Meet Mazen Hajjar, frothing brewer from Beirut

Lebanese craft brewer Mazen Hajjar has evolved from airline chief executive and war photographer to brewer.
Lebanese craft brewer Mazen Hajjar has evolved from airline chief executive and war photographer to brewer.  Photo: Wayne Taylor

Former war photographer and airline chief executive isn't the usual career trajectory for an emerging craft beer brewer. But that's the path Beirut-born Mazen Hajjar trod before building his company, Hawkers Beer.

Although the Reservoir brewery was founded just 2½ years ago, it put down roots much earlier.

According to Hajjar, he started the Middle East's first craft brewery, 961 (the country code for Lebanon), during the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. After a trip to Australia to sell his beer, he decided to start a brewery here.

Chef Joseph Abboud (right) has collaborated with Lebanese craft brewer Mazen Hajjar for Hawkers Beer in Reservoir.
Chef Joseph Abboud (right) has collaborated with Lebanese craft brewer Mazen Hajjar for Hawkers Beer in Reservoir.  Photo: Wayne Taylor

When the business opened, initially in partnership with Joseph Abboud (owner of Melbourne restaurants Rumi and the Moor's Head), it was able to produce 600,000 litres of beer a year. Six upgrades later it has capacity for 6.5 million litres a year.

Hajjar and his team are committed to sustainable brewing practices. The beer's ingredients don't include chemicals, with brewing techniques inspired by tradition as well as experimentation.

The brewery is home to one of Australia's most high-tech brewing systems and can package 6000 bottles an hour. It also has the largest solar rooftop energy system on a brewery in metropolitan Melbourne.

It is a nose bleed to manage such growth.

Mazen Hajjar

Spent grain used in the brewing process, normally dumped by breweries, is given to local farmers to feed their angus herds. The brewery aims to waste nothing – currently 90 per cent of its waste is recycled.

But it doesn't just produce a sustainable product – the beer tastes great, too. The business won the Supreme Champion Brewer award at the 2016 International Beer Challenge in London, and won 12 medals at the recent Australian International Beer Awards.

At the moment the team is expanding the business nationally, working on plans to launch in Western Australia, NSW and the ACT.

Hawkers pale ale.
Hawkers pale ale. Photo: Wayne Taylor

"We only have the Northern Territory left and we will have national coverage," says Hajjar. "We are also working on a New Zealand launch and possibly opening two more new markets in the next six months."

167 Henty Street, Reservoir, 03 9462 0650