Hemingway’s has become an institution in a region which is known to love a cold one.

With two waterfront locations in Cairns and Port Douglas, a core range of eight beers and a rotating list of limited releases paired with great pub fare, the independent craft brewery is adored by locals and tourists alike.

We chat to Hemingway’s headmen about beers, burgers and the bold, innovative flavours the brewery’s known for.


Tropic: What came before your role at Hemingway’s? 

Reid Brydon, Head Chef: Originally, I was a butcher but was much more interested in the cooking side of food so I became a chef and started working in all sorts of different pubs, restaurants and cafes. As soon as I heard about a local brewery opening in town, I couldn’t help but apply.

Nico Leffler, Head Brewer: In 2015 I started my apprenticeship as a brewer at the German brewery Schmucker. After that I worked there full-time in the brewhouse and in the laboratory. I went abroad to gain work experience in Scottish and Swedish craft breweries. In 2020 I moved to Australia to work at TRIBE Brewery in Goulburn. After that I started as a head brewer at Hemingway's Brewery in Cairns.

T: How would you describe your approach to cooking/brewing?

RB: I love food. Cooking food, eating food, creating food. You can never stop learning in this industry and I love going outside my comfort zone to try new styles of cooking.


NL: I am fascinated about the process and the product itself. Even little tweaks can have a huge impact on the final product, so I always pay high attention to all the details. I use carefully chosen high quality malt and hops from Australia, USA, New Zealand and Germany. When it comes to recipe development it is important for me to produce well rounded, balanced beers which are true to style. For that it is essential to supervise and control every single step from the beginning of the brewing process to the final canning or kegging.

T: What are some key principles in food and beer pairing?

RB: I believe there is no real rule in what makes you happy when it comes to food, it is much more a personal preference. Have fun with it. I personally like the more bitter and heavy citrus style beers and I find that goes well with salty, sweet, savoury and spicy foods.

NL: There are different ways to pair beer with food. One way is that beer and food complement each other like a stout and chocolate or beef ribs and a dark lager or ale.

Or they contrast each other like oysters and a stout, or spicy wings and a refreshing lager.

T: What flavours make your tastebuds happiest? 

RB: I love bold, infusion flavours! And I like to be daring when it comes cooking. I can always discover something for everyone.

NL: Bitter, sweet and smoked.

T: Describe Hemingway’s in a single sentence. 

RB: Fresh beer, great food, stunning locations! 

NL: Hemingway's Brewery combines tasty food with high quality beer in a unique setting.

T: What would you like to see more of in Cairns? 

RB: What it was before COVID! A buzzing town with different cultures and cuisines from around the world!

NL: Restaurants with more native Australian influence.

T: What are five interesting things in your home pantry/fridge? 

RB: You can usually find a couple of whichever new beer the brewers have come up with in my fridge, however, I don’t usually have a heavily stocked pantry as I like to eat simple and easy at home. But if I do cook, I like to invite people over and put on a spread.

NL: German mustard, hops for homebrewing, sauerkraut, rainforest honey, a decent variety of beers.

T: What does Cairns do really well in terms of food and hospitality? 

RB: I think the customer service is great in Cairns. It’s a real town where locals and tourists meet.

NL: I really enjoy its diversity and quality in regard to restaurants. There are also some pubs with an authentic atmosphere.

T: What’s your favourite food and beverage pairing at Hemingway’s? 

RB: Our dirty cheese washed down with a Pitchfork Betty’s Pale Ale!

NL: Funghi pizza and Tropical Ale, or brisket plate and dark lager.

T: Where would we find you on a Sunday morning? 

RB: If I’m not in the kitchen I would most likely be by the beach, out for breakfast enjoying FNQ, most likely in Palm Cove – the restaurant strip there is really great!

NL: Fishing from a jetty or from a boat.

This story originally appeared in Tropic magazine Issue 30

In my opinion, consistency is one of the key factors when it comes to quality beer.
Nico Leffler
Head Brewer