Some tourists come to Australia and pick up a couple of souvenirs - maybe a cuddly toy koala or a hat with corks on it, or a coat hanger in the shape of the Harbour Bridge. Scottish lass Gillian Letham arrived down under in 2003 and ended up picking up a couple of bars in Brissie, and just never left. We chat to her about The Mill on Constance and the Oxford Taphouse and how having a foreign accent makes you 25% more interesting…
So tell us a bit about your background? I hear you came here as a tourist and ended up sticking around!
Yeah I originally landed in Australia back in 2003, fresh faced (there is no sun in Scotland) and looking to live my outback dream. I had just finished four years at Uni studying Politics and Economics and was ready for an adventure, backpacking around the world was firmly on my to do list.
And tell us about your babies? (Oxford Taphouse & The Mill…not any actual babies!)
I currently have two fairly different venues in Brisbane - The Mill, my first love, is in a beautiful old building in the "never a dull moment" suburb that is Fortitude Valley. We opened it three-and-a-half years ago, and it's been growing and evolving ever since - eight rotating taps that are 98% of the time Australian good beer, it's a fun easy place to drink and work. Our second venue was born out of a need to bring good beer to the people of Bulimba (where we lived at the time). Yep, basically we opened our own neighbourhood bar to drink at - isn't that reason we have bars?!
The bars are all about good beer. How’d you get in to craft beer?
I'd love to tell you some romantic story about where my love of good beer begun - like quitting my 9-5 job to pursue my love of all of the hops but too many people know the truth. The story goes that my partner and his friend decided to open the Mill, at this time I was a committed cider drinker but after a few months they quickly realised that as two Irish men their place was firmly on the other side of the bar. My now crazy love for beer was born through the necessity of knowing good product and quality control. Not exciting but sometimes you fall in love without even realising you're doing it!
What's your favourite way to spend a day in Brissie?
It's not often I have time to spend a day in Brisbane, so to be honest any free ones I have are best enjoyed hanging out with dogs at home. I have two cattle dogs Buster and Joey and days spent chilling with them are my favourites.
Tell us about Saturday arvo jam sessions at The Mill? Any memorable sessions go down in your hall of fame?
Every Saturday for as long as we've been open (nearly) we have a random crew of musicians turn up and jam out some tunes for a few hours, sometimes there are 10 of them, sometimes 30. It's sort of folk / country / celtic - really anything goes! It's always funny watching people stumble into a session for the first time, but usually peeps love it, it's something different.
We had one very memorable session where two to of the musos had a surprise wedding!! Only about eight of the 60 people there new it was going to happen, and their vows were a mini musical it was crazy but epic!
What’s your favourite bar out of pop culture?
I'm not sure if this is my favourite bar, but it's the one that sticks in my head ‘The Nag’s Head’ from Only Fools and Horses. Del Boy and Rodney were always having the craic at Nag’s Head.
What’s your go-to album or track to kick things off for the night?
Primal Scream, Screamadelica I'd probably start with Come Together. That probably shows just how old I actually am.
And is there an album or track that’s the go-to for closing up shop at the end of the night?
That depends who’s on to close, and in control of the tunes but Sandstorm by Darude gets played more than it probably should especially if we need a pep-up.
What’s the first gig you ever went to?
First proper biggish venues gig was at The Barrowlands in Glasgow to see Radiohead in 1995 - sensational!
And the last gig?
James at The Tivoli in Brisbane
The best thing about being a Scot ‘down under’ is….?
Having an accent, it instantly makes me 25% more interesting!!
The worst thing about being a Scot ‘down under’?
My family are a long, long way away :(
And if last drinks get called on planet Earth, what are you drinking?
A growler of imperial stout and a bottle of sloe gin.
The Mill on Constance
111 Constance St, Fortitude Valley Brisbane
The Oxford Taphouse
77 Oxford St, Bulimba