By Jamie Burnett.
What a difference a decade can make.
In another life, Praveen Bhat would be an engineer. That was the plan when he left India for Perth back in 2008. But today you won’t find him in a suit and tie, or behind an office desk. Instead, he’s brewing beers from Australia’s most remote brewery.
“I came to Australia to complete my Masters in Engineering. During that time I was working at a pub in Fremantle and that led me to brewing, rather than pursuing an office job. I wanted to do something with my hands and I wanted to be around beer,” says Prav.
However the change in plan was a tough sell to a traditional family back home.
“They weren’t very happy. No Indian family would be! They kept telling me how much they spent on my education. There was obviously a bit of push back but now I’ve educated my parents on the complexity of the brewing industry and what’s involved,” Prav explains with a laugh.
The almost-engineer has been the head brewer at Matso’s Broome Brewery for more than a year. He’s the man responsible for refreshing locals and travellers with Matso’s Ginger Beer, Mango Beer and a range of ‘brewery-only’ specials.
But brewing beer in Australia’s best location didn’t happen overnight. After five years working in a pub, it was a job at Gage Roads Brewing that allowed Prav to develop his brewing chops.
“I did everything. I started off in pack lines and after that I came to the bottling line and from there to the brewing side of things. I did the whole shabang out there.
“Everybody wants to get into the brewing side. I definitely wanted to be a brewer but working on the packaging line showed me a bigger picture. There’s a lot more that needs to be done to get the product to the customer, it gave me some great perspective.”
And these days when he’s not making beer, or taking visitors on tours explaining the inner workings of Matso’s, Prav is exploring. He says the Kimberley is a place to escape the ordinary. To pack up the car, head out on the open road, and find a little adventure.
“The outback is right here. If you want to go camping or do something outdoors, a great spot isn’t too far away. All you need is to grab the swag, load up an Eski and ‘boom’ you’re off.
“We just go out and explore. A lot of great camping sites are less than an hour out of town. On a day off you’re away”
Matso’s Broome Brewery can sometimes feel like an international airport. Not in a crowded, waiting to board, frustrating way. But in a ‘the world is around’ you way. Tourists from all over the world travel to Broome to find adventure and experience “the outback”. And after a day exploring the red dirt and blue seas, they recharge and spin yarns over a beer or three at Matso’s.
The staff can relate to what the visitors are chasing. Many are former backpackers or travellers that have decided to call Broome home. Some stay for months. Some stay for years. And others, forever.
“Broome initially was founded on immigrant labour during the pearling industry, so there’s always been a multicultural vibe going around here.
“I’m Indian, our head chef is from India, we have French cooks and we have lots of backpackers from all over the world travelling through.
“There’s always lots of diversity around the place and it makes for interesting conversation and obviously interesting food and flavour. It makes its way into the beers as well because everyone brings something and that makes life much more enjoyable.”
While Prav loves calling Broome home, he’s quick to remember that ten years ago he was supposed to be an engineer.
Who knows what the next decade will bring.