Matt goes from crafting furniture to brewing craft beer
A knee injury meant Matt Wolf couldn't work in his physically demanding job as a furniture maker, so after laying low until he recovered, he began helping out some friends who owned a brewery.
"I was getting back into work by giving helping out wherever they needed it. Behind the bar, running the canning lines and brewing production and at the time, I was just doing something I enjoyed and didn't think of it outside of that, certainly not as a career pathway," said Matt.
Working his way up to becoming an Assistant Brewer at Cannon Hill Brewery saw Matt look after making beer and managing the taproom, where he experienced new areas of brewing and licensing. As he progressed further, his passion for the industry grew, and he decided to get qualified.
"While I was helping to set up the brewery, I met Steve 'Hendo' Henderson, who was advising us on how to get up and running. During our conversation, he mentioned that TAFE Queensland was launching a new brewery course in Brisbane, and I decided to apply," he explained.
Once the course launched, Matt enrolled to study the Certificate III in Food Processing – Brewing (FBP30117). To his delight, he could study part-time, which suited him because it meant he could continue working while getting qualified.
"I wanted to get a deeper understanding of brewing because I didn't want to get too comfortable doing things the same way as I've always done them. Brewing is such a complex process, and I wanted to expand my skills in a way that complimented my life – so studying part-time was perfect."
"I had Mondays free, so I was able to go to the BrewLab and learn by using the state of the art equipment. Then on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, I'd attend lectures over Zoom, and being able to do that after I finished work fitted perfectly into my schedule – so it was great."
From the first day, Matt was impressed with how the teachers taught the course by combining theory with hands-on activities, from basic brewing principles to learning how to use the sophisticated equipment in the lab.
Learning to brew in a completely controlled environment, where everything had to be spot on and perfect, was exactly what Matt wanted. Under his teachers' expert guidance, he honed his skills, tried new things and learnt from mistakes along the way.
"The teachers made understanding brewing principles easy, and learning from them, and their industry experience on equipment that we otherwise wouldn't use was fantastic."
"At any stage, if we had any issues, we could easily contact them. If we didn't fully understand something or had questions at exam time, they were more than happy to clarify what we needed to do without spoon-feeding us. They taught in a way that we still thought for ourselves, which made us apply our skills and learn more."
Matt's practical studies were held at TAFE Queensland's BrewLab, where he'd use equipment that most brewers dream of having access to, which complemented his role at Cannon Hill brewing.
"We'd brew beer in industry-standard vats, and use alcolyzer to test alcohol content, have machines to measure alcohol density – then can or keg it. It was a great learning environment, and my skills improved so much that I was able to get more done at work each day."
Matt's studies culminated in 2021 when he wrote, developed and brewed a Best Bitter recipe that won a bronze medal at the Indies Awards.
"The teachers let us decide what to brew for the final project, and we developed and brewed a beer of our design. It was terrific to get free rein to draft the recipe, source the ingredients and put our training into practice."
"I love that malty style of beer that we don't get enough of in Australia, and I wanted to create something simple and tasty that could be an everyday drink, and it was good to get the opportunity to do that."
"I wasn't expecting a medal, but to get bronze was cool. I think everyone's their own worst critic, and I thought we should have done things differently - but winning bronze was a great result, and the judges provided invaluable feedback, which will help improve my future recipes."
Now an award-winning graduate, Matt is focused on perfecting his craft, learning more about the art of brewing and one day owning a brewery.
"I think there are plenty of opportunities in the industry at the moment in terms of breweries, and what I love about the industry is it's quite collaborative."
"We compete with each other, but then at the end of the day, we still celebrate each other's wins, which is great. It's an outstanding industry to work within. You get to make something and be creative then see people enjoying your product which is what I enjoy most," concluded Matt.