Talking Beer and Newcastle w/ Luke Tilse / by Kian West

NEWCASTLE BEER FEST / HAPPY WOMBAT / APPLE TRUCK CIDER

LUKE TILSE – ONE BUSY GUY

By Kian West

ANYTHING THAT INCLUDES THE NECTAR OF THE GODS, BEER, CERTAINLY HAS MY ATTENTION AND WHEN I READ ABOUT THE NEWCASTLE BEER FEST I WAS STRAIGHT TO THE EMAIL HITTING UP LUKE TILSE, ONE OF THE MASTERMINDS BEHIND THIS ADVENTURE.

We sat down for a lunch time beverage at his venue The Happy Wombat for a quick chat between his many projects to find out a bit more about Newcastle Beer Fest, what it takes to run a venue and a little bit of Luke’s input on what is “really” going on in Newcastle so I let him run with it…

Luke Tilse hiding behind a tasty Beer

Luke Tilse hiding behind a tasty Beer

Luke: In Newcastle, you can be entrepreneurial a bit easier. Like, I had no money. I started the cider when I was working at Dockyards. For ten years, never did I have any money – I went and got a personal loan for twenty grand and had a little crack, and if I lost twenty grand, who cares? I’ll just pay it off like a credit card debt. You can do that in Newcastle.

It’s a good test space [Newcastle]?

In a more positive sense, they use that example for rolling out 40km zones and 50km zones, and your lock-out laws and stuff like that for Newcastle – it’s also that positive thing. It is a city in its own right, you know? I always think of Newcastle and I keep arguing this: when you go to Europe, France has got Lyon and all these other cities that are proper cities – they aren’t considered second-class cities to Paris. Whereas in Australia it’s capital cities, capital cities, that’s it; everything else doesn’t matter. I really feel like Newcastle is an independent city in its own right.

 Novocastrians seem to have a reputation for having a sense of identity unlike anywhere else…

That’s right. I just came back from England and you say ‘Newcastle’ over there and people know where that is. I think if you said ‘Geelong’ people would go ‘Oh, near Melbourne?’ I love it. I love living in Newcastle; you feel like you’re part of something growing. In Newcastle it sort of does care about you – you can actually be part of it, you can help the city develop, and people know that. You become a part of a community of people who are also trying to help the city develop.

You’re definitely having a crack at the Newcastle Beer Fest (8th and 9th of April), which used to be the Boardwalk Festival – is that when you were at Dockyard?

They had Craft Beer Week. I basically proposed that everyone along Honeysuckle work together to do one event as part of it. Then the next year, we made it the big signoff for the event, then Craft Beer Week kind of fizzled out. So then I thought, we’ll do the Beer Fest independently, have a big event, and if people want to do satellite events, they can just do it. Last year we sold out: 1600 people, just crazy. We’ve just had approval for a new site up at Nobbys, Camp Shortland. Two days, NSW breweries on the Saturday and Australian brewers on the Sunday.

How do the tickets work – you get 10 tokens?
Yep, you get ten drink tokens and you get your food token as well. This year we’ve got Nagisa, The Happy Wombat, Grain Store is doing some food as well; MEET is going to be there, and Baked Uprising, all doing food. You can always buy more.

With all of this going on – Happy Wombat, Apple Truck Cider and this – how do you fit it all in?

Being away for a month has just forced me to let go a bit. All the staff do a great job, they were brilliant while I was away. I really need to stop doing it all last minute. I’m just so disorganised, basically. I struggle to do projections, so I need to start doing more of that. It has been hard, but it’s kind of just how I run my life.

Why do you do it all?

I was just having this conversation with my wife last night. Each year with the beer festival, I seriously get to the end of it and – it’s like putting on a wedding and having everyone judging you. You sit there and go, ‘This year we’ll be hoping for 3000 people’. I get really anxious about it. When you go to bed you have to be really careful with your thoughts. It is stressful doing all this, but I don’t know, I just want to do stuff that’s fun. It is quite fun. Better working for yourself. You feel like you’re compelled – you sort of have to do it.

If you could teach Novocastrians one thing, what would it be?

It’s hard not to sound corny. Just not be afraid to have a go at anything. Think about a way to go out and have a go. Do it for fun. Just Google it.  

So the newcastlebeerfest.com.au is on April 8th and 9th at Camp Shortland (Nobby’s Beach Park) with tickets just $50 for either day

April 8 - NSW Breweries
April 9 - Rest of Australia Breweries

Luke Tilse The Happy Wombat Tilses Apple Truck Cider