From little things, big things brew: So it goes for Brisbane’s White Lies Brewing Company, which started out in founder Lee McAlister-Smiley’s garage in 2013. Nearly a decade on, White Lies has won dozens of awards for its inventive craft beers and is about to throw open the doors to a brand-new brewpub.
An engineer, Lee retrained in brewing at Federation University before launching Queensland’s first residential brewery in his garage. “It was a good way to dip a toe in the water,” he says of the brand’s modest start. “Back then, craft brewing was still in its infancy, but the whole industry was moving quite quickly.”
Lee rode the wave with a small range of interesting craft beers, including a chocolate stout and a New-England style IPA, an intensely hopped, fruity beer that’s become White Lies’ signature. “Our philosophy has always been to create something unique and different,” Lee says. “We’re always trying to push the boundaries on what you can and can’t do.”
His creativity paid off, with the brewery collecting silver and bronze medals on its first outing at the Australian and International Beer Awards in 2015. “It showed that we could compete on that larger stage with some of the big companies.”
White Lies quickly outgrew the garage, and by 2016 they had moved into a site in Sumner that had room for a small bar. The bigger space also allowed Lee and his team to experiment with more inventive brewing techniques, such as barrel-ageing.
During COVID, White Lies expanded into distilling and now offers a range of craft gins (including one infused with hops) and vodka, with a whisky on the way.
While White Lies has developed a following for its indulgent brews, like the Coffee Thickshake White Stout, it’s just as revered for its core range of “crushable” beers that are ideal for the subtropical Brisbane climate.
The brewery is working on a cold IPA for the White Lies Limited Edition Release. “We’re taking a traditional West Coast IPA hopping regimen but using a lager yeast and doing it at cold temperatures to promote a crisper finish,” explains Lee.
Lee describes the White Lies Neighbourhood Pale Ale, originally made in collaboration with a local pizza joint, as a “nice, easy, sessionable beer for summer”, while the White Lies Ginger Beer is a mid-strength brew with a big ginger hit. “It’s that ‘Sunday afternoon after mowing the lawn’ type of beverage,” Lee says.
Lee’s love of ’90s metal has infused the White Lies Sumner brewery with a cool, dive bar aesthetic. Dark walls, rustic furniture and skull-topped taps set a grungy scene, but the vibe is distinctly family friendly with board games and a roster of local food trucks providing a low-and-slow-style menu.
“It’s very chilled, very laidback,” says Lee. “We let the beers do the talking.”
White Lies is now gearing up to expand, with a second, larger site in nearby Seventeen Mile Rocks opening soon. The new brewpub has a large beer garden, restaurant and the kit required to seriously level up White Lies’ brewing and canning production.
It’s a long way from their garage days, but Lee says the relaxed, community spirit that’s made White Lies a success is woven into its DNA. “We’ll definitely try to keep some of that original laidback character and charm.”