A licence from the Liquor and Gaming office pinned to the left of Lachlan MacBean's front door indicates I have the right house - that, and the sound of his three primary school-aged sons playing in the hall.
The 43-year-old, who cut his teeth at Bluetongue Brewery after completing a graduate certificate in brewing from the University of Ballarat, has recently gone out on his own and created the craft beer label, Grainfed Brewing Company. He has permission to sell his debut drop, a pale ale called Sneaky One, from his home, but forget images of kegs and bottles stacked up in suburban Newcastle - trading is online and the kegs are stored elsewhere.
Thankfully, it's not a completely dry site and given it is 40° outside I happily accept a middy of Sneaky One while we pull up a couple of stools at the kitchen bench. School awards are stuck to the fridge and toys are strewn around the living area. In the couple of years since leaving Bluetongue when his wife Jeanette took on the role as John Hunter Hospital's organ donor co-ordinator, MacBean has been a stay-at-home dad ("house husband", quips cheeky 10-year-old Angus). Amid the domestic demands he has been quietly and assuredly establishing his brewing business.
"I can't believe I've been able to turn my hobby into a career," says the former horticulturist, wiping froth off the tip of his nose. "I've been making home brew for 20 years, but I decided to get more serious about it when I was 34 and study."
The University of Ballarat taught him the science - and art - of creating beer. "My old boss [at Bluetongue] used to say to me, 'In the brewing business there are no secrets, only mysteries'," recalls MacBean. Essentially, brewing is about balancing the key ingredients of malt (barley) and hops. "You're after drinkability: When you finish a beer, do you want another one?"
I do, which is a surprise given there is only one brand of beer that I enjoy - Hoegaarden, a Belgian wheat beer that is not as cheap or as readily available as I'd like.
Since its December launch, Sneaky One has been popular among women who, like me, appreciate its lack of bitterness. Its alcohol content is only 4.2 per cent, which also appeals. MacBean, who works casual shifts behind the bar at the Albion Hotel, calls it a Newcastle summer ale. "I designed it with a summer's day in mind; easy to drink but you're not going to fall over after a couple."
The beer is brewed at a contract facility in Wollongong, arriving in Newcastle two weeks later in kegs and placed in cold storage. MacBean delivers the kegs to local pubs in the family's Tarago. When Sneaky One was launched at the Albion on December 14, the first keg was drunk in 2½ hours. The pub, which is known for its array of 300 craft beers, went through nine kegs in nine days. Business is definitely on the up.
MacBean's goal is to have his own brewery and possibly his own "brewery pub" where people can observe the beer-making process while enjoying a meal and a drink. In the mean time there are boys to be cared for and a label to grow.
Try Sneaky One on tap at the Great Northern Hotel, Albion Hotel, Silo Restaurant and Lounge, The Dockyard, Warners at the Bay and the Burwood Inn. Visit grainfedbrewing.com.au.