale Blazer is not only a summery American Pale Ale, it's the start of a much-needed conversation in the Australian beer industry.
Sparkke’s latest brew is a tribute to women working in beer
Sparkke Change Beverage Company’s latest small-batch beer, She’s a Pale Blazer, brewed on site at Sparkke at the Whitmore, is set to be released this weekend at two CBD events: CheeseFest at Mullawirrapurka Rymill Park, and a paired lunch on site at the Whitmore in celebration of Indie Beer Day.
The beer is an American Pale, employing Mandarina Bavaria, Citra and Amarillo hops to produce “notes of fresh pineapple, melon, citrus and apricots with a slight apricot kernel oiliness” and “final hints of grainy toast.”
She’s a Pale Blazer American Pale Ale launch
Happening at two CBD locations:
It’s the first brew to come solely from assistant brewer Carla Naismith, who joined head brewer Agi Gajic in the nanobrewery at the beginning of September.
“It ticks all the boxes that it should, but it’s also really true to what I’m into as a maker,” Carla says.
“It’s probably got the bitter profile that you’d expect in an American Pale Ale, but I think that fruit character is the bit of the Carla stamp,” Sparkke’s co-founder Rose Kentish says.
The beer’s name pays tribute to the trailblazing women working in the still male-dominated brewing industry, “a cause that is very close to my heart,” Carla says.
After an extensive career in hospitality, including stints at Great Southern Rail and The Port Admiral, Carla picked up her first brewing job at Regency Park brewery Sweet Amber, where they had the capacity to offer her one day of work on the brewfloor per week.
Carla was keen to make a firmer entrance into the industry though and found the lack of positions available to women frustrating. At this year’s Beer & BBQ Festival, Carla plucked up the courage to approach Agi, who was pouring at the Sparkke Beer & BBQ stall, and asked about joining the Sparkke team.
“She said, ‘Oh, I really need some help in the brewery, here’s my card, flick me an email,’ and I thought all my Christmases had come at once,” Carla laughs.
Carla had long admired the Sparkke brand. “The platform that Sparkke stands on is something that my personal ideals align with,” she says, “and supporting women in the industry, obviously, at the grassroots level, gives me an in.
“I’m just here to learn, and Sparkke was able to provide me with that opportunity.”
For Rose, this is exactly the story she hoped to facilitate when she and her co-founders first conceived of Sparkke Change Beverage Company.
“When we first started Sparkke, less than three per cent of the brewers [in Australia] were female,” Rose says.
“As a winemaker I thought eight per cent was low as a maker – because 10 years ago it was 15 per cent of the winemakers in Australia were women and now it’s eight per cent.
“Part of what Sparkke wants to do is be an incubator for makers, and if we can give opportunity for female makers – whether it be in the kitchen or in the brewery or at the bar or in winemaking, or any type of making to be honest.
“We’re open to all makers, they’re not always going to be female, but we’ll give women that opportunity.”
Providing a space in the brewing industry for women is only the beginning of Sparkke’s multifaceted campaign for change.
There are societal factors that overwhelmingly affect female workers – even in work situations that are close to gender blind; Sparkke is mindful of this, and has designed its staffing structure to counter the more challenging aspects of the hospitality industry’s status quo.
“There’s not been a lot of industry support for women as they get close to thinking about having a family,” Rose says.
“It’s not that it’s impossible, it’s just that the companies haven’t adapted their practices from an HR perspective to support women who may also be having children.”
In a more general sense, working in hospitality, particularly in small businesses, usually means late nights, double shifts, and a casual relationship with alcohol that leads to excessive consumption as a means to relax. This is a pervasive problem that affects all workers, regardless of gender.
“We closed the venue about eight weeks ago and had a staff care day, and we’re about to do another,” Rose says.
“We’re trying to show our staff that they are the most important. If we can get that right, then hopefully that flows on to a stronger business and people having a better experience here.”
Rose admits they’re not yet where they want to be – Sparkke is only now coming out of its start-up phase, and so she and the other co-founders have not been able to model the kind of behaviour they want their employees to follow – but to provide a workplace that prioritises a healthy work/life balance remains a tenet of the business and a long-term goal.
“We’ve made better inroads in the kitchen, where we’ve moved to four days on, four days off, so we’re trying to build in more time for recovery, time with family, mental health, relaxation, so we want to try to bring that across the venue,” Rose says.
“We haven’t cracked it, but we’re working on it and we’re really aware. I think being aware is the first thing, and being prepared to do something about it is the second thing.”
For Carla, who has worked in hospitality since her early teenage years, just acknowledging the issue is a refreshing change.
“In most venues in hospitality, it’s just expected that you work crazy hours and you deal with it. But at Sparkke, we’re aware and trying to look after the staff, and just having the conversation,” she says.
And through brewing for the company, she’s found an avenue to bring that conversation to a wider audience.
Be among the first to taste Carla’s She’s a Pale Blazer American Pale Ale at CheeseFest and Sparkke at the Whitmore this weekend.