There is one thing John Stallwood likes more than brewing.
Handing you a beer is the ultimate joy for the malt master behind the veteran Nail brand.
For Stallwood it isn’t just about the nectar in his cans and bottles – it is about enjoying the taste experience with a community.
The West Australian brewing stalwart has personally brought hundreds of friends, family and hangers-on into his beer brethren for most of his adult life.
And through pubs, festivals and liquor stores, thousands more have had the joy of being a part of the Nail team.
Next Monday Nail celebrates 20 years in the beer game – although the concept was rattling around in Stallwood’s mind for a few years before his first release.
And while the rise, hurdles, cabinet-full of medals, hurt, financial strain and rise again have been well chronicled over the two decades, the strength of Nail is ultimately due to Stallwood’s nature. He wants you to be involved in the end result. It also helps that his beers are A-grade.
So The Sip won’t be giving a history lesson on the chronicles of Nail as it recognises another milestone in one of the toughest capers in the fast moving consumer goods sector. That has been detailed so many times across a variety of media. READ HERE. AND HERE.
We want to detail the man behind the brand. And why many owe him a debt of gratitude for luring them into the wonderful world of craft beer.
Stallwood enticed drinkers in many ways. Well before we knew what craft beer meant, there were cheeky kegs of his home brew suddenly appearing at western suburbs parties, or a few smuggled stubbies handed out at the WACA Test Match (along with beer cup snake challenges), a stray Nail bevy would pop up in unlikely places, including the hand of a Prime Minister. Stallwood didn’t discriminate. Everyone was welcome to be part of the experience.
No matter the occasion Spesh wanted to share the fruits of his labour – and the fun behind it. He thrived on knowing you liked his work. And, boy, haven’t many of us had that privilege over a couple of decade
Spesh is special, hence the nickname. Not only has he taught so many beer lovers the excitement of a well-made malt, hops, yeast and water cocktail, he has encouraged and inspired so many others to carry on the tradition.
His work helping the WA brewing industry through its official association again highlight’s Spesh’s humility. Even as COVID-19 grips the world, threatening the local beer market, Stallwood was think week rallying the troops, calling for a united fight to stay alive.
When a particular beer writer was in his infancy promoting local breweries it was the Nail guru – and his good mate at Feral, Brendan Varis (pictured below) – who mentored the fledgling judge.
Spesh’s words of advice still ring in the ears when the laptop opens to start a critique.
“Just remember the brewer has put his heart and soul into the beer you are talking about,” Stallwood said. “Deep down that brewer has worked hard to give you something to enjoy.”
That is certainly the philosophy of Spesh at the start of every mash.
The Sip often gets asked to name a favourite beer. Sure, there are some corny lines available like “the one in my hand at the moment” or “any that quenches the thirst”.
But the truth is that if stuck on a deserted island only to be promised an emergency airdrop of brews there would prayers to the beer gods the rescue package would be Nail Red.
Spesh is also always striving to make beer better. The original crimson label became Red Carpet. His now quintessential VPA has donned a Superman cape to morph into a turbo-charged version. Nail’s Stout got some extra clout.
The pursuit of perfection in his craft still drives Spesh despite the ups and downs of a brutal industry.
We’re all so lucky to have been part of the fun over the Nail generation.
So cheers to Spesh on the birthday. And thanks for inviting so many of us to your 20-year party.