The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Australia’s widespread lockdown has wreaked havoc on most of Brisbane’s food and beverage operators, with craft-beer breweries being no exception. For White Lies Brewing owner Lee McAlister-Smiley, the temporary closure of his taproom necessitated some out-of-the-box thinking in order to make ends meet. When it came to figuring out which way to pivot, hand sanitiser seemed like a good direction to take. The initial idea came from Sean Bevan (operator of mobile Mexican food dispensary 2 Serial Grillers), who suggested teaming up to produce bottles of the germ killer just as shelves across town were being rapidly depleted of stock. After quickly researching the requirements and submitting the necessary applications, the duo decided to take the idea a step further. To cover themselves in the event that demand for hand sanitiser dropped, Lee and Sean also applied to the ATO for an excise licence that would also allow White Lies to produce spirits on site. Once the bureaucratic wheels were set in motion, Lee and Sean enlisted the services of a Western Australia-based fabricator to secure the necessary distilling equipment – obtaining a 260-litre boiler and a still just after Easter. By this stage plans to make hand sanitiser were scrapped in favour of full-on gin distillation. It was at this point that Ginesis was first conceived.
Enamoured with gin’s incredible depth and potential for experimentation and boundary pushing, Lee and Sean settled on a distilling ethos that favoured a less-is-more approach. Instead of cluttering the mix with an excessive selection of ingredients, Ginesis would be imbued with a smaller selection of highlighted botanicals, beginning with the essential juniper berry and coriander base and layering it with a headline element. Ginesis’ debut range boasts three robust gins, the first spotlighting juicy mandarins, another imbued with zesty finger lime and the third packing the punch of fresh wasabi. Moving forward, Lee and Sean are keen to add a London dry gin to the core mix, as well as monthly batches of limited-edition seasonal gins – each incorporating different Australian fruits and native ingredients. During the lockdown, Lee converted a spare room at his Sumner HQ into a speakeasy-style gin lounge where guests will be able to sip on tasting paddles and other White Lies beverages. Speaking of which, Lee is also experimenting with small-batch canning and a series of barrel-aged beers – the latter project hopefully bearing fruit before Christmas and offering up a tasty new drop each month. For now, you can sample White Lies beers and Ginesis gins (700ml bottles will be available takeaway) at the Sumner brewery from Friday July 3.