Thursday, 25 April 2019

BLACK HEART BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Food: N/A
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.blackheartbrewery.com.au/
The story of Black Heart Brewery is a familiar one, two mates like homebrewing & start a brewery; the execution here is a little different. Unlike the vast number of brewers flocking to warehouses in industrial parks Robin Smith, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and Brad Schulz started their commercial brewery in Robin's backyard.

Robin had some serious brewing pedigree, having won the 2009 Victorian Amateur Brewing Competition before taking out the Australian Amateur Brewing Competition the following year. The 2009 title proved the inspiration to start their commercial operation, with their first beers launching at the old Victorian Microbrewery Showcase at Fed Square at the backend of 2011. Their passion had become a second job!

The Black Heart Brewery could be described as the largest home brewery in Australia. They are tucked up in a shed next to Robin's pool at his Brighton residence. Being confined to a shed means that the duo don't make a heap of beer. They have 500L & 300L fermenters and produce about 500 bottles, alongside kegs, per batch. I honestly wasn't sure if they were still in business when I started this project, as it'd been so long since I'd last seen any of their beers!

It's not everyday you see a Weizenbock, let alone an Australian brewed one! As soon as I saw this I knew this was the beer I'd be reviewing. It's bang on stylistically! It's a cloudy brown beer with some dark malts, raisins & moderate bitterness. There are also the banana and clove esters that you expect with German Wheat beers. If you can track down a bottle of this I'd highly recommend it!

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

A LOCAL BEER

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Brewed At: Craft & Co 
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://alocalbeer.com.au/
A Local Beer is a craft beer brand that launched in 2018 after a conversation between 5 mates. I say brand as their mission is different to most entering the industry. The group behind A Local Beer wanted to be more than a beer brand. They wanted to spark a conversation about issues that were important to them & give back to their local community, through the medium that is beer.

The group were inexperienced home brewers so teamed up with the guys at The Craft & Co, one of Melbourne's leading contract brewers, to ensure their beer would be spot on. As part of their giving back to the community they've teamed up with POUR AF, a Melbourne based art collective, to design the artwork that emblazons their cans.

In my eyes, their most important collaboration is with SecondBite. SecondBite is an organisation that helps to combat food waste, whilst feeding the less fortunate nutritious food that they may not otherwise be able to afford. For every pint or 6-pack of A Local Beer that is purchased, a meal is provided to someone less fortunate through SecondBite.

I really wish the guys luck! Food wastage is a huge issue in Australia & if this makes more people aware of the issues it can only be a good thing. They're planning to run events around the issues that matter to them and will be continuing to partner with the Melbourne art community. These guys have got ambitions to one day have their own sustainable brewery and tap room down the track, but that can only happen if the beer is good enough...

So at this point they only have one beer, I've been assured there will be more sessionable offerings to follow, so the review is naturally about that; their XPA. It's a good example of the style. The malt bill is slightly sweet, but offers little flavour. It sets a lovely base for the hops to shine and there is a good amount of citrus, predominantly orange, and a fair whack of bitterness. It's a beer I will be looking out for on tap so that I can support a great cause as well as have a great beer.

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

BOJAK BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: S.E. Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 5 Bennet St, Dandenong
  • Food: Pizza & Snacks
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.bojakbrewing.com.au/
Bojak Brewing is a relative newcomer to the Melbourne craft beer scene, with their brewpub opening in December last year. It's owned and operated by award winning  home brewer, turned pro brewer, Dale Messina & his wife Sue. The brewpub model is becoming more and more popular in Australia, with brewers looking to engage their local community more and more rather than look at large distribution models where quality can be compromised.

The brewpub is located in the outer suburban hub of Dandenong, approximately 30km from the Melbourne CBD. It's probably not the first area I'd think of to start my brewery, although in saying that it's an area with a large population and plenty of young families...

Currently they're brewing on a 500L Braumeister, servicing their own bar. They have a canning line coming in April and will have small amounts of cans available at local restaurants, bars & bottle shops going forward. At the moment you can also get their beer to takeaway in Crowlers at the brewpub.

The venue is a pretty wide fronted warehouse, which is far deeper than I expected. The taproom can seat 40-50 people, so is on the smaller side. There's some graffiti style artwork on the wall, with industrial style tables scattered about. The stainless steel is pretty much hidden, although there are small windows above the urinals to look through to the stainless.

We sat outside in the little beer garden they've built into their car park. It was a real suntrap on a cool early autumn day in Melbourne. We didn't have any food, but the pizza's that went passed us looked & smelt great!

Bojak has one of the more stylistically diverse ranges around at the moment. I've settled on their NEIPA as I think it was their best beer I tried on the day we visited. It's called Calypso, a nod to the tropical flavours that are so present in the beer. I think the thing that really makes this beer standout is the lack of astringency - which is saying something for an Australian NEIPA. It's definitely one worth visiting the brewery for.

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

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!