Drinks Adventures - Wine, beer, whisky, gin & more with James Atkinson

Wine, Beer & Whisky Network Australia

Australian wine, beer and spirits podcast for adventurous drinkers, hosted by Australian food and drink lover James Atkinson.

  • 29 minutes 19 seconds
    World champion gluten-free beer: Two Bays Brewing

    In this episode, we meet Richard Jeffares, founder of the gluten-free brewery Two Bays, which recently won a gold medal for its Session Ale at the World Beer Cup.

    The World Beer Cup is often referred to as ‘The Olympics Of Beer’. It's held in America every two years and unlike most of the other drinks competitions around, there is only one gold, silver and bronze medal awarded in each beer category.

    It's frightfully difficult to win a medal, especially for breweries on the other side of the world, which naturally face logistical challenges getting their beer in front of the judges in peak condition.

    As such, there's only been a handful of Australian breweries that have ever won medals in the World Beer Cup, with 9300 beers entered this year from 2060 breweries in 50 countries.

    Two Bays founder Richard Jeffares and head brewer Kristian Martin were in Las Vegas to collect the award.

    And when I caught up with Richard on his return to Australia, it was also a chance to hear about other developments at the company, which continues to impress with its mastery of beers made from a base of millet, buckwheat and rice.

    14 May 2024, 2:00 pm
  • 34 minutes 57 seconds
    A whisky nerd turns pro: Rod Berry of Amber Lane Distillery

    We're joined this episode by Rod Berry of Amber Lane, a whisky distillery based in the Yarramalong Valley, north of Sydney.

    Rod’s longstanding enthusiasm for whisky gradually evolved into an obsession while working in his previous career as a lawyer.

    Ultimately, Rod joined forces with friend and fellow whisky enthusiast Phil Townsend to set up the Amber Lane distillery on Phil’s property in the Central Coast hinterland.

    Since leaving the legal pro behind, Rod has been fine-tuning his craft, inspired by his passion for sherried Scotch whiskies, and applying some maturation techniques that are more commonly utilised in the production of cognac.  

    Already with an impressive array of gold medals to its name, Amber Lane has developed a reputation for quality, which Rod believes is crucial for craft spirits producers to be able to prosper in the current competitive and economic landscape.  

    6 May 2024, 2:00 pm
  • 27 minutes
    Chef Michael Ryan's spirits venture, Beechworth Bitters

    In this episode we return to Beechworth in High Country Victoria, after having Ben Kraus from Bridge Road Brewers on the show last year.

    This time we’re joined by chef Michael Ryan from the highly acclaimed Beechworth restaurant, Provenance, to discuss Beechworth Bitters Company, his side project dedicated to amaro and cocktail bitters.

    A few years ago I brought you an episode about Italian amari, produced in partnership with The Italian Cultural Institute.

    This episode puts an Australian angle on this lesser known spirits category, as Michael explains how he created his own library of extracts from roots, leaves, flowers and bark, and blended them into this distinctive range of bitters that speak clearly of their Beechworth provenance.

    29 April 2024, 9:32 pm
  • 25 minutes 49 seconds
    F1 star Valtteri Bottas and Corrina Wright of Ihana Wine

    Ihana Wine is a boutique wine brand launched by Finnish Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas in partnership with sixth generation McLaren Vale wine company Oliver’s Taranga.

    A ten-time race winner currently driving for the Kick Sauber F1 team, Valtteri shares with us his longstanding passion for wine, and specifically South Australian shiraz, which has been crystallised through his relationship with South Australian Tiffany Cromwell, the professional cyclist.

    Listen in as Valtteri opens up about the blending process, collaborating with Oliver’s Taranga winemaker Corrina Wright, and how he balances his interests in wine, coffee and gin with the demands of the F1 season.

    We find out what he thinks of the DR3 wines created by Australian F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo, who we had on the show in early 2023.

    Later on this episode I talk again with Corrina who gives her perspective on one of the more unlikely celebrity wine partnerships that I’ve been able to share with you on the Drinks Adventures podcast.

    22 April 2024, 2:00 pm
  • 23 minutes 48 seconds
    Chuck Hahn returns with Chuck & Son's Brewing Co

    We're joined this episode by the founders of Sydney’s newest craft brewery, Chuck & Son’s Brewing Company.

    And yes, we’re talking about Chuck Hahn, who is sensationally making a return to the brewing industry in partnership with his son Scott.

    Chuck notched up 50 years in the brewing industry in 2021, which we celebrated on this podcast with this special documentary episode.

    I naively thought that would be a footnote to his incredible brewing career. But it turns out Chuck has unfinished business.

    Together with Scott, the next chapter begins May 2024 at a new brewery in St Peters in the inner west.

    However, it is of course an exceedingly difficult market to launch a new brewery, even if you’re Chuck Hahn.

    We’ll address some of those challenges later on in this interview with Chuck and Scott.

    15 April 2024, 2:00 pm
  • 24 minutes 39 seconds
    Stupendous Savagnin with Crittenden Wines

    Rollo Crittenden is general manager, winemaker and vineyard manager of Crittenden Wines in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula region.

    Mornington Peninsula is synonymous with premium quality pinot noir and chardonnay, and Crittenden certainly excels at making wine from those varieties.

    But when it comes to differentiating the winery from its peers, Rollo has an ace up his sleeve.

    Since 2011, Crittenden has been making a rare Australian example of the white wines made from savagnin grapes that are unique to the Jura region of France.

    Known as ‘vin jaune’ wines in Jura, they’re aged for years in barrel under a layer of flor yeast, similar to how fino sherry wines are made in Spain.

    And the results are quite extraordinary, as I experienced myself late last year when Rollo presented a retrospective comprising six vintages of Crittenden’s Cri De Couer savagnin wines.

    Coming up, you’ll hear how this project has evolved from an accident into one of the most celebrated wines on the contemporary Australian scene.

    NB: This interview was recorded following the event late in 2023, right before I took an extended break from the podcast. Keep that in mind when we reference the upcoming pipeline of releases during this interview.

    8 April 2024, 2:00 pm
  • 11 minutes 46 seconds
    Distillers toast 20 years at April conference

    The Australian Distillers Association is the peak body for the 700 craft distillers that are now spread across the country, up from just 40 a decade ago.

    I work pretty closely with the ADA and its chief executive Paul McLeay in my day job as media & communications manager of Spirits & Cocktails Australia.

    In this bonus episode, Paul and I catch up for a quick chat about the ADA Conference coming up in Brisbane on April 28 to 30, 2024, which is the association’s 20th anniversary year.

    I know quite a few of you are in the distilling industry, so Paul and I will hope to see you there.

    Since we were already sitting down for a chat, I took the opportunity to ask Paul about the latest global accolades for Australian distillers at the World Whiskies Awards, and how his members are coping in the challenging economic environment.

    Register for the ADA Conference here.

    28 March 2024, 7:19 am
  • 30 minutes 41 seconds
    How craft beer turmoil is impacting supplier Bintani

    Last year I reported on the worrying spate of insolvencies in the drinks industry, particularly among craft brewers.

    And things have gotten even worse so far in 2024. Dave Padden of Sydney’s Akasha Brewing was pretty open with us last year on the show about the difficulties his business was confronting.

    Sadly, Akasha last week became the latest brewery to enter voluntary administration.

    In this episode I’m joined by Dale Meddings, joint CEO of Bintani, Australia’s leading supplier of ingredients to the brewing and distilling industries, and a long-term sponsor of the podcast.

    Coming up, Dale shares with us the impact this brewing industry turmoil has been having on his business, and we get a health check on the emerging craft spirits sector.

    Dale reveals what are some of the hottest ingredients currently on the market that will shape the drinks of the future.

    And you’ll hear why, in spite of everything that’s going on, he is still optimistic about the future of independent brewing in Australia.

    27 March 2024, 9:46 pm
  • 20 minutes 6 seconds
    Tarac unveils debut whiskies made for blending

    Back in early 2023 we met Jeremy Blanks and Greg Jackson of Tarac, the largest distiller of grape spirit in Australia, which is diversifying into the contract production of whisky.

    Twelve months on, Jeremy and Greg return to the show having recently had their first trial whiskies come of age.

    I’ve had a chance to taste these whiskies that have been column distilled from malted barley, and was really impressed with them.

    Don’t take my word for it though, if you’re a distiller and heading to the Australian Distillers Association Conference in Brisbane at the end of April, you can try these whiskies for yourself at the trade show. See you there!

    In this special episode of Drinks Adventuresproduced in partnership with Tarac – Greg and Jeremy update us on all the developments in their whisky program since we last spoke.

    The company’s first commercial batch of whisky will reach maturity in August 2024. And based on the level of interest from distillers thus far, this milestone should mean we start to see some more blended whiskies coming on to the market in Australia.

    Does Australian whisky have the appropriate regulations to accommodate these products? That’s something Jeremy, Greg and I explore a bit later on in today’s conversation.

    Click here for more information on Tarac's Australian single malt whisky offering.

    20 March 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 42 minutes 24 seconds
    Andrew Caillard MW on his wine opus, The Australian Ark

    We’re joined again this episode by Andrew Caillard MW, one of Australia’s leading authorities on wine.

    Andrew was last on the show in November 2020 discussing the debut of two Australian wines on the prestigious international wine marketplace, La Place de Bordeaux.

    This time Andrew joins us to discuss his magnum opus, The Australian Ark, the most extensive history of the Australian wine industry ever written.

    First up, Andrew and I discuss the challenges involved with getting a book of this scale and ambition off the ground.

    We then explore just a handful of the individuals and events that have shaped the wine industry as told by Andrew in The Australian Ark, such as:

    • Who was the real father of Australian wine – it’s not James Busby as I previously thought;
    • How colonial wine evolved from a cottage industry into a booming export industry spearheaded by the Emu brand of Australian burgundy in the late 1800s; and
    • The Australian Wine Canon – Andrew’s list of the most influential Australian wines of all time, starting with the Rosehill Red Wine produced in Parramatta in 1792.


    Trigger warning: This episode which includes some pretty confronting discussion about the displacement of First Nations people that sadly occurred as part of this story, and which Andrew doesn’t shy away from in his book.

    I'd like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which this podcast is produced – the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation – and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.

    18 March 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 50 minutes 42 seconds
    My whisky ethos: Lark Distilling CEO Satya Sharma

    Satya Sharma is the new CEO of Australia’s pioneering whisky company, Lark Distilling.

    Sash – as he prefers to be called – has only been on deck since May 2023.

    But already, he has put his stamp on the Lark business.

    The frenzy of special releases has been dialled back in favour of a clearly defined core range.

    Export deals have been announced for several markets in South East Asia.

    700ml bottles are on the cards, and as you just heard, the business has committed to greater transparency about the provenance of whiskies that carry the Lark name.

    Sash joined Lark following ten years with William Grant & Sons, most recently in Singapore, where he played an integral role establishing export markets for its iconic brands including Glenfiddich and The Balvenie.

    We’ll explore that career background and Sash’s vision for Lark coming up in this extended interview that gets the Drinks Adventures podcast underway for 2024.

    If you haven’t already, make sure you listen to the special episode I did for the 30th anniversary of Lark Distillery in 2022. I’ve linked to it from the show notes.

    First up this episode, I asked Bill Lark his thoughts on the new leadership, which signals the beginnings of another chapter for the business he founded back in 1992.

    11 March 2024, 1:00 pm
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