Interview by Brandon Ditchfield
Photography by Greg Briggs
Design by Gary Parker

You may have encountered Dean ‘Deano’ O’Callaghan, founder and owner of the Good Brew Company, on a hot day in a park somewhere in his hometown of Melbourne or at a festival such as Rainbow Serpent. Serving drinks out of the back of his bicycle, Deano spreads the love of his sustainably crafted beverages and encourages us all to do our part to live more symbiotically with Mother Earth.

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It’s pretty well known that you started off your career in the field of IT. What was the catalyst for the radical change in your life?

It was a slow transition. I graduated from university and found myself gravitating towards more social events. In my final year of uni, I organised a graduation ball. I was able to combine all the passionate social activists, that were predominately made up of female groups, with the engineers. The event was for the students for education action and for the Engineering faculty.

It’s an organisation (Students for Education Action) focused on social equality. Fighting the same shit that’s going on in most countries—the government only helping its own. Keeping the rich, rich, and poor, poor. Allowing rich students to do university courses if they have money, instead of having the marks—it’s called up-front fees. It was bullshit. It still is bullshit!

It was basically making what already happens, into a more bland paradigm. It’s just unfair, so we fought that. It was a good event and a lot of fun.

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Sounds like being social and putting on events comes naturally to you.

I think that’s held true throughout all of my careers. I’ve always been very interested in the social engineering. That’s a term I think applies to me. Same as social entrepreneurship. It’s all about creating a more enlightened social scape, where people can achieve and enjoy more.

It seems like you’re getting to do just that with the GBC…

Absolutely. I rode around the Edinburgh Gardens yesterday, turned all these little social gatherings into mini festivals just by arriving with 3 taps on my bicycle. I played cricket for about half an hour with a lovely group of people. Then I said, “As soon as you get me out, there’ll be free cider for everyone.” That was beautiful. Everyone loved that.

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“Kombucha is a living probiotic. It’s a way of brewing your own medicines. We have access to incredibly powerful probiotic homebrew.”

What are you working on at this moment?

What I’m doing at the moment is putting the finishing touches on a bunch of kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) kits. These kits allow people to brew their own kombucha at home. I’ve given a few workshops at different events over the last few years, all about encouraging people to become self-sufficient. Because I can see the writing on the wall, as far as big corporations go and their duty of care of the general population. They’re more blatantly giving less and less of a shit about us. Especially when it comes to big farmers. We’re running out of antibiotics because of the way they’re used in society. Basically, I can see a day when hospitals become as bad as they were during the medieval times. You’ll go into the hospital with a cut on your arm and end up losing it to gangrene, because the antibiotics won’t work anymore. It all looks a bit scary.

Kombucha is a great way of combating that. Kombucha is a living probiotic. It’s a way of brewing your own medicines. We have access to incredibly powerful probiotic homebrew. I’ve got a big production line going at my dad’s brewery (Buckley’s Beer), where I brew 1000L at a time in oak barrels. Once a week I keg or bottle it. I’m selling it through organic supermarkets and cafes now. Which is great!

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Are there certain types of kombucha that are used specifically for healing?

Kombucha is the way forward. You can infuse kombucha with different herbs. So if there’s a specific herb that resonates with you, you can feed that herb to the kombucha. You’ll end up with a super or very concentrated version of its herbal properties. Echinacea to rebuild immune systems. Damiana to rebuild your libido. You can use lemongrass in it, then all of sudden you’ve got a living anti-depressant. All of these herbs, we have every day are ridiculously powerful. I Love it!

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How can kombucha help with open wounds? Do you apply it directly on the wound?

What you do is take the kombucha SCOBY and put it directly on a wound. It will heal the wound much quicker than a normal band aid or medical cream would.

There is a true story I have, although I’ve got to be careful about how I tell it, because some people interpret it as witchcraft. I do a lot work at festivals. In 2013 at Rainbow Serpent music festival, I was setting up a little on-site kombucha brewery when a guy came up to me with a bandage on his arm. He asked, “What is that?” I replied, “This is my magic tea brewery.” I showed him the vats of tea, the raw organic sugar and the pure kombucha I brought up from Melbourne. I blended them all together, carbonated them in the keg then put it through a chiller and poured him half a glass. It blew him away. He said, “This is the most amazing drink I ever tasted!”

I asked him what was wrong with his arm and he explained he thought he was getting skin cancer after leaving his arm out on the windowsill while driving to the festival and consequently being hit hard by the sun the whole way out. I told him how they call me the Doctor at Burning Man and asked him to show me his arm. There was an angry looking wound on his arm, with this disgusting black thing growing underneath the flesh. It looked really bad. He said, “It looks exactly the same as the skin cancer on my other arm. That took me 6 months to deal with. I was in and out of hospitals getting biopsies and all other sorts of shit done. It was horrible.”

I told him about an article I just read about how NASA uses kombucha SCOBYs as poultices on wounds for the astronauts. Kombucha will combat any infection right away. It fights any living thing that’s not good for your body. I pulled a kombucha SCOBY out of the fermenter, put it over his open wound and bandaged his arm back up. I told him the SCOBY would definitely deal with any infection and clean up his wound. I said, “I can’t promise you it’s going to beat your skin cancer. But I can promise you wont have to worry about any infection for the duration of the festival.”

I saw him again 6 weeks after later, at another festival. I heard through friends there was a guy walking around, saying he wanted to find me because I cured his cancer and can’t wait to see me. Once he found me, he came up to me and thrusts his arm into my face. It was perfect! There was no wound there. He said “Man, when I took that bandage off, the angry wound that used to be there was completely gone. All my skin had knitted over. I had baby pink skin there.”

If you treat your wounds with it at the right time. You can fix pretty much anything. Kombucha is a very active, really powerful probiotic.

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You wonder why it hasn’t made it out in to public knowledge. I guess a lot of it has to do with the fact that people can brew it themselves and it’s easily accessible, as opposed to some pharmaceutical company with a copyright or patented medical product, which they can charge you for. It may not cure you, but will keep you alive so you can keep buying their products, just to make money off you.

That’s right! You just got to follow the trail of money. Anytime anything seems corrupt. It probably is. The reason why it’s corrupt is because of money and what’s in it for them, if people don’t know about natural healing agents. It’s not my big mission to let people know how this works. My big mission is to help everyone be self-sufficient in their own way. This is just one of the beautiful little things you find out about along your journey. So I do workshops about it at festivals.

One of the things I do most summers in Australia, that I’m very proud of, is setting up a kombucha brewery on-site at a festival. It enables the festival itself to have beverages all over the place without any packaging. It’s localising and taking the next step on transition, when you can localise manufacturing inside a festival. I fill the kegs then send the kegs all over to the different venues. It’s easier to do with kombucha than beer, because it’s non-alcoholic so you don’t have that liquor licensing bullshit you have to deal with. The on-site breweries have been working really well the past few years. Everyone loves it. I love it!

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With your bicycle delivery, do people just phone up and request certain products? Or do you just bring whatever’s available to you?

It’s a bit of both. I have a very resilient business. If I’m not busy, I make myself busy. If no one has booked me for something, I’ll put a post up on Facebook. I’m like a food truck. I’ll turn up to somewhere I know there’s going to be a few people. I’ll let them know in advance, so they don’t buy too much packaging. I turn up and turn it into a big event. My real model is to cater for wonderful people who want to have environmentally aware events. They know they’ve got a 100 people showing up. They get everyone to chip-in in advance. Next thing you know it’s a keg party. People are spending $20 each. Which is what a 6 pack of beer or cider costs from a supermarket. With my service it’s pretty much all you can drink of an amazing range of beverages. It all turns up on a bicycle and everyone loves it.

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“That’s what the GBC’s about and that’s what my lifestyle is about. Showing people that we can have a wonderful existence…without having to shit on the planet.”

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What is it about festivals that you enjoy and feel is an appropriate platform for doing your workshops and getting your message out there?

Basically, we’re going backwards and forwards at the same time. We’re going back to a more community-based mentality. We have to, because we’ve reached things like peak oil (in our current commoditised based economy). It’s not cheap to ship massive quantities of goods from overseas into our local markets anymore. It’s only going to get more and more expensive and risky to do that. We all need to start creating our own things.

I find festivals are a microcosm of future existence. For example, Burning Man has a focus on self-reliance. It’s an absolute requirement to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. It’s the perfect example of how life will probably be in the future. You’re only going to be as powerful as you can enable yourself to be. It’s all about strengthening and using the strengths of your community and yourself. I go to a festival and create a community very quickly and easily. It’s a simple thing to do and something that I thrive off. That’s why I love festivals.

What’s the most interesting experience that you’ve had since starting the GBC?

My sister also organises very enlightened socially progressive events. She does this thing called a love festival every leap year, to celebrate her union with her husband. On the 29th of February, they celebrate love by having a party in a different medium. The past leap year (2012) they had a party on water. They built all these incredible rafts out of reclaimed timber and inner tubes. I built a bar on a raft for the event. We rafted down the Yarra river with 2 giant inflatable elephants and 4 incredible rafts—a bar, a stage, a sandpit for the kids and a sitting area. It was just gorgeous and the most beautiful day. That would be the best little bar experience I’ve had. It had nothing to do with the bicycle though, but it was the bicycle component of my business that made it doable.

I don’t have many cost expenses. I’m riding a bicycle around, I don’t have to spend money on fuel or much money on maintenance. It’s an amazing promotional tool, it turns heads. You ride a bicycle with 3 kegs and 3 taps on it. You’re overtaking traffic because you’re in the bike lane and they’re all stuck in traffic. It’s a gorgeous indicator of successful future living. Which is what I like to do. I like to show people it is fun to live sustainably.

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The whole argument that the corporate, right wing, fascists fuckwits have that if we want to live the green way, we’re going to end up in caves with no electricity, living boring existences, sitting around a campfire with nothing to eat is absolute bullshit!

We have access to so many amazing tools. I can set up a brewery that doesn’t require any power from the grid or external water supplies even. You set up alternatives, like rainwater tanks and solar panels. All these things are possible. I can set up vehicles for delivering goods that also use alternative sources, like solar panels, batteries and bicycles that are like pick ups. All of these things are totally possible right now, you have absolutely no impact and so much fun doing it!

That’s what the GBC’s about and that’s what my lifestyle’s about. Showing people that we can have a wonderful existence and a gorgeous experience, without having to shit on the planet, as our traditional corporate leaders continue to do.

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Technology today is becoming more and more advanced than ever thought possible. Do you think this has had a big impact on the lifestyles of people who are choosing to live more sustainably? When consulting with breweries, are the alternatives becoming more well known and popular?

Yes. I think more and more people are seeking them out. It’s still not in the mainstream eye, because the people who control that viewfinder aren’t very excited about people becoming more self-sufficient, for obvious financial reasons. That’s what makes it all the more exciting. You have to work hard to find and achieve it. More and more people are becoming self-sufficient because it’s getting easier and easier to do. Eventually it will become the standard. It’s inevitable. It’s just a matter of how long it takes, it’s the race. You know? I respect a lot of people who are quite spiritually connected and environmentally minded, and they have the same visions as I have. We’re in a race and the race is on. It’s about whether or not we can live symbiotically with this planet before it’s too late.

Everything else is games, but obviously with massive impacts on the people. I wouldn’t call conflicts between countries a small game. They’re conflicts going on all the time and that holds people back from our true purpose, which is to live in harmony with each other and the planet.

We’ll get there, there’s going to be a lot of suffering that’s going to happen on the way, but there’ll be a lot of great things that’ll happen on the way too. It’s all up to the depth of our compassion to reduce the suffering for the majority of humanity. There’s so many beautiful people that do so much. It’s all important.

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Do you think that having grown up in a country as hot and as dry as Australia has had a big impact on your environment views? Do you think it’s made you more conscious and aware?

Definitely. I travelled around Australia with my family for 2 years when I was 10. I was able to see how arid this continent really is. We traveled up through the middle and around the west coast. It’s just a giant expanse of land with no water. We’ve had people here for 50,000 years or more living with very meagre environmental footprints, living full lives without needing to create artificial environments.

The indigenous people of our country have done amazing things. I’ve always been inspired by them, even through a very small experience in the 80s of learning from indigenous cultures. Travelling really opens your eyes. That’s something we need to do, encourage people to get outside of our synthetic cities and see what’s happening in nature so that we fight harder to preserve it.

What are the ways you practise sustainability in everyday living? Are there a couple of things you feel people could implement easily in their day-to-day living?

First, have a compost. You’ve got to have a compost. Actively work to reduce your packaging consumption. It’s easy for me to say that cause I have my drinks on tap all the time. Even if you don’t have a bicycle with three taps on it, you can brew your own beer or drinks. People who brew their own drinks always reuse their bottles, that takes bottle consumption out of the equation.

Also, it only costs an extra 25% on top of your energy bill to switch to green power. One of the biggest ways we can help the environment is by making consumption and lifestyle choices that make a big difference.

What are your views on the current mentality of the masses on global impact and overall environmental awareness?

I think awareness is coming, regardless of how much devastation is reaped before the masses realise how to live symbiotically with the planet. There’s still going to be enclaves of permaculture-based living. They’re the ones that are going to steer humanity in a more enlightened direction where we hopefully minimise the amount of suffering and increase the amount of creativity. We live in an amazing time right now, you know. There’s so much good stuff happening all over the world. It’s a great time to be alive.

We’re definitely living at pretty pivotal time in human history. There does need to be a massive shift in the way we all are currently living. We can’t just keep over-consuming, we can’t sustain the population and the way that people live in abundance.

Final question, what will you continue to strive for in the future with the GBC, and your other endeavours?

I want to show that it’s possible to have ethics and be financially successful. I don’t want to live in poverty consciousness, I’ve always lived with and around abundance, but never really been successful in holding on to money or anything like that. I’d like the GBC to be a prime example on how you can run a business that has focus on the triple bottom line; a win for the consumer, a win for the producer, and a win for the environment. I want to lead by example that these things are totally possible. That’s what I want to do.

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If you’re keen to have Deano serving delicious beverages at your next shindig, you can contact him via his website and if you’d like to check out more of Greg’s images, head this way.