Microbrewery founder turns dream into day job

Posted by James Ferre on 1st September 2008

Speak to founder of Snowy Mountains Brewery (SMB) Kevin O’Neill and there is no doubt that two topics will dominate the conversation – beer and snow. For these are his passions, and Kevin O’Neill is one of those people whom most admire, some with a hint of jealously, because he is living his dreams and passions everyday through his work.

Kevin reports that the idea for SMB came from the knowledge that many ski resorts around the world had their own unique beer, something that was lacking in Australia. “My wife Alison and I had been on skiing trips to resorts in other parts of the world, and it was always customary to try the local brew – skiing resorts like those in Colorado tend to make their own beer,” he said. “At a Snowy Mountains resort I asked to try theirs and when the barman couldn’t accommodate, I realised our home resorts were distinctly lacking one vital ingredient… a brewery and beer they could identify with as their own!”

It is now, however, a certainty that when faced with the same request local bar staff can proudly hand over a bottle of Snowy Mountains Brewery beer, and an award winning one at that. Of the four distinct varieties two have claimed major awards, with Melbourne’s Young & Jackson anointing SMB’s Crackenback Pale Ale winner of the inaugural People’s Choice Award during the Young & Jackson Beer Fest on Australia Day this year, and the Herald Sun recently voted the Crackenback in Australia’s top 20 beers. Charlottes Hefeweizen claimed the honour of Australia’s best wheat beer at the Australian Hotel Beer awards last October.

While yet to have a brewery located in the mountains, it is a key part of his future business strategy. “This would prove the ultimate for Snowy Mountains Brewery,” Mr O’Neill said. “Operating a brewery in the Snowy Mountains is a big part of my goal and dream. We used to courier water down from the Snowy Mountains to use in our batches but it became a logistical nightmare. The brewery is currently based in Sydney but with the help of a few good investors if they want to come on board, we are hoping to take that final step and brew from the Jindabyne region. We have produced the right product if public and critical opinion is any gauge.”

The ties between his current brewery and the Mountains are close nonetheless, as this June Kevin used his first snow sighting at Charlottes Pass to good effect and collected a bucket or two for his current batch.

While Kevin hopes to continue expanding the brand, he is extremely proud of where he has been able to take Snowy Mountains Brewery since its conception in 2004. He has turned his passion and dream into his business, a great achievement even before its success. And, although he is happy to sit back and enjoy a beer after a day on the slopes, you can be sure his dream continues to evolve with every sip.