Doss Blockos: Oz Beer goes Underground

Doss Blockos have created something special, a street culture inspired brewery hidden in amongst the urban snorescapes of Melbourne.

Pretty much epitomising everything Trebuchet admires; righteous DIY, creativity and the amber isotope they’ve taken cues from squat culture, graf and a universal love of beer to make something individual to their experiences, perhaps even true.

Trebuchet caught up with Blockos Hoss Benjamin Cairns to talk Beer and inspiration. 

Trebuchet: From the press release it sounds as though you had a pretty tough time in New York. What took you over there? Did you have a plan to start a brewery back then?
Doss Blockos: We went to New York to see what was happening with beer and bars and off the cuff filming and art that some of our friends were creating. We ended up a lot more underground than we expected and found underground brewing that got us all pretty fired up.

Trebuchet: Tell me about the underground brewing scene in New York? Are there lots of guys doing it? Beer offs? Pop-up bars?
Doss Blockos: Well there is underground, as in a known fraternity of brewers but that's not we are talking about.  I'd say when half the New York breweries were left discarded was when the best brewing happened for squat brewers…

Trebuchet: What’s the history of your Beer?  
Doss Blockos: The history of the beer is something we are still finding out as we get further and further into the subterranean living in New York and become a part of the culture that gave us the inspiration for Doss Blockos…

Trebuchet: So trips back to New York are regular event for you guys?
Doss Blockos: Yeah we are back to New York in May probably.  We are about to brew a special edition of Doss Blockos from its home and ship them back home.  We know it doesn't make financial sense but we are so excited about creating a run somewhere beneath East 9th.  We've got a hook up…

Trebuchet: Why ‘Doss Blockos’?
Doss Blockos: Dos Blockos was an iconic squat in the Lower East Side of New York that was around up until the 1990s.  We were inspired by the good things that come out of adverse conditions, like creativity and camaraderie, and making do with what you've got…

Trebuchet: When did you start brewing? 
Doss Blockos: The first Doss Blockos brew started popping up at bars around Melbourne in October last year.

Trebuchet: What is East 9th Brewery?
Doss Blockos: East 9th Brewing Co. because that's where Doss Blockos came to life and that's where we will end up. Doss Blockos beer is a journey back to its origins that sees us get further and futher down the rabbit hole of squatting and the subterranean world of New York. We are getting more and more involved with the art and music and living that makes squatting what it is all around the world.

We are developing all sorts of ways that we can help out the squatting movement… we were thinking of putting aside funds for a legal team to help squatters stay where they are… it's a good dream and we know it will take a bit of time to happen, but we are keen.

Trebuchet: How do you source your ingredients?
Doss Blockos: The original ingredients were something we were told about in New York.  They are all about what was available and staying true to that…

Trebuchet: Would you consider DB to be a premium product? And is this possibly ironic coming from an underground stance? 
Doss Blockos: We don't really care about making distinctions on that level. If people want to drink it then they should.  How they feel about themselves when they do so is up to them.  Actually we just had to get this idea and this thing out of our heads and into people hands because we loved what it was all about and what it made us think about and where it is making us go as people and as a company. 

Trebuchet: Where do you sell your beers?
Doss Blockos: At the moment, you can get your hands on a Doss Blockos at growing number of Melbourne bars, like The Penny Black, Lucky Coq or the Windsor Castle.  We've also started making our way into small independent bottle-shops, like Drummond Cellars in Carlton and Chapel Street Cellars in Prahran, so now you can take a six-pack home!  In the next month or so, we'll also be heading North into the Sydney bar-scene because we are starting to get requests from bars that have heard about Doss… we just want to slow it down and not move so quickly that it blows out.

Trebuchet: Where do you want to go with the brewery? Expansion plans? Other varieties? What’s the ideal future for you guys?
Doss Blockos: We will do a whole lot more products that we love.  Stuff that interests us as an idea.  Stuff that is interesting to be a part of.  

Trebuchet: How many pubs stock Doss Blockos? 
Doss Blockos: We started of last October with a tight-knit group of around a dozen so we could keep up with demand.  Since then, the number is on the increase almost daily, (probably around 50 or so) which is awesome, so it's getting easier and easier to get your hands on one!

Trebuchet: What inspires to you to make beer?
Doss Blockos: We are inspired to make a beer that people want to drink and want to drink more than one of.  We aren't at all excited about talking double hopped or writing extensively about key beer notes.  Our crew feels like there is room right now for beers that aren't heavy foreign beers or traditional Australian beers.  We are inspired to create a beer that (at the least) vaguely represents thoughtful ideas about living.

Trebuchet: Squats and graf, what do they mean to you? A lifestyle? A form of expression?
Doss Blockos: Squats are interesting to us.  We don't really like generalising too much about them though because there are different squatting circumstances.  In places like New York there is an ideal about not living and breathing the same capitalist scenario as everyone else. In places like Cape Town, people are squatting out of different circumstance.  What we love about squatting and grafing and the arts coming out of squatting in New York is that it is people getting involved with each other and telling the stories and shouting out ideas that they need to get out of their brains.

Trebuchet: They idea of having the beers in ‘brown paper bags’ is pretty keen? How did it come to you?
Doss Blockos: We flogged the first lot from a bottle shop and then we became really keen.

Trebuchet: There is a strong sense of independence coming from the brewery, is that important to you?
Doss Blockos: Actually, it's just what we are doing.  It's not more important than anything else.  I'd say what we really care about is getting further and further down the rabbit hole, towards more and more involvement in the work coming from local artists.  No we didn't smoke a joint before answering this question.

Trebuchet: If people wanted to start a brewery in London, what would be the best way to get going?
Doss Blockos: Starting a brewery… who could be stuffed… do you want to make beer or do you want to try and find millions of dollars to create a machine that already exists.  We recommend Squatting at a brewery and pumping out beer without the crazy overheads.

Trebuchet: Are you tied into a scene in Melbourne? Are there events?
Doss Blockos: We seem to be working and collaborating with new artists and bars and festivals and people every day.  Sometimes we are overwhelmed with a stupid amount of stuff on and coming up all around Australia.  We recently had a massive tattoo event come and take a crap-load of beer and then they had to come back for round two because it went so well.  It's good to have so many bars and gallery launch crew approach us out of nowhere wanting to work with us.

Trebuchet: Getting the word out (ahem, marketing) what’s the plan?
Doss Blockos: Marketing… is that something that you do in the dark?

Trebuchet: You seem to be much more down-to-earth than a lot of ‘street’ scene entrepreneurs? It might be too much to say many of the folk are pretentious, but there seems to be a sort of closed elitism amongst them. What’s the reaction been to your beer/business/baby so far? 
Doss Blockos:  Bars and all the crews working and hanging at some of the best bars around have been really lovely to work with.  Everyone seems to be on it.  Excited about something unique in what it is about and with a taste that everyone just describes as massively drinkable. 

Maybe everything is about having the right intention and I think we have the right intention and other people have the right intention towards us.
East 9th Brewing Company


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