Chatting music, life and the future of Young Henrys with Oscar McMahon

It’s hard to pinpoint where the relationship between beer and live music began, but it sure as hell has flourished under the steady hand of Young Henrys. Since their inception they’ve supported Australian music as a priority, from lending bands a hand with touring, to employing musos, and stocking many of the country’s green rooms.

Most recently Young Henrys announced a monthly free gig series in Melbourne that kicked off with Jade Imagine, and not too long ago the crew’s biggest hard rock and metal die-hards jumped on board the tour bus for a rowdy few days with Download Festival.

On board that bus was Oscar McMahon, who co-founded Young Henrys some years ago with his mate Richard Adamson. Once the hangover had worn off and Oscar had a few moments to step away from the brewery, we sat down to find out more about what Young Henrys is up to in 2019.

oscar mcmahon young henrys interview

For Oscar McMahon and the rest of Young Henrys, music is more than a marketing ploy, it’s in their blood. We caught up to find out what the brewery has going on in 2019.

HAPPY: Hey Oscar, how are things? What are you up to at the moment?

OSCAR: Sitting in the office above the brewery watching the rain hit the windows, talking about replacing seals and some vital/expensive parts on our keg filling machine. Brewing may seem exciting from the outside but like any vocation there is a whole lot of mundane ‘jobby’ bits to the… job. But I’m listening to AC/DC’s Powerage, a quintessential Bon-era classic that just seems to make everything ok. I have a framed Glenno Smith illustration of Bon Scott in my office next to the rain spattered windows… he knows what’s up.

HAPPY: Last time we talked it was right before the Hemp IPA launched. How are you feeling about that release, looking back?

OSCAR: The Afends Hemp IPA was one of my favourite projects YH has ever done and was definitely our longest research and development project. The Afends crew want more people to consider the benefits of hemp in all facets of life and it was really important to both them and us that the beer was good and used a decent amount of hemp so that the flavour and aroma was present (not just using a sacrificial amount and calling it a hemp product).

Having our friends at Halcyon Bioscience consult and then create an organic water soluble hemp oil for this project was a real highlight and I’m pretty sure a world first. The beer was rad, the taste and aroma of hemp was punchy, noticeable and totally legit and it started a bunch of conversations around what should become a really important crop for all Australians. I think the beer achieved exactly what we wanted it to… great conversations often start over beers.

HAPPY: What’s the decision making process for a limited edition tin like the Hemp IPA look like? I assume there’s a fair few that never see the light of day…

OSCAR: Our policy with limited release beers is that we need to be legitimately excited about them and the beer has to say something or do something that promotes the values of YH and its crew. Gut feel is an incredibly important tool in our decision making process. If something feels amiss then it probably isn’t right. We’ve said no to quite a few concepts that looked good on paper but weren’t sitting right or exciting someone in our team.

Photo: Dani Hansen

HAPPY: Young Henrys have pretty much become synonymous with live music in Sydney, which felt like it happened in the blink of an eye (but obviously took some elbow grease). Where did the relationship between Young Henrys and music begin?

OSCAR: The relationship between Young Henrys and music has always been there to be honest. In the early days we always used to say that the stereo was the most important piece of brewing equipment. So many of our crew are musicians or ex musicians, roadies or just music lovers that it actually is just a shared value of the people who work for our company. It’s a genuine love and respect for music, musicians and the live music scene and its venues and festivals. All companies have some sort of marketing budget, we choose to put most of ours towards supporting live music, bands, venues and festivals.

HAPPY: Do you think you could have pulled off the same thing if you were based outside of the Inner West?

OSCAR: Yes and no. The principles and values of YH exist in communities all over the country and can be communicated easily from wherever you are in a digital age… in theory. But we are so lucky to have our home be in the cultural melting pot that is the Inner West of Sydney. This is a place where creativity, individuality and respect for others is alive and well. In Newtown people look after each other and protect each other’s right to be the interesting, different, individual human they wish, need or were born to be.

People also respect and support any businesses that stand up for, progress and protect the values and spirit of our community. I fuckin’ love this place and have done since my first day at Newtown High as a fresh faced 12 year old. It blew my little mind walking down King St and seeing the colourful wildness of it… a total eye opening, fork in the road experience. Newtown has changed my life for the better and I try to personally repay that whenever I can.

Photo: Dani Hansen

HAPPY: What are some of the highlights of that relationship with you? YH have worked with some pretty insane names by now.

OSCAR: There have been many highlights… doing a beer with You Am I was a big thing for us, Frenzal Rhomb were my first live gig and it was an honour to make a beer with those guys, making a moonshine with Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats was a real blast… what a bunch of lovely gents, Kylie Kwong was a real advocate for YH in the early days and was an inspiration to collaborate with, every time we work with DZ they are a dream to hang out and work with. Obviously making a beer with and taking our whole crew to the Foo Fighters was a pretty big thing for all of us. That was a hangover!

But the thing I’m most proud of is seeing Aussie bands we’ve worked with doing such incredible things… All My Exes Live In Texas, WAAX, Pagan, Dunies, Mini Skirt, The Delta Riggs, DZ, West Thebarton, Seaside, Batz, The Dead Love, Scabz, Sloan Peterson, The Pinheads, Exhibitionist, Cable Ties, Totally Unicorn… there is so much incredible music coming out of our country at the moment. It is something we should all be proud of

HAPPY: How are things with The Persian Drugs, while we’re here?

OSCAR: The Persian Drugs are the best. As in, it makes me very happy. I am incredibly proud of the record we have finished and we’re looking forward to releasing it mid this year.

Photo: Dani Hansen

HAPPY: Last year I really started seeing YH in the other Aussie capitals, like Perth or Brisbane, which is mad. Are there plans to expand out of Australia eventually?

OSCAR: The Australian market is so big and, after seven years, we’re only really just getting our heads around it to be honest. It’s been incredible how supportive like minded people all over the country have been towards YH but it’s honestly been a lot of hard work. Heading overseas to a market that we’re not familiar with sounds even harder again… but hey, I never would have even dreamed we’d get this far so who knows!?

HAPPY: Looking at the rest of the year, are there any big collabs we should keep our eyes out for?

OSCAR: YH always has some fun things in the pipeline… nothing we can announce just yet but know that an old favourite is making an appearance again this winter.

HAPPY: Thanks for the chat mate!

OSCAR: Thanks for the chat and for doing great things Happy folk!!! xx


Find out more about Young Henrys on their website.