Banga Beer first hit the market in 2023 with the release of the Banga Crisp AF Lager, scooping Bronze in the Australian Style Lager category at the Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA), a pretty good result for Founder Evan Belogiannis’ first brew.

Belogiannis worked in live production and audio engineering for almost 20 years, but had very little brewing experience when Banga Beer was born. A pipe dream that finally came to fruition in the midst of the pandemic, Banga Beer is now available in venues across Sydney, and Belogiannis has big plans for the future of the brewery.

Reflecting on his journey over the last year, Belogiannis told Beer & Brewer where it all began, starting with his career in audio production in numerous Sydney venues which was quickly disrupted with the onset of the pandemic.

“I worked mostly in venues and festivals, and even dabbled in some touring, theatre, television, installation and studio work here and there, but what I loved was the experience of a live band. Cutting my teeth in the early days, my very first gigs were operating those Wiggles shopping centre-type shows, where I’d drag a giant Henry the Octopus costume with a dodgy CD player, head-worn mic and a script to shopping centres around NSW.

“Fast forward a few years, and I had progressed to working at some of the best venues and festivals around Sydney, with some of the best equipment and PA systems around, looking after artists from all genres touring from all over the world.

“Coming out of back-to-back parties for Mardi Gras 2019 and going into a complete lockdown was a rude shock. I remember feeling frustrated as I have trouble sitting still at the best of times, but the silver lining was finally having time for upskilling and hobbies I’d never previously had time for,” he added.

Top of that list for Belogiannis was learning how to brew, and like many, it meant that his brewing journey began at home.

“My housemates and I would sit around my kitchen every week while I was mashing a new brew, drinking the brew from weeks prior. It was horrible stuff. I only had a plastic 20L fermenter and my mash tun was a giant old steel pot I stole from mum,” says Belogiannis.

“I’d scour recycling bins on my street, looking for brown bottles to clean and I used to bottle condition everything. There were quite a few beer explosions, sour batches, and just some horrible beer in general. I knew that levelling up my brews would involve better equipment and heaps more knowledge.”

Banga Beer

Having priced up a fairly elaborate brewhouse for his garage, Belogiannis decided he’d be better off learning the trade in an already-established brewery, but finding one that was willing to take him on was the first hurdle.

“Other than my failed home brews and hours of YouTube and Reddit, I had zero knowledge of commercial brewing. I remember cold calling and emailing every brewery in Sydney, trying to get any sort of work experience under my belt and everyone told me to get lost, and I don’t blame them, in the middle of a pandemic,” he says.

“Vincent from Frenchies Brewery in Rosebery was the only guy to give me a chance. I started on the packaging line, putting cans into boxes. Once I got my foot in the door, I just never left and destroyed Vince’s brain with questions daily. 

“The learning curve was quick thanks to my previous career in audio, where there’s this unrelenting process that guides the sound from microphone to speaker and about a thousand opportunities for failure in between. Having that experience behind me helped me figure out the process, understand the brewhouse quickly, and identify every time I fucked up, which was often.”

Belogiannis says that throughout his audio career, he had always dreamt of opening his own venue with a brewery attached, and is now well on his way to doing just that.

“I can truly say, thanks to Vince’s knowledge, patience and trust, while throwing me in the deep end in the early days, that I’m on my way to making that dream a reality.  There are still days where I have no idea what I’m doing, but I feel like that’s where most of the fun comes from in brewing beer.  Otherwise, it would only just be early mornings, hard labor, and perpetually wet boots.”

While Belogiannis’ first brew, Banga Crisp AF Lager, may have placed in its first year at the AIBA’s, it was the opinions of those around him that mattered the most when putting his beer out into the world.

“My family and friends loved it, but I think the real test was giving it to people whose beer vocabulary had never strayed past a Tooheys New poured from a tap last cleaned in 1993,” he says.

“I gave a case of Banga Crisp AF Lager to my 70-something-year-old Greek neighbour who immediately dissmed and the beer as ‘Malakies Bullshit Beer’, but it was great to see that on bin night a few days later he’d managed to demolish the entire case.

“That’s when I knew I was truly on the right path. Since then, I’ve managed to get the beer into a bunch of smaller venues in Marrickville, Enmore and the CBD, and my neighbour still hassles me for my beers.”

Since then, Belogiannis has made a few iterations of his Banga Crisp AF Lager, as well as releasing a pale ale and pilsner.

“My goal is to create and perfect beers that are easy drinking and sessionable before I expand into more experimental brews. Lagers, draughts and pilsners are my beer of choice, and I want to make beer that I enjoy drinking and beer that pairs well with live music. So it has to be crisp, refreshing and truly crushable.

“I guess what I’ve learned along the way is that it’s super easy to make a beer, but challenging to get it into people’s hands. With so many talented breweries in Sydney, it’s a challenge to get into venues and bottle shops. But this kind of challenge is a good thing for the industry in my opinion, it keeps standards high and creates an innovative environment in the scene.”

With plenty of brewing experience now firmly under his belt, Belogiannis still has his heart set on building a brewery and live music venue in one.

“I want to build a space where the community can come together, watch some punk bands on stage, smash a pizza, have a few Banga’s and celebrate all things live music and beer. To build a thriving space for artists and bands to perform and contribute to Sydney’s live music scene. Think a kick-ass PA system, local and touring bands and artists, delicious pizza and the crispest lagers in all the land.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *