A Conversation with Frazer Brown: Recent Classics Graduate and Head Brewer at The Wig & Pen

Frazer Brown1. How did you come to be the Wig and Pen’s new Head Brewer?

I started brewing in my driveway at home [in Canberra] when I was about 18. I started with the much-loved Coopers kits, but after two or three of them I grew bored and decided to take the plunge into all-grain brewing. Since I first started, I’ve been constantly improving my equipment – I’ve not brewed on the same gear twice. More recently I started getting involved in other people’s brewing a bit, like the ANU Beer and Brewers Club, and the Wig and Pen’s previous brew team. When I discovered that a position had opened, I went in and discussed it with the owner, Lachan McOmish. My youth, brewing experience, and tinkering skills apparently appealed, and I became the Head Brewer.

3. Do you think the W&P will be in competition for student business with the ANU Bar?

Or are they different animals?

The ANU Bar and the Wig and Pen are different fish of another colour entirely. Both have their place, but while the ANU Bar has a focus on providing affordable and approachable beer (which can be had in most any bar in the country) to students, the Wig and Pen is, and has been for years, a craft brewery. We brew in very small batches, and each batch is different.

4. What would you recommend for a first-time visitor to the Wig and Pen who has never tried craft beer?

Beer recommendations are quite hard to do, just because of the huge variations in personal preference. That said, I do have three suggestions: The ‘Kiandra Gold’, our Bohemian Pilsner which is very popular across a broad demographic, it’s tasty and approachable, and is often called our gateway beer. The 60 Shillings would also be a good place to start: it’s a softer version of our Scotch Wee Heavy (the Wry Scot), has complex malt flavours, but isn’t overpowering, and at a very low 2.5% ABV, can be enjoyed all night. My final suggestion is to ask a bartender for their recommendation. It’s very rare that we don’t find something that fits the bill.

5. How many types of beer and cider do you have on tap?

At the moment we have 16 taps, of which 1 is the Batlow cloudy apple cider and 1 is the Batlow pear cider. 4 of our taps are hand pumped real ales, and the rest are our regular, seasonal and one-off beers.

6. What’s your favourite beer and why?

Right now I’m loving the Wry Scot, our Scotch Wee Heavy ale. It’s got a great thick malty characteristic, and is a good contrast with the heavily hopped beers that are popular at the moment.

7. What’s that sci-fi looking glass canister at the corner of the bar? 

That is the Hopinator. We have one tap which is connected directly to the Hopinator. The beer runs from our cold room, through the Hopinator (and all the delicious fruits, or hops, or whatever takes our fancy) and then straight into your glass, infusing the beer right as it’s poured with delicate flavours.

8. As a former ANU student, how do you see the Wig and Pen fitting into the ANU experience?

The Wig has always been a place for thinkers, I think. It’s also a great place for meeting interesting people. Over the course of my degree myself and numerous other students and staff made it into a second home of sorts, and I think this will continue in a big way now that we’re on campus and have extra floor space.

9. You said in your Canberra Times interview that you and your assistant Brewer Alan Ball (who is studying a Bachelor of Criminology at ANU) would take “the brewery’s style” in “wonderful and funky directions”. Care to elaborate?

With a whole new brewing team, Alan and I hope to play with interesting ideas. As my current favourite beer might suggest, I’m keen on things that are not ‘on trend’, so I’m looking to introduce (or reintroduce) some forgotten or overlooked styles (i.e. the humble brown ale). I’m also keen to try interesting ingredients, especially native plants.

10. The W&P has admitted that it doesn’t serve ‘cheap alcohol’, are you planning to do anything to make it more student budget friendly?

Our menu is going to be pub food that’s big enough to share, but cheap enough not to. The plan is to encourage students to come for a hearty lunch and enjoy a pint or two with it, taking time to enjoy the beer as more than just 6.5%ABV.

The Wig and Pen is open under the ANU School of Music Monday-Wednesday from 11.30am – 10pm, Thursdays 11.30am – 11pm, Fridays 11.30am – midnight, Saturdays 2pm-midnight and Sundays 2pm-8pm.