I’m sitting in the upstairs terrace of The Clock with Nathan Lennon, one of the two founders of Hawke’s Lager. It was at the bar just beyond us that Bob Hawke himself poured the inaugural schooner back in 2017.
The idea for Hawke’s Lager came from homesickness. Nathan and Dave found themselves in a freezing New York winter dreaming of Australian summer and imagining who, out of anyone, they’d most want to have a beer with. Bob Hawke was the unanimous choice.
“He was this gregarious, loveable character who’d show up at the cricket ground and inevitably down a schooner handed to him by some punter.
“But we always saw the idea as deeper, as symbolic of Bob’s genuine want to connect with the everyday Australian.”
When the pair decided to approach Bob Hawke with the project, they’d already quit their advertising jobs and told their boss that Bob had given the go-ahead.
“When we turned up at Bob’s house with our pitch, we were nervous but also very excited. We heard his voice before we saw him and tingles ran up our spines. I kept thinking, ‘that’s Bob Hawke, we’re in his house, this is crazy!’”
Nathan recalls that Bob was incredibly disarming and warm. The meeting was conducted at Bob’s kitchen table, amidst masses of newspapers.
“After about ten minutes of what we planned to be a thirty-minute pitch, Bob said ‘I want you to give me an honest answer, don’t bullshit me now. Why is this going to work?’”
“I replied, ‘Mr Hawke, with all due respect, this has to work because we’ve already quit our jobs and told our boss you’ve agreed.’ He laughed and replied, ‘well I’d be a bum if I said no then, wouldn’t I.’”
Mr Hawke gave his blessing to the project on the proviso that a portion of profits be donated to Landcare Australia, including any royalties he was meant to receive.
“Once the endorsement deal was signed and sealed, our meetings always felt very informal. I think Bob wanted it that way.”
“We’d go to his house and chat about business for 5-10 minutes, then we’d spend another 45 minutes listening to his stories and jokes. Sometimes we’d just sit on the patio in silence, and he’d be looking out over the Hawkesbury. He was very retrospective at that stage of his life.”
Three years on from their launch and Hawke’s are producing their namesake Lager, the Patio Pale and the Underdog Mid-Strength. The hunt is on for their own brewery and Nathan’s sights are set on Marrickville, aka Sydney’s craft beer belt. The brewery will be an Aussie time capsule, he says, and a tribute to Bob and his legacy. A place that might make expats and travellers feel homesick.
“I think right now Australians are yearning for a leader with a voice like Bob’s,” reflects Nathan.
“One of the things I loved most about Bob was that he was always adamant that with matters of the heart, of what he felt was right as a human, he would not be swayed.”
Hawke’s Lager is now pouring locally at Trinity Hotel, The Clock, The Dove & Olive, The Shakey and The Strawberry Hotel. Visit the Hawke’s website for more info about Hawke’s story and their work with Landcare Australia, or follow them at @hawkesbrewingco.