Tuesday, 4 August 2020

QUEENSCLIFF BREWHOUSE

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Bellarine Peninsula
  • Tasting Room: 2 Gellibrand St, Queenscliff
  • Food: Gourmet Pub
  • Price: Average
  • Website: https://queenscliffbrewhouse.com.au/
The Queenscliff Brewhouse opened in late 2016. It's a side project of the Otway Estate Brewery, the brewers of the Prickly Moses range, and is similar to their Great Ocean Road Brewhouse with one small difference; Queenscliff has an onsite brewery!

Admittedly it's a small brewery at only 300L. Mattias Isaksson, one of the quartet that make up Old Wives Ales, is the head brewer at Queenscliff. Unlike at Old Wives where he pushes the boundary of what can be done in a beer, at Queenscliff his focus is on producing consistent, easy drinking products that attempt to convert the locals to craft beer. 

The brewhouse is housed in a wonderful old pub, that dates back to the 1880's & was known as the Esplanade Hotel until it was purchased for this project in 2016. We sat in the front bar on a cold Saturday lunchtime, however the beer garden at the rear looked like it'd be a fun space in the warmer months. It's a welcoming environment, with a menu that won't intimidate anyone & plenty of different seating options. It's the sort of place you'd take your whole family for a big lunch.

They have a core range of 4, easy drinking beers, as well as the odd limited edition release. The market is slowly becoming more accepting of craft flavours but it's been a work in progress. It's not just beer at the venue, downstairs they have a still & have been producing a range of spirits since its installation in 2019. Upstairs they have a whisky bar, featuring over 400 of the best spirits from around the world.

But we're all here for the beer. I settled in with a pint of their Steam Ale. It doesn't pour like a Steam Ale, with a more amber coloured body than I would normally expect. However, despite its unusual appearance, the beer is appropriate to style. There's a good balance between hops & malt and it drinks well (even if the drinker was quite hungover...).

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Thursday, 30 July 2020

BROOKES BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Goldfields
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Food: N/A
  • Price: Inexpensive
  • Websitehttp://www.brookesbeer.com.au/
Doug Brookes & his partner Melissa Church opened the first major brewery in Bendigo for decades when they opened Brookes Brewery in July 2013. After spending the best part of 20 years working in the corporate world mostly in aviation. An avid homebrewer Doug decided it was time to give away the corporate lifestyle & engage in his passion.

The plan wasn't always to setup in Bendigo. Doug & Melissa spent a long time looking for suitable venues before stumbling across the old abattoir on Piper Rd, East Bendigo. Once they settled on Bendigo the couple moved to the area and began attempting to convert drinkers in a relative craft beer wasteland.

It's taken some time but they've made a really good fist of the task. They've helped a number of brewers in the region, & beyond, get a start in the industry by offering their spare tank capacity to anyone who wants to utilize it. In June 2019 it was announced that they'd bought 40 Acres Brewing, a brewing company that'd always brewed out of their facility, from founder Trevor Mitchell.

In mid-2019 the couple put the business up for sale as a going concern. They believe they've taken the brewery as far as they'd like to, producing about 100,000 litres of beer per annum & servicing the greater Bendigo region. They say the business is ripe for someone who wants to expand the brand throughout Victoria & possibly beyond. At time of writing they have not sold the business & are still operating it.

The brewery is located on the fringes of Bendigo in an old industrial estate. If you can imagine a large 70's food production facility with brewing equipment in it you've nailed Brookes. It isn't fitted out with a taproom, although they are open for takeaways only on Friday afternoons.

In honour of their aim to be the brewery for Bendigo, I've decided to review their Bendigo Draught. I was expecting a pretty bog average lager, appealling to the local macor lager drinkers. I was pleased to be wrong; there was a fair bit of malt accompanied by that distinctive grassy/earthy Pride bitterness.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

ST ANDREWS BEACH BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Mornington Peninsula
  • Tasting Room: 160 Sandy Road, Fingal
  • Food: Burgers, Pizza, Snacks
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.standrewsbeachbrewery.com.au/
Fingal is one of the least likely places in Victoria to house an enormous micro brewery & hospitality venue. It's at the far end of the famous Mornington Peninsula wine region. The brewery opened its doors shortly before Christmas in 2017 to huge crowds which haven't left since!

Photo Credit: Design Addicts
St Andrews Beach Brewery sits on the site of the former Markdel stables. This was a famous horse racing training facility, one of the finest in the world, run by the Freedman family; its most famous alumni is of course triple Melbourne Cup winning mare Makybe Diva. The old racetrack has been converted to an apple & pear orchard, from which they hope to be producing cider in the coming years, as well as some hop bines!

Andrew Purchase is the man behind the brewery - having got the craft beer bug after investing in a French craft brewery, Heads Beach Brewing Company in Seignosse, years earlier. He's joined by Michael Freedman, one of the original owners of the site, Tommy Berry, a famous jockey, David Warner, the cricketer, Jack Dahan & Michael Wallace.

The real reason to visit is the venue! It's immediately obvious why so many investors were needed; it's stunning! You walk through impressive gate into an enormous beer garden. There's wooden tables and bench under matching umbrellas, but the real highlights are the converted old horse stableslining the sides of the beer garden that seat 10-16 people. There's lovely touches like the rust covered metal kangaroos (pictured above) as well as a rhino at the entrance.

The building at the end of the wide footpath that cuts through the middle of the beer garden is just as worthy of discussion. It's beautifully constructed with huge windows behind the bar showing off the stainless steel. The bar is very modern with polished concrete floors, high wood panelled ceilings & intricate lighting.

Their core range is solid, but leans towards the new craft converts. One of their "Barrier Specials" (limited releases) is the beer I'm going to discuss today. It's a Rye IPA & it's amazing! There's a heap of spicy rye, plenty of citrus from the hops & good bitterness. I was really disappointed to see this beer not make a jump to their core range; there just aren't enough good Rye IPAs out there!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

HAWTHORN BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Brewed At: Tribe
  • Price: Inexpensive
  • Websitehttps://hawthornbrewing.com.au/
Hawthorn Brewing Co is one of the earlier entrants to the Victorian craft beer scene & certainly one of the earliest contract/gypsy brewers. Founded by Hamish Reed, Peter Willis & Darren Milo; 3 family friends who grew up in the Melbourne eastern suburb of Mooroolbark. When they launched in 2009, contract/gypsy brewing was a seriously divisive issue with many believing that owning your own stainless steel was key.

Their story is similar to many you've read in this series. Hamish homebrewed beer & brought it to BBQs, initially it "pretty bad" but over time it got "better & better". His mates, namely Peter & Darren, convinced him that they should try to sell it commercially.

In 2009 there was next to no second hand brewing gear in Australia & rather than splash out on new kit they went down the contract brewing route. Their beers were initially brewed at Mildura, before outgrowing the production capacity & moving to Southern Bay. My understanding is that their beers are currently brewed by Tribe in New South Wales, however I haven't been able to confirm that as Hawthorn haven't responded to me.

Their beers have been successful, winning numerous awards at the International Beer Challenge, including Supreme Champion Brewery in 2013. In early 2017 a controlling stake in the business was acquired by Dixon Hospitality Group. I'm not sure why they decided to upgrade their logo to the minimalist effort seen above, the old one had some character & I really liked "The Flavour Merchants"as a byline. I assume that was a DHG decision as at the time of the sale it was noted that they would be provided not only with additional capital but also marketing resources.

At the time of the takeover it was reiterated that the long term aim for the brand was still to have it's own venue one day. That has yet to materialize & I'm skeptical that it ever will. Although in saying that, if they end up with a brewpub type facility in Hawthorn, possibly at the current Beer Deluxe site, I'm sure it would do well - as there aren't any other breweries nearby.

I'm reviewing their Stand Up Pilsner, which I believe is the same Pilsner as before their rebrand. It's a really solid Pils, with good spicy hop character on a pretty simple malt bill. It's exactly what you want in a Pilsner, although the new packaging is horrible!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Monday, 27 July 2020

DEEDS BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 4 Paran Place, Glen Iris
  • Food: N/A
  • Price: Expensive
  • Websitehttps://www.deedsbrewing.com.au/
Pat Alé & Dave Milsten have known each other for years. Like many university friends the two dreamed of starting a brewery, whilst both were studying engineering back in 2003. Soon reality struck & they realized they probably didn't have the financial clout at that time to do it justice.

Their first foray into the industry was founding the distribution business Red Island, they had their hits & misses but struck it big being the Australian distributor of Rekorderlig Cider when it blew up. The dream was still to open a brewery & they entered the industry as Quiet Deeds Brewing via the gypsy-contract route in 2012; finding any available tank space they could & having other people brew their beer. They sold the distribution rights for Rekorderlig to Coca-Cola Amatil the following year to focus on Quiet Deeds full time.

In the early years they were the embodiment of gypsy brewing at the time; highly inconsistent. One batch would be fantastic, the next very meh. Thankfully they realized this & their efforts focused on finding a permanent spot of their own. They eventually settled on Paran Place, Glen Iris; the only industrially zoned area in the whole of Stonnington Council, which they secured in early 2016 for a reported $9m.

They assumed that they would have their brewery & taproom up relatively soon thereafter; how wrong they were! After submitting plans to council in July 2016 for a brewery & taproom; they were hit with numerous rejections. A permit was eventually granted in January 2018 for just the brewery. Another separate application was lodged almost immediately, that has finally been approved in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic (June 2020).

Obviously there is no venue to report on at this stage, with Deeds hoping to open their brewery to the public in late-2020 (pending further restrictions in Melbourne). I'm sure I'll be there not long after opening, imbibing their wonderful range of hop forward beers & pastry stouts, & will ensure to update this post accordingly!


I desperately wanted to review Kapurkova, their Czech Pilsner (it's brilliant if you're not a podcast listener), but I knew it had to be a something hop driven given their pedigree. Survivor Type, their occassionally released Triple NEIPA, is where I'm going. It's 10.5% ABV, packs 40 IBU's, has a 31g/L dry hop of Galaxy & Motueka & drinks like a 5% Hazy Pale; until you stand up!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

LITTLE CREATURES BREWING - GEELONG

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Bellarine Peninsula
  • Tasting Room: 221 Swanston Street, Geelong
  • Food: Gourmet Pub/Pizza
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://littlecreatures.com.au/
There will be some who say Little Creatures doesn't belong in a wrap up of the Victorian craft beer scene. I'm here to say that it categorically does. Little Creatures is probably the greatest success story in Australian craft beer. Being based in Fremantle they were always faced with logistical issues around ensuring their beer arrived on the more populous east coast in great condition.

Little Creatures have always put quality first, it's one of the main reasons they've succeeded in this hypercompetitive industry. Instead of taking the easy route, they decided to invest in a second brewery in Victoria's second biggest city; Geelong, to supply the ever growing demand for their beers on the east coast.

For those of you who don't know the backstory, Little Creatures was founded by Howard Cearns, Nic Trimboli & Phil Sexton in 2000 through their business Little World Beverages. The trio had all worked together at Matilda Bay before it was sold to CUB. They started their brewery in an old crocodile farm in Fremantle, pioneered the American Pale Ale in Australia & quickly built a strong brand. In 2012 they took the decision to sell the brewery to Lion (owned by Kirin).

At this time plans were already afoot to open a brewery on the east coast. with the purchase of the Geelong location taking place in 2011. With the increased capital backing from Lion, the brewery was opened in 2013, at an estimated cost of $60m, & launched with a beer that would have a signifcant impact on the Australian beer market: Furphy. A beer brewed with 100% Victorian ingredients & sporting the states iconic Big V.

The Geelong brewery is housed in the old woolsheds in South Geelong (pictured above). It's a fantastic old set of buildings & has been developing into quite the complex in recent years. The site holds Furphy Hall, the White Rabbit Barrel Room & Little Creatures Canteen. The LC Canteen is a very Little Creatures space. Exposed warehouse ceiling, lots of wood, mismatched brightly coloured chairs & a bar in a shipping container. My favourite place to sit is in the beer garden before you enter the canteen, between two huge brick warehouses with the misting fans going in Summer.

Fastforward to 2020 & the brewery (along with the original Fremantle site) has been accreditted as carbon neutral. The Geelong brewery is covered in solar panels, which currently produce about 25% of the brewery's energy needs/ The Little Creatures team have ambitious plans to further reduce their carbon footprint by 2025, by relying on 100% renewable energy for their electricity needs. Little World Beverages has also gone onto bigger things, completing a takeover of American craft bohemoth New Belgium in 2019.


The Little Creatures story doesn't end with Geelong, the brewery now has outposts in the London, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco & Auckland (& probably others that I'm missing!). It'll be interesting where the Little Creatures train rolls into next!

We all knew this beer had to be Furphy Refreshing Ale! It gets a bad rap in craft circles that it doesn't deserve. Losely based on a Kolsch, the beer has delicate biscuity malts with some fruity hops laid over the top. The hops aren't there to blow your socks off, simply to add moderate bitterness to the beer. It's well constructed & a great beer to have if you don't want to think about what you're drinking.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

THE MILL BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 40 Sackville Street, Collingwood
  • Food: Pizza
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.themillbrewery.com.au/
The Mill Brewery was opened by Mirek Aldridge in March 2017, after 6 months of hard work turning an old warehouse into a fully functional brewery. Quickly it established itself as a local secret in Collingwood. Until the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and the accompanying mad rush of canned beers, the beers were very rarely found outside the walls of the old mechanics shop on Sackville Street with the odd packaged release from time to time.

The story starts about 10 years before the events that saw The Mill come to fruition. He had his epiphany moment at Little Creatures in Fremantle, enjoying their iconic Pale Ale with his brother. This led him down the slippery slope of homebrewing, which after 5 years looking for the perfect site eventually culminated in his completion of the journey to pro-brewer.

Having started with a 70L homebrew kit, the transition to 600L kit wasn't as daunting as it would be for some. Mirek's processes have remained the same, testing recipes on his homebrew kit before scaling them up for commercial release. His brewery is tucked away at the back of the warehouse, passed the long bar, featuring 9 taps, made out of a solid piece of red gum.

There's more beautiful red gum throughout the building; red gum tables line the painted brick walls, complete with stools reminiscent of the old Corona mill Mirek started out homebrewing with which lends its name to the brewery. There's some couches around a fireplace, something that strangely doesn't feel out of place in an old industrial building, you'll also find a table tennis table, some barrels, plenty of outdoor seating & plants hanging from every imaginable place.

Since their inception the brewery has operated with a variety of foodtrucks parked out the front. Over time this turned into their own pizza caravan. During the first COVID-19 shutdown, they've brought the kitchen inside which is something I'll be very keen to check out when I'm next able to visit.

The resurgence of malty lagers in the past 18 months has to be one of the best things to happen to craft beer in recent years. The wonderfully named Marzen Scoresese is one such beer & the focus of my attention. It has lovely toasty malt flavours, with the slightest hint of smoke on the backend. Thinking about this beer has me pining for normality, as it's the perfect beer to sit on all afternoon at the brewery with friends.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!