Blasta from the past heralds bright beer future
Perth’s newest brewpub ticks a lot of boxes.
Take the location owner, Scot-born Steve Russell, pegged. It is in direct line of site of the Burswood casino complex, a short punt from a train station. And it is hard to ignore the new Perth Stadium just an 11-minute walk down the road.
Next, and most importantly, the beers have already been well received. The Myway Grapefruit India Pale Ale, produced at Wedgetail Brewing, got a silver medal at last year’s Perth Royal Beer Show.
Even the brewery name is cool. Blasta Brewing Co. sounds bold. And the story that Blasta means delicious, palatable or tasty in Scot-Gaelic makes the brewery title more fashionably stylish than Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
And the final pen-stroke of approval rests with the Blasta logo. While to some it might seem like an exploded paperclip, the motif represents the unicorn, the national symbol of Scotland, which was mythically able to cleanse a water body with its horn.
The area around Burswood was desperate for a bit of spit and polish. And the Swan River that meanders past the suburb needed some purifying after it was tainted by the rubbish dump that existed in the region for many years.
Burswood, or as it was originally known, Burrswood after the former home of English settler of the area Henry Camfield (we will touch on him more later) featured the site of one of WA’s first beer producers, the Brewers Arms, which operated between 1833-1843 in a spot that would now be in the shadows of Perth Stadium.
One of the last Perth independent breweries to sell to the monolithic Swan beer making empire, Redcastle in 1952, operated about 600m to Blasta’s left.
While the history, the stadium and the casino were all attractive to Russell and wife Kate, the Goodwood Parade spot for Blasta was selected for more selfish reasons.
“I came to Australia 10 years ago and I have lived around this area for the entire time so this is my home,” said Steve Russell, now an Australian citizen who doubles as a FIFO worker on Barrow Island about 75km off the coast of Dampier. “Burswood, Victoria Park, Rivervale; this is where I have lived.”
“I was dreaming of having a micro-brewery for the last couple of years and I knew the stadium was going to be here but this site wasn’t available.
“I was looking along the Great Eastern Highway because I thought what better place to have a micro-brewery than close to your home. I found this place so I had to have it,” said Russell, below, who was still busy with a water blaster this week in the race to be ready for opening.
There is no doubt the Perth Stadium, which for all AFL matches will serve only mid-strength beers, will provide plenty of passing traffic for Blasta.
That appeal might be enhanced if plans to develop an Uber Hub next door – ridesharing cars are prohibited from getting anywhere near the 60,000-seat venue – come to fruition. If not the one-minute train ride from Burswood Station, with a free ticket already incorporated in the event entrance cost, is highly convenient for those wanting a pre-or-past match full flavoured brew at Blasta.
There will be a competing neighbour with The Camfield (yes named after Henry Camfield who was allotted the area in 1829) to be a major entertainment drawcard when the Perth Stadium is operating.
But the food and ambience are just as important to the Blasta team, meaning it will be a genuine alternative for sports and concerts fans drawn to the area.
“I’m quite adventurous. The first commercial I introduced was the Myway IPA which was a ruby grapefruit infused IPA,” Russell said.
“I went to a lot of preparation in making it. I used a local orchard in Chittering and an obscene amount of grapeftuit goes in it and it has a lot of American hops in it.
“I want to make anything from IPAs to Imperial Stouts and I’m just starting to work my way through the list in my head. We’ve released six commercial beers. The Myway IPA was the best packaged IPA at the Perth Royal Beer Show. I have the Blastaweizen, which wasn’t released commercially (then) so I entered it in the amateur section and it won gold and a trophy.
“People’s tastes have changed. It is all about the flavour. I really like cooking as well. I like to make some good curries and pair them up with the beers.
“What we’re doing at this stage is to focus on the quality, repeatability and value. That is the arena I’ve given the team.”
A coffee shop that also sells snacks, bagels, cakes and, of course, plenty of espressos, rounds out the Blasta base, turning the venue into a great all-round entertainment venue.
“With me having two kids it was important to have a family venue. We have a 8sqm sandpit with some toys. We’ve even modified the outdoor seating so parents can either be watching their children or face the beer garden.
“Australia has a great outdoor lifestyle so I’ve concentrated a fair bit on the beer garden. It is a nice leafy 230sqm garden so hopefully people will enjoy it.”
Russell has been keen to recognise his environment and its history within the venue. A major wall illustration gives a brief lesson on Burrswood - and Burswood.
And Blasta will also reflect the suburb’s past with one of the first brews produced at the new home.
“When the two guys went to paint the name (at the local train station in the 1890s) they made the mistake of going with one r so it was decided to keep the name,” Russell said.
“We will have a wall mural that will tell that story and a brand new lager we’re releasing at our launch on Thursday. It is a Helles-style lager. It is called Where The Hell Is Burrswood.”
The Blasta crew has already had its first win, days before the doors open.
As Russell was scouting suitable music speakers for the beer garden he came in contact with a business in Massachusetts, USA. While chatting away, the audio suppliers mentioned on the side that they have interest in a little brewing operation, too.
When Russell quizzed as to the venue, he was advised they were the brains behind Tree House Brewing, whose juicy IPAs and NEIPAs have become popular on the east coast of the US. Tree House doesn’t distribute so there are often long lines at the brewery when beers such as Julius, a 6.8% American IPA, are on offer.
“I’ve always respected what Tree House has done and when I mentioned my brewery the guys from Tree House also sent out 20 cans of their brews and a couple of T-shirts which made my day,” Russell said.
So another tick on the achievement sheet. The final box remains. And that will be determined by the clientele. Open the doors!
Blasta Brewing is at 84-88 Goodwood Parade Burswood. It opens at 7pm on Thursday March 1.