Local Legends: Michael Stanzel - Head Brewer at Burnley Brewing
Updated: Jul 9
Ahoy hoy! Today A Local Beer is taking you into the world of brewing. We are getting up close and personal with brewer, and great mate of A Local Beer, Michael Stanzel. With well over a decade of brewing experience, we wanted to find out a little more about the brewing process and the journey that led him to become head brewer at Burnley Brewing. So I arranged a convenient time to sit down (okay, ambushed him with no notice whilst he was busying doing a brew) to ask him a few questions.
G’Day Michael, Thanks for the interview. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved in brewing?
Well, I started young, as a fifteen-year-old. I definitely couldn’t buy beer, but I realised I could buy the ingredients and make it myself! When I was sixteen I started entering my beers in home brew competitions and the first time I did so, I won. Being underage meant I couldn’t accept the award so I made my Dad accept it for me. I continued to brew and enter in competitions and won more awards. A few years later when I was eighteen I started accepting the awards myself but a few people were like “Hang on you’re not Michael - that’s Michael.” I had to come clean and say “Well, actually, that’s my Dad and I was just underage the whole time.” The organisations were worried they were supporting underage drinking but really it was only underage brewing.
Haha which is obviously fine (I think). Let’s not put that part of the interview in just in case... Now your brewing journey took you over to Germany, can you tell us a little more about that experience?
My parents have German heritage, I have a German passport and I knew the German brewing standards were just insanely high so I figured if I really wanted to learn brewing then I wanted to learn it properly. I took the plunge and moved over in 2012 and did a Brewer and Maltsters apprenticeship. For a couple of months each year I was living at a brewing boarding school, just having a great time. It came with some challenges though, all the classes were obviously in German and I even had to learn the whole periodic table in German. I mean they are just so thorough over there so it was a really invaluable experience. At the end of 2017 I came back to Australia to help Burnley Brewing start.
Well congrats mate. I couldn’t even learn the Periodic table in English! Now last year we teamed up with Burnley Brewing for a unique collaboration called Fruits of our Labour. This sour peach and plum Berliner Weisse was made using 20 loaves of stale bread and undersized fruit from our charity partner Second Bite, that would have otherwise gone to landfill. Can you tell us a bit about some of the challenges we faced for this experimental brew?
Surprisingly the beer itself wasn’t as challenging as we first anticipated. Finding a way to get the bread into the brew was the biggest obstacle, but once we had a plan and were confident the bread wouldn’t clog the lauter tun it was easy going. The other component was the manual labour required to process the fruit and hence the name I guess. Sam claims he came up with the name, but I’m pretty sure it was Nick. But cutting and destoning the fruit took six people eight hours, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds. It was us sitting down, chatting, and cutting fruit the whole time. We turned it into a bit of a competition though to see who could cut the most fruit. We were pretty stoked with the result.
It was definitely a big success with some really great responses from the public. There will certainly be some future developments here so watch this space! Are there any beers or breweries you are particularly enjoying at the moment?
Yeah Red Hill Brewery has really impressed me with a number of their beers recently. They have a few standard brews like a lager and Kolsch but also a Scotch Ale Wee Heavy which almost no-one in Australia brews. They are all just really amazing representations of their styles. I also am a big critic of wheat beers and I had one of Red Hill’s the other day and it was really f***ing good!
Well shoutout to Red Hill Brewery, I especially love the story of them coming in as rebels and cementing themselves in the wine stronghold of the Mornington Peninsula against opposition from a few old- money wine snobs. Now the final question (as is the tradition here), is to ask ‘who is your childhood crush?’
Well, Sarah Michelle Gellar was the first one I think. It was definitely a creepy picture on the locker type thing haha.
Well mate you certainly weren’t the only one! Thanks again for the chat, can’t wait to see what exciting projects are on the horizon.
You can purchase Burnley Brewing’s beers from their website at https://www.burnleybrewing.com.au/ or visit their brewery at 648 Bridge Road, Richmond, Victoria.