Tuesday, 2 April 2019

THAT LITTLE BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Dandenong Ranges
  • Tasting Room: 24/12 Edina Road, Ferntree Gully
  • Food: Food Trucks
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/thatlittlebrewery/
That Little Brewery is located in Ferntree Gully. It's a brewery that Dylan & I have had on our radar pretty much since they opened, given they were producing lots of sours in an area awash with nothing but macro lager, but have never quite been able to find the time to get out there; until recently!

That Little Brewery is another family affair. The brewery is run by brothers Ben & Callan Pratt along with their cousin Andrew Jamieson. It's based in a relatively small warehouse in an industrial estate in what seems like a residential part of Ferntree Gully.

It's a bit different to most breweries you walk into. Firstly, you enter through their office space. Once you move through the office you are confronted with a metal portable bare in front of the tanks and brewing kit. There's a lot of stainless around, although most of it is quite small.

The brewery is colourful. The furniture is rustic and mismatched. The chandelier is made up of old bottles with the bottoms cut off. There's bits & pieces, posters, branded oil drums (in fact lots of things have logos on them) everywhere you look! There are also heaps of games dotted around - as well as an area, which could easily be someones living room, where you can play video games. It's a really cool space.

Whilst they offer no food themselves, That Little Brewery arranges for food trucks to visit the brewery most weekends, the day we visited it was American BBQ which looked really good as it was delivered to those around us (we'd just eaten so didn't partake). They also make their own syrups for Berliner Weisses, which were quite good, they would be one of very few in Australia doing that. 

The tap list was genuinely interesting - with a mix of beers that you generally wouldn't find, even at craft beer bars. There was no Pale Ale, no lager; in their place was a Session IPA & a Sour Pale Ale. Interestingly, you could only buy tasting glasses, which were large, or growlers on site. I wonder if there is some liquor licensing issue at play (I'll try and confirm if I get an email back!), which could also be leading to the eschewing of traditional quaffing styles.

The beer I'm going to review is the 6 month old Raspberry Lambic. I don't particularly like the use of the word lambic in this beer, but I understand why they've used it. The beer was tart with tiny bubbles rising in the beer, It's hard to describe, but the beer wasn't quite spritzy because the bubbles were as small as they were. It was definitely light and tingly on the tongue. The flavour was predominantly raspberry, with good fruit translating. The colour, as you can see above, was spot on. It's a really interesting beer, I'm looking forward to seeing it with some more age on it.

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

APRIL BLOG UPDATE

Hi All,

We had a little hitch with the last podcast, it may have been recorded after the Good Beer Week Gala Showcase... So the next episode will be a little delayed! Speaking of which, I hope everyone has got their tickets for GBW sorted as events are beginning to sell out.

The Year of Local is running a little behind schedule, probably as expected. Only 12 posts are up (out of 170+). I did at least get more posts up in March than new breweries were added to the list, unlike in February... A Local Beer, Future Mountain & Nagambie Brewery & Distillery have all been added to the list. Thankfully April is looking a little quieter for me & I'm hoping to bust out a heap of reviews - having visited lots of breweries in March & drank lots of Victorian beers. With any luck we'll be at 30 posts come the end of the month and closer to back on track.

I took a quick break from Victorian beers and went to the Other Half / Cloudwater tap takeover at Mr West on the weekend just gone. Simply wow! What an event! There was a who's who of Melbourne craft beer in attendance. The guys at Mr West put on a great day and coped well with the massive crowds. If you get the opportunity to try the beers from these guys you'll see that our scene still has a little way to go.

If I've missed anything that you wanted to know or if you just want to send me beer related questions/content, please do at gus.norris7@gmail.com and I will endeavour to get back to you as soon as I can. Cheers guys!

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

FURY & SON BREWING COMPANY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Northern Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 46 Concorde Drive, Keilor Park
  • Food: Food Trucks
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.furyandson.com.au/
Fury & Son first started producing beer commercially in the middle of 2016. At the time, the name sounded like a corporate trying to surreptitiously fit into the hipster/craft beer market. First impressions are often wrong and they certainly were in the case of Fury & Son, which is about as authentic as any craft brewery out there.

The brewery was started by Reno "Fury"Georgiou & his son Andrew. The pair had been home brewing together on & off for 15 years before taking the plunge into the commercial realm. They found a warehouse near Reno's other business, Renma Windows, in an industrial estate in Keilor Park and began installing a 25 hectolitre brewhouse.

Initially they launched with a core range of two beers, a Pilsner & a Pale Ale & no hospitality component. Fast forward almost 3 years and the brewery produces a number of seasonals, ranging from sours, to Scotch Ales to Imperial Stouts. In late 2017 the brewery began opening to the public on Friday afternoons.

A brewery that only opens on Friday afternoons in Keilor Park. It didn't sound like the easiest of brewery's for me to visit. As luck would have it I was out at the airport for work a few Friday's back and was able to drop past, albeit only for one beer. Arriving at 12:10pm on a Friday afternoon, 10 minutes after opening, I was expecting it to be pretty quiet; I was wrong!

The brewery was packed! So packed it was tough to get a seat! You may get the impression that this is a small operation; it's not. There's seating for approximately 100 people and it was all full. There was a range of people there too, from high vis wearing factory workers to guys in suits. It's quite clear that Fury & Son have done well to engage their local community.

Accordingly, due to the packed nature of the tasting room, the vibe was great. It seemed like a lot of these people had knocked off for the day and that this was where they were starting their weekend. The brewery get food trucks in to do food, on the day I visited there was a pizza truck doing a roaring trade!

The tasting room is on the brewery floor, amongst the tanks, which incidentally are some of the larger ones I've seen at an Australian craft brewery. There are a mix of long communal tables with a couple of smaller tables in an adjacent space in front of the bar, which is just off to the right hand side as you walk in. 

Even though I don't collect glassware anymore, I still appreciate a brewery that serves their beer in branded glassware. As I was driving & still working on the day I visited I went with the Pilsner. It's actually the first beer I had from Fury & Son back in late-2016, so I was interested to see if much had changed in the ensuing 2 and a half years.

I'm pleased to report that it's still a nice refreshing Pilsner, brewed to style. The malts are light, the hops are grassy & bitter (I'd be shocked if they weren't Noble Hops) and the beer is crisp and refreshing. There was a slight metallic/sulphuric taste that I couldn't quite place, but it was light and didn't drastically impact my enjoyment of the beer - after 2 I don't think you'd even notice it. It's a really enjoyable Pilsner and one that I would suggest if you're looking for a traditional Australian brewed Pilsner.

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

Monday, 25 March 2019

INNER NORTH BREWING COMPANY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 10A Russell St, Brunswick
  • Food: No Food - Order In
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttp://www.innernorthbrewing.com.au/
Inner North is a brewery that I've been aware of for a maybe the last year or so, but know absolutely nothing about. So I sent an email off to the guys to find out more! I waited, and waited and waited for a reply. I sent a reminder. Radio silence... Finally, after I'd almost completed a scathing review, I received a reply; a particularly detailed reply. This experience initially mimicked & then contrasted the experience I had at the brewery, but more on that later.

 Inner North was set up by Zack Skerrit, formerly a co-owner of Henry St Brewhouse. Things didn't quite work out at Henry St Brewhouse with Zack selling his share to his original business partner. He still had the dream of owning a brewery & immediately set about looking for a warehouse space where he could do his own thing.

He acquired the space, a large old cold works in a Brunswick back street, in July 2017. He took the lessons he learned from Henry St & began to build his new brewery. It took 8 months of hard work, with Zack doing some pretty significant modifications to the space, before council finally approved everything & Inner North opened its doors in February 2018.

The space is a massive! I can't imagine how much work it would've taken to get it into the condition it's in now! There's heaps of seating, with lots of long benches and a nice relaxed feel. There's a few games dotted around the brewewery as well as some greenery hanging from the exposed structural beams. They're also dog friendly, which is always a bonus. They don't do food, however you're able to BYO or order at the local Pub or Taco restaurant nearby.

Currently Inner North are running a 500L, something that is becoming more and more common with start ups these days. At the moment the back brewing area looks a little devoid of equipment. That will hopefully change in 2019 as Inner North look to add more fermenters. The flip side to that is of course that they have plenty of room to grow, which will allow them to consistently fill their 12 taps, plus begin distributing to local pubs & even put some of their beer in cans.

Onto the main thing you're here for, the beer. I have to say I was disappointed. I had 4 beers - across a range of styles and none of them really impressed me. I found their beers to be too malt driven - malty Single Hop IPA's don't make a heap of sense to me.

The best of a relatively mediocre bunch was their new release; Coffee Amber Ale. The beer poured a murky brown/red colour with a small white head. It smelt strongly of coffee, with some caramel malt qualities buried underneath it. The taste was similar; loads of coffee masking any subtleties that may have been lying underneath.

I don't normally write conclusions for these Year of Local posts, but I feel it's important this time. I didn't love my time at Inner North. I got a bad vibe from the staff as soon as we walked in and the experience didn't improve. It really goes to show how important staff are to your business. Maybe I caught them on a bad day - but they rubbed me the wrong way from the start. The thing that could've saved this visit was the beer, but it wasn't of a high enough standard. As beer is so experiential I could be marking it slightly harsher because of the overall experience. I certainly won't be rushing back to give them a second chance. Each to their own though, you may love your time at Inner North so definitely go and see what you think for yourself.

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

Thursday, 21 March 2019

WOLF OF THE WILLOWS

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Outer Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 386 Reserve Rd, Cheltenham
  • Food: American BBQ
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.wolfofthewillows.com.au/
Scott & Renae McKinnon, started Wolf of the Willows as a contract brewing operation in late-2014. At the time they were entering a relatively crowded market, not as crowded as it is now admittedly, so had to stand out some how. They went about it by having striking branding and one of the better names out there.

The inspiration for the name of the brewery took inspiration from the work of Pliny the Elder, the Roman naturalist, better known in beer circles for the IPA named after him from Russian River. He is credited with the first description of hops, which he described as lupus salictarius, in English "wolf among the willows".

The three beers that became their core range followed over the next year, before they managed to secure a brewing space of their own. Well sort of... They share a brewing facility with Bad Shepherd, located on a back street in Cheltenham. Moving from a contract/gypsy operation to a physical brewery has allowed Wolf of the Willows to massively expand the range of beers that they brew & fine tune their already excellent core range.

As mentioned above, Wolf of the Willows share their brewpub with Bad Shepherd. As such much of the following is recycled from the Bad Shepherd post. As you walk up the stairs to the brewpub their is a large decking area to your right. The tiled bar is in front of you as you walk in and runs a pretty significant amount of the way from front to back of the brewery. This draws your eyes to the stainless steel, which takes pride of place at the back of the warehouse.

As you can see in the picture above (photo credit: City Lane), it's quite a well lit warehouse with a high roof. There's plenty of timber and exposed steel in the construction of the building and this has been incorporated into the fitout, which is quite minimalist and modern. The tables are quite large, which is a good thing as the food is plentiful! The brewpub is known for their American BBQ, it's pretty good although, as it's BBQ, it is a little on the expensive side.


As much as I love their original beer, the XPA, I'm going to review the Lark Barrel Aged Imperial JSP. Partly because the artwork is great & more imporantly because was a seriously interesting beer! It's the first beer in what's expected to be a series, of barrel exchanges between Wolf of the Willows & Lark Distillery in Tasmania - where selected barrels will be sent back and forward and re-used. I'm pretty excited to follow these releases from both producers.

This beer is a malty beast! The character that really surprised me was the smokey ham flavour, that I normally associate with Rauchbiers, which was the dominant flavour and aroma of the beer! Alongside it were layers of malt with heaps of chocolate, roast & molasses. There was some whiskey notes, although I think they could've been stronger with the warming quality the most noticeable indication that it had spent time in barrel - alongside the slight oxidation these types of beers experience.

All-in-all, a really intriguing beer and I will certainly be picking up the next release from this season. It should also be noted that Lark are re-using the barrels that had beer in them and will be releasing a single malt called The Wolf Edition at some point in the future.

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

Thursday, 14 March 2019

BAD SHEPHERD BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Outer Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 386 Reserve Rd, Cheltenham
  • Food: American BBQ
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttp://www.badshepherd.com.au/
Husband & wife team Dereck & Diti Hales threw in their corporate careers and started Bad Shepherd in 2015. Their brewpub is housed in a converted warehouse in the back streets of Cheltenham, not far from the Nepean Highway. The brewpub has become something of a community hub in Cheltenham, attracting beer lovers and local workers alike.

Their brewing facility doesn't just house them however. In 2015 they teamed up with another husband & wife team, Scott & Renae McKinnon of Wolf of the Willows, to build the wonderful brewpub and production facility that has become so attached to their brand.

Bad Shepherd originally made their name making a really interesting core range, the Raspberry Wheat & Hazelnut Brown spring to mind. Their core range has been a little harder to find in recent years as they've focused more on limited releases.

The brewpub is on a relatively quiet street in Cheltenham. As you walk up the stairs to the brewpub their is a large decking area on the front right. The tiled bar is in front of you as you walk in and runs a pretty significant amount of the way from front to back of the brewery. This draws your eyes to the stainless steel, which takes pride of place at the back of the warehouse.

As you can see in the picture above, it's quite a well lit warehouse with a high roof. There's plenty of timber and exposed steel in the construction of the building and this has been incorporated into the fitout, which is quite minimalist and modern. The tables are quite large, which is a good thing as Bad Shepherd's food is plentiful! They've become known for their American BBQ, it's pretty good although, as it's BBQ, it is a little on the expensive side.

There was only ever one choice for their beer in this list; Victoria Pale Ale. This beer is brewed with 100% Victorian ingredients! The hops come from Barrett Burston in Geelong, the hops (Vic Secret & Topaz) from Hop Product Australia's Rostrevor Farm and the  piece de resistance, Melbourne No. 1 Ale Yeast - unused & in storage at White Labs since 1936!

The idea is wonderful, and might I add perfect for the project I'm undertaking this year, however the thing that really matters is that the beer is good. It's a 4.2% summer ale and so accordingly it's quite a light bodied beer, with malt taking a back seat. The hops again don't provide a heap of flavour or bitterness, however there is some fruitiness from the yeast.

I've heard that Bad Shepherd are looking to make Melbourne No. 1 their house yeast so watch this space... I think this yeast could work really well in a big IPA or Imperial IPA.

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

Sunday, 10 March 2019

LOCH BREWERY & DISTILLERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: South Gippsland
  • Tasting Room: 44 Victoria Rd, Loch
  • Food: No Food
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.lochbrewery.com.au/
Twenty minutes further down the road from Howler Brewing Company you can find another brewery that calls an old bank (& the butcher next door) its home. Loch Brewery & Distillery is housed in a 100 year old, red brick former bank in the quaint town of Loch. They've been producing beer there in 2014; however their journey to becoming a brewery is a bit different to most...

The team behind Loch's first passion was whisky. Trips to Tasmania and the U.K. followed for Craig & Mel, where they learnt more about the art of good Single Malt visiting some distilleries with some breweries thrown in for good measure. On this trip they learnt that to make good whisky you have to be able to make good beer. (The overly simplified explanation of whisky is that you brew a base beer and then distill it.) To use their own words "if you needed 80% of a brewery to make a whisky beer, why not complete the extra 20% and brew some good old fashioned Ales."

That is exactly what they did. They designed their own brewing system and had it made in nearby Langwarrin. The brewery fits snugly into the old butchers shop next to the wonderful brick building pictured left that functions as their distillery & cellar door.

The cellar door is beautifully presented with the copper still taking pride of place in the middle of the main room. The bar greets you as soon open the big glass doors. The walls are covered in shelves proudly displaying their wide range of products & shelves. When we visited there were a number of groups dotted around the place. For those of you with furry friends, there is a lovely little beer garden between the two buildings where you can sample the wares.

Naturally I indulged in a tasting paddle at the brewery. They've got three core range beers & a rotating special release tap. The recipes are all heavily influenced by English brewing & utilize traditional English hops (EKG, Fuggle, Challenger, Bramling Cross etc.).

The beer I'm sharing with you today is the Dark Ale. I had this both on cask at the brewery and in a bottle that I took away with me and both were great. It had everything you'd expect from an English Dark Ale with chocolate malt characters the most prominent, with roast and smoke also both present. There is an earthy bitterness that balances the beer. On cask it's incredibly smooth, as you'd expect. It'd be a wonderful beer on a winter's visit to this picturesque brewery.

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