When John Stallwood first tried his hand at home brewing the basic idea was to produce something to get his friends hammered, hence the name of his first beer: Nail Ale.
Twenty-three years later much has changed. Stallwood has taken home a swag of awards and the craft beer market, with an emphasis on quality over quantity, has boomed.
But the name — Stallwood now helms Nail Brewing — has stuck.
It all started with that home brew kit, an ECU marketing degree and a desire for his own brewery.
It was 2000 and WA’s craft beer market was virtually non-existent, with Little Creatures yet to open its doors.
“I was originally brewing in Bobby Dazzlers in the CBD,” Stallwood says.
“I would give people beer and some people would say ‘this doesn’t taste like beer; you make money selling this?’ Luckily some people started to go ‘oh this is different’ but there was no craft beer, it was tough trying to get it on tap.
“Now the craft beer market is booming.”
Stallwood’s life and career took an abrupt turn in 2004 when he intervened in a fight and was badly injured.
He spent ten days in a coma, three weeks in intensive care and a couple of years getting back on his feet.
“I’m lucky to be alive but unfortunately it kind of ruined my life,” Stallwood says candidly of the attack.
“My parents saved us from going bankrupt and I sold my equipment to the Monk Brewery in Fremantle and had to shut down operations to concentrate on my health.”
By the time Stallwood had recovered it was boom-time in WA and the Swan Valley site he had hoped would become his brewery was too expensive.
Slowly he rebuilt, using other people’s facilities, including ECU’s Joondalup campus.
He also put his marketing nous to good use, making international headlines with Antarctic Nail Ale — a one-off batch made from
Antarctic ice to raise money for the Sea Shepherd.
One bottle, sold for $1850, was believed to be the most expensive beer ever sold.
“It went viral… so that was great,” he says.
Stallwood achieved the dream of his own brewery in 2012 when Nail Brewing and friendly rival Feral Brewing joined forces to set up operations in Bassendean.
In 2017 Stallwood is looking forward.
“The craft beer market’s still little so it’s still got to grow a lot but at the moment there are more craft breweries than there are craft tap points, which makes the competition on the wholesale very good,” he says.
“The problem with wholesale beer is you need to sell lots of beer to be able to make money... so it’s been a long process. I’m still probably three, five years away from being able to get to that level and it’s hard but getting easier every year.”
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