Paul Mercurio’s love affair with all thing’s beer started in the mid-eighties when he discovered a rather strange beer hand-crafted by the Coopers family. This discovery was made in the green room of the Sydney Opera House where Mercurio was performing with the Sydney Dance Company. At the end of each show he, and the other performers, would congregate around the bar in the green room and have a beer or two before going home.
There were only two beers on offer – a VB or a Coopers Sparkling Red. The VB was an easy drinking Aussie lager (and an affordable beer at that) whereas the Coopers Red was this strange delicious beast. Mercurio was smitten by this new discovery (new discovery to Mercurio however Coopers Sparkling was of course first brewed in 1862 and for that matter VB was first brewed in 1854!). It was the difference between the two brews that sparked Mercurio’s beer curiosity and sent him on a worldwide, and now lifelong, journey into the wonders of beer.
From that moment on whenever and where ever Mercurio travelled – and fortunately Mercurio travelled extensively around the world from the mid-eighties through to the late nineties – he made sure to try as many different beers as he could. The weird, the wonderful, the mainstream, the craft all often washed down with local delicacies which further inspired Mercurio’s understanding of how beer works as a stand- alone drink, an accompaniment and further as an ingredient.
The other important fact about his discovery of Coopers Sparkling Red was it was rather expensive being more of a small brewery boutique product and so Mercurio couldn’t really afford too many of them. So, imagine his joy when he discovered Coopers also made and sold home brew kits and ingredients! As a developing home cook Mercurio couldn’t wait to get his hands on a brew kit and start cooking up some of his own brews. In 1988 his wife bought him a home brew kit as a first anniversary present and that was that Mercurio’s passion for all thing’s beer was cemented.
It has to be said that in Germany beer is classified as a food; perhaps so, as in a sense the process of making a beer is, in a way, a cooking process. You need to think about the various ingredients that go into making a beer and also about the differing ways you can ‘cook’ your beer: for example, different mash temperatures affect the body of the beer, different fermenting temperature affect the flavour of the beer and of course different yeast develop different flavours and characters in a beer not to mention the use of malts, hops and other additives. It’s a process Mercurio is familiar with, at one-point Mercurio brewed an Apricot Stout on live national TV on the Midday Show with Derryn Hinch!
All this inspired Mercurio not only in his brewing but also in his preparing and cooking food. Beer has been used in cooking dishes for centuries; Mercurio had enjoyed some of these dishes on his travels and certainly enjoyed recreating them and then developing his own interpretations. This led to his second cookbook
‘Cooking with Beer’ which was among the top cookbooks in the Gourmand Cook Book Awards in 2011. It has since become a bestseller, selling over close to 150,000 copies in 5 languages and eight countries around the world.
There is much more that can be said about Mercurio’s beer journey but for now the timeline below will give you a good idea of how that journey has weaved its way across the years.
1975 – First taste of a beer – Emu Bitter
1982 – Discovery of Coopers Sparkling Red
1982 – Commencement of beer education. Whilst travelling the world tasting making notes and generally enjoying the beers of the world.
1988 – Acquired first home brew kit
1989 – Joined ESB (Eastern Suburbs Brew maker) This was a fairly famous home brew shop in Sydney that a number of its members went on to become well known professional brewers such as Doug and Matt Donelan, Dave Edney, Rob Freshwater, etc.
1994 – 2005 Coopers Brewery Ambassador
1998 – Pitched his own Beer TV series show to the three major networks “Beer Lovers Guide to Australia”
2005 – Launched own beer, Merc’s Own Peach Ale, in Victoria. Sold in 23 bottle shops
2005 – Bought his 50 litre three tier full mash brewing system
2006 – MC for Australian National Home Brewers Conference Awards night
2006-2012 – Hosted the Australian International Beer Awards 3 times
Hosted the New Zealand International Beer Awards four times
Was a Judge for the International New Zealand awards Two years running.
2007 – Cooking with Beer presentation, Australian National Homebrewers Conference
2005-2012 – Hosted his own cooking TV programmes – 72 episodes quite often featuring breweries and cooking with beer segments. (Mercurio’s Menu, Channel 7.)
2005 – Began a series of monthly beer dinners at the Half Moon Hotel in Brighton
2011 – Launched bestselling cook book “Cooking with Beer”
2013 – Held Beer for Breakfast event at Young and Jacksons for Good Beer Week
2014 – Opened his own Beer café called Merc’s Bier Cafe
2015 – Keynote speaker for Lion Nathen Brisbane Conference
2016 – Brewed in collaboration with BentSpoke Brewery Australia’s first Aphrodisiac beer “Ye Ole Horny Ale”
2017 – MC Australian National Home Brewers Conference Awards Dinner
2018 – Cooking with Beer presentation, Australian National Homebrewers Conference
Over the last 18 years Mercurio has travelled around Australia conducting cooking with beer demonstrations and has been recently booked to go on two cruises to do cooking with beer demonstrations early 2019.