Meet Our Brewer: Johann van der Walt
It's time to lift the veil on the creative genius behind your new favourite brews. Meet Johann van der Walt, the man with the plan, the wizard of hops, the maestro of malt. Johann is our head brewer, and he's brought his wealth of experience and a touch of South African charm to our small, family-owned brewery up here on Tamborine Mountain.
From Green Beacon to Boxer
You might recognise Johann as the brewer who captained Green Beacon's ship for almost a decade, steering them toward numerous champion brewery trophies. But did you know that our story began with a conversation about brewing equipment, not job offers?
Our founder, Jon, initially reached out to Johann for advice on choosing the perfect brew kit for Boxer Brewing. Following Johann's recommendation, Jon went all out and ordered a 25-hectolitre brewhouse from Premier Stainless. It was only after sealing the deal on the equipment that Jon popped the question – would Johann be interested in brewing for Boxer?
Johann explains, "I wanted to move on from Green Beacon, and I talked to a lot of people, and a lot of them you could see they were going to do it half-assed. And I did make the promise: I’m not going to leave Green Beacon for somebody if they’re going to do it half-assed. I want to do something right."
What convinced Johann to join the Boxer crew was Jon's unwavering commitment to quality. Jon could have taken shortcuts, but he chose excellence. That's when Johann knew he had to be part of this adventure.
A Move to Smaller, Family-Owned Brewing
Another magnet that pulled Johann toward Boxer was the opportunity to work in a smaller, family-owned brewery. He wanted to bridge the gap between brewer and drinker and have more control over the final product.
"I wanted to be more a part of a smaller brewery, where you’ve got full control of your product," Johann says. "That’s always been my thing: to make something, to give it to somebody, and say, ‘What do you think of that?’"
At Boxer, we're not just about serving beer; we're all about educating our visitors about the brewing process and our unique beers. Our taproom is set to be an educational experience, where you can savour our creations and learn what goes into making them.
The Brewer and the Winemaker Unite
Boxer Brewing is all about blurring the lines between brewing and winemaking. Johann is excited about the possibilities of creating beer-wine hybrids using grapes grown right here on our premises. But it doesn't stop there; we're exploring ways to share knowledge, equipment, and processes between our brewery and the adjacent winery.
Jon elaborates, "Beer brewing is throughout the year, where… some of the [winemaking] equipment, we really only use in that February through May period when the grapes are coming in."
Johann's eyes light up as he envisions the creative possibilities. He talks about open fermentations, traditional beer styles, and barrel aging, all thanks to the equipment and expertise available through this unique collaboration.
"I’m looking forward to doing IPAs and lagers, but I can’t wait to go back into the barrel beers again," Johann shares. "Make wild fermented beer as well."
It's not just about new beer styles; the brewery and winery crossover also means a sharing of knowledge and expertise that benefits both sides.
The Story of Johann: From South Africa to Tamborine Mountain
Johann's journey to becoming a renowned brewer is as unique as the beers he creates. Born in South Africa, Johann started his career as a dental technician and never dreamed that Head Brewer is where his career would end up.
As for beer, growing up in South Africa, his early exposure to beer was limited to mass-produced lagers. It was a taste of Windhoek Export that opened his eyes to the world of flavourful beer, setting him on a path of discovery.
Moving to the UK expanded his horizons even further. There, he encountered Belgian ales and English ales, gradually developing an appreciation for a wider range of beer styles. His love for beer deepened as he explored the rich tapestry of European brewing traditions.
Upon arriving in Australia, Johann's passion for brewing blossomed. He began home brewing and eventually found his way into the craft brewing scene, working at various breweries before landing a pivotal role at Green Beacon.
Back to the Future at Boxer Brewing
Fast forward to today, and Johann is thrilled about the next chapter in his brewing adventure at Boxer Brewing Co. He's excited to explore new brewing techniques, experiment with beer-wine hybrids, and continue crafting exceptional beers.
As Johann says, "Pretty excited about the next phase. I’ve seen the other side of it. I know what I want, how I want to do it, what size I want to do. If we get big, I want to follow the right steps to get there."
And Jon couldn't be happier with his choice. "The more I get to know him," Jon says, "I’m even further convinced he’s absolutely the right person to be heading things up here."
So, the next time you enjoy a Boxer brew, remember the man behind the magic, Johann van der Walt. His passion, expertise, and dedication are poured into every sip you take. Cheers to Johann and to many more delicious adventures at Boxer Brewing Co.!
This is an abridged version of an article written by Mick Wüst for The Crafty Pint