Three Guys & An Ex-PM: Creating A Beer Brand With Bob Hawke

Picture this, you’re in the home of one of the greatest PMs Australia has ever seen, with only 20 minutes to gain his stamp of approval to create a beer company in his name. What do you say? What do you wear? What do you bring? These were just some of the nerve-tingling questions that Nathan Lennon, David Gibson and Luke Langton, the directors of Hawke’s Brewing Co., were asking themselves in the lead-up to their once-in-a-lifetime meeting with the legend himself, Bob Hawke.

Hawke’s Brewing Co. began as just an idea, when two Aussie mates, Nathan Lennon and David Gibson were working in New York at advertising agency, Droga5. The seed was planted on Australia Day, while Nathan and David were in the office. Being January in New York, it was a typical winter’s day – unbearably cold, bucketing down with snow and generally miserable outside. And to make matters worse, the pair were at work. Nathan turned to David and asked, “Which Aussie would you most like to have a beer with right now?” Nathan, already having his answer in his head (which was, of course, Bob Hawke) heard David reply with “Bob Hawke”. The pair’s conversation then drifted to what a beer company with Bob Hawke at the helm might look like. Or rather, what it should look like.

So just how did these three mates put their idea into action? And how do you build a great Australian beer company around a great Australian like Hawkie?

explore DRINKS caught up with Co-Founder of Hawke’s Brewing Co., Nathan Lennon to chat about Bob Hawke, starting a beer company, and of course, all things beer.

explore DRINKS: What did you set out to achieve when creating Hawke’s Brewing Co.?

Nathan Lennon: Well, most Aussies would have just been happy to meet Bob Hawke. But we’re an ambitious bunch of blokes and we had a big, long-term vision for this company. The way we presented it to Bob was three-fold. Firstly, we needed to make cracking, quality craft beer. Secondly, we wanted the company to embrace a ‘giving back’ ethos and have a purpose beyond just making great beer. And finally, with Bob Hawke involved, we wanted the company to epitomise the values of Bob’s kindness, generosity, warmth, charisma, and his strong sense of community. And he also doesn’t mind a beer on occasion.

ED: He’s one of the greatest ever PM’s, and a beloved Australian, which says enough in itself, but I have to ask – Why Bob Hawke?

NL: Once we sat down and actually started to think about it, it felt like a no-brainer to build a brewing company around such a revered and respected man, who defines the best parts of what it means to be a good Australian. Despite his stature as PM, Bob has always had this superhuman ability to connect with everyday people. He’s never been too good to sit down and have a beer and a chat with a punter. That’s a quality that resonates with all Aussies. You only have to see him walk through the stands of the SCG on a test day to see this in full effect. The mob love him, and he loves the mob. He’s always had a special relationship with the Australian people, and he treasures that.   

ED: When you first reached out to Bob with the idea of a beer company in his name, what was his reaction like? And can you tell me about the first time you guys met Bob in person?

NL: I’ll let you in on a little secret. When Bob first heard that a bunch of guys were interested in creating a beer company with him, he wasn’t too keen. But admittedly, he didn’t know a lot at that stage. And he didn’t know us from a bar of soap. He probably thought it was for a bit of a laugh. So, we put some thought behind it and had our ex-boss, who is one of Bob’s good friends, pass him a snapshot proposal of how we saw Hawke’s Brewing Co. launching into the market. That changed his tune and next thing you know we were on a plane from New York to Sydney and sitting in his kitchen. We were totally star-struck. It was surreal. He had his favourite newspapers sprawled out in front of him and it was clear that our job that morning was to make him more interested in our presentation than those papers. Once we got going he really took to the notion that Hawke’s Brewing Co. would be a company with an ethos of giving back to the community, in some way. And that’s when he suggested a partnership with Landcare Australia. He was still thinking like a PM and having the best interests of Australia at heart. That’s his touch. It was pretty special to watch. 

ED: Can you tell me about the partnership with Landcare Australia?

NL: Here’s a true story. Bob was so excited about Hawke’s Brewing Co. forming a partnership with Landcare that he called Landcare Australia CEO, Tessa Jakszewicz, that afternoon to tell her what the deal was. I think she nearly fell off her chair getting a phone call from Bob Hawke. And when 

he told her that he’d be foregoing all his financial benefit from Hawke’s Brewing Co. and passing it onto Landcare Australia, I think she nearly passed out. But the environment has always been something extremely close to Bob’s heart. He was instrumental in helping launch the Landcare movement in 1989, and his commitment to Landcare Australia has remained. We think Bob’s pretty happy knowing that Hawke’s Brewing Co. is a combination of two of his great loves – a nice, cold beer and helping the environment. And as a group, we’re looking forward to seeing how our connection can not only help create some great awareness for Landcare and what they do, but also help fund some much-needed projects. Landcare has so many great volunteers, who give their time and energy to nurturing our environment, so we’re also keen to get our hands dirty and help out when we can. We’ll provide the cold beers at the end of the job!

ED: Tell us about the team you’ve assembled for Hawke’s Brewing Co.?

NL: David and I have worked together for over 10 years. We’ve done stints in London and New York, as well as helped run the advertising for several high-profile Aussie beer brands back home in Sydney. We’ve always had a quiet obsession with the beer category (and a good beer, of course!), so you could say Bob’s given us a crack at fulfilling a dream. Our other director/partner, Luke Langton has over 17-years’ experience in beer and wine sales and distribution. Luke was a big missing link for us when we were trying to set up Hawke’s Brewing Co. We needed someone with a wealth of industry experience, but also someone who was willing to drop their life, make some big sacrifices and work hard with us to make the dream a reality. Luke more than fit the bill. Plus he was a great bloke (and still is!) The other missing link for us was finding a head brewer. We were so lucky getting Justin Fox on board. He’d only just left Colonial Brewing Co. and was really excited to write the recipe for our lager. Juz put our final pilot brew for Hawke’s Lager in tank on Boxing Day, cricket on in the background, so it was bound to be a winner, right? Luke keeps telling us it’s the most technically perfect lager he’s ever tasted. But to be honest, as long as Bob’s happy, we’re all happy.

THE BREW

The guys at Hawke’s Brewing Co. and head brewer Justin Fox wanted to create a quality craft beer that used all-Australian ingredients. Being the first beer in the core range, Justin worked tirelessly with the crew to create a cracking good lager that appeals to both mainstream draught beer and craft beer fans who may be looking for a lager or easy drinking beer. The result is a flavourful, refreshing lager brewed with all Aussie hops.

Hawke’s Lager

ABV 4.5% IBU 18.

TASTING NOTES

A lager brewed with all Aussie ingredients, with a subtle citrus aroma, light bitterness and a gentle dry finish.

Hawke’s Lager has been pouring in Sydney since early April. The ‘Hawke’s First XI’ pub roll-out continues with the lager launching on tap in Melbourne on June 1, before kegs and tinnies rolling out to the rest of the nation throughout 2017. To find out where else you can to get your hands on a cold one, head to the ‘beer finder’ section at hawkesbrewing.com

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