Monday, 12 August 2019

TWO RUPEES BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: S.E. Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 69 Renver Rd, Clayton
  • Food: Bar Snacks - Uber Eats
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttp://tworupeesbrewing.com.au/
It's not that long ago that I was lamenting the lack of diversity in the craft brewing scene, not only in Victoria but, worldwide. That is slowly changing. One of Melbourne's newest brewery's; Two Rupees Brewing Co, is one such brewery championing diversity. It was started by two Sri Lankan guys, Amila Mendis & Danny Perera, & opened in July 2019.

Melbourne has a large Sri Lankan population, however I don't think I've come across any in craft beer circles before. I visited their new brewery the week after they opened & spent the best part of an hour talking to the two about their journey - which sounded so similar to my own. They got into craft beer, loved it, progressed to visiting breweries regularly, progressed to home brewing, progressed to opening their own brewery!

Their venue is one of the smallest I've visited. It's housed in a small brick warehouse, on a street that looks like it should have a brewery on it. It's located in Clayton, just around the corner from Monash University, about 20km SE of the Melbourne CBD. Inside the walls are painted white bricks, the brewery is at the back and takes up approximately half the depth of the space. There are tables with the ubiquitous brewery stools, plants dotted about and invisible shelves showing off the range of spirits they offer alongside their beers.

Two Rupees is so small that it's currently only licensed for 20 people! They hope to have a footpath permit in place in time for summer, which should double the licensed capacity! The brewery has snacks that you can purchase as well as allowing drinkers to order in their own Uber Eats/other food delivery services.

I sampled each of the 4 beers on offer, all of which are well made and sessionable. I've decided to review the Witbier. The guys, influenced by their homeland, have added cumin alongside the traditional coriander seeds used in the style. The resulting beer packs really good depth of flavour, yet retains the drinkability of the style. Honestly, I could quite happily have stayed there all day drinking this beer - it's an excellent first up offering!

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

RED BLUFF BREWERS

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Gippsland
  • Tasting Room:No
  • Food: N/A
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.redbluffbrewers.com/
Red Bluff Brewers is one of the breweries I learnt about for the first time through this project. They have been brewing commercially in, until recently, one of the biggest craft beer wastelands in the state since late-2017. Started by two mates Damian Witham & Wayne Burnett, with the idea of bringing craft beer to East Gippsland.

The brewery is in Lakes Entrance, a popular holiday town about 4 hours east of Melbourne in East Gippsland. It's population is almost 5,000, who are mostly employed in either the tourism or fishing industries. It's a beautiful part of the world that was screaming out for a brewery!

Currently Red Bluff Brewers don't have a tasting room. However you are able to visit the nursery, where the brewery is located, and buy their full range of beers. Recently they've got popular beer label designer, Clint Weaver, aka Pocketbeagles in to design some labels for a new range of beers. Around the same time, Damian stepped away from the brewery with Wayne's wife Donna joining the team.

It seems like all the Gippsland breweries end up with a lager, to try and convert their craft averse locals. With that in mind I decided to try their Barrier Lager. It's a genuinely nice beer. There's a little bit more malt than most lagers, which is accompanied by moderate dirty/grassy bitterness. It's crisp and refreshing & I can see why it sells.

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

MOUNTAIN GOAT BEER

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 80 North St, Richmond
  • Food: Pizza
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.goatbeer.com.au/
Mountain Goat was launched in 1997 by two friends, Dave Bonighton & Cam Hines. The duo had spent time studying and working overseas, where they had discovered full flavoured beer independently. Upon returning to Australia they were disappointed with a market dominated by macro lager & set about trying to change that. They are the true pioneers of the craft brewing scene in Melbourne, which barely 20 years later is one of the most vibrant in the world.

A lot has changed about Mountain Goat in the 22 years since they brewed their first batch of Hightail Ale in the Scottish Chiefs Hotel in Geelong. After two years splitting their time between the aforementioned pub and the Grand Ridge Brewery in Mirboo North (note: these are not close!), the duo had cobbled together enough money, with the help of family & friends, to start their own brewery.

They opened in Crown St, Richmond in 1999 & decided to open the brewery up for locals to drink in once a month. It was a decision that proved to be a masterstroke for cash flow, with people lining up out the door to get in. One of the strangest things about my long craft beer journey is that until last month, I'd never been to Mountain Goat! This Melbourne institution, in my area, and I can't explain why I'd never visited.

2004 saw them move to a larger warehouse on North St, one street over from their previous site. Something I didn't know until writing this piece is that it took them until 2005 to get an automatic bottling line, until then they'd hand capped & labelled over 2 million stubbies of beer! Mountain Goat was available nationwide & the Richmond brewery couldn't keep up with demand. First the William Bull Brewery in Griffith began contract brewing some Mountain Goat beers, before all Steam Ale production, as well as packaged products, was moved to the Asahi brewery in Laverton in 2011.

This was the start of a productive relationship between Mountain Goat & Asahi, which eventually saw them buy out Mountain Goat in 2015. Whilst there was the inevitable backlash from elements of the craft beer community, the majority was supportive of the move that allowed a group of family & friends to see a massive return on the money they put in almost 20 years ago.

Very little changed at the operation, the Richmond brewery still opens on Wednesdays & Fridays, limited releases are still brewed in Richmond, whilst Steam Ale is still brewed at Laverton. The beer is still excellent and Dave's still around (Cam left in late-2017 to focus on other opportunities).

The brewery is in a large brick warehouse, in a quiet street in industrial Richmond. It's directly across from another craft beer institution in Melbourne, The Royston Hotel. You wouldn't be able to pick the brewery from the other warehouses if not for the small, aging sign above the roller door, featuring the brewery's goat head insignia.

Inside you're greeted to a large, high ceiling space. To your left is a long bar serving up a variety of core, limited releases & brewery specific Mountain Goat beers. Above the bar is the offices where the admin staff work, famously adorned with Mountain Goat slab boxes. You have good views of masses of stainless steel from almost anywhere in the brewery tap room, where you can enjoy a wide array of pizzas that are reportedly excellent!

The beer was always going to be a limited release & I could think of nothing better than to select their re-brew of Gypsy & The Goat for their GBW event. I voted for this beer from 2012 to come back at the Gala & I'm so happy it did! It's a Black IPA, originally brewed with famous gypsy brewer Mikkeller, which had a heap of pepperberries added. It's roasty, slightly spicy, has generous bitterness & a fruitiness, assumably, from the pepperberries. 

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

SEVILLE RIDGE BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Yarra Valley
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Food: N/A
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttp://sevilleridgebrewery.com.au/
Seville Ridge Brewery is located in Seville East, approximately an hour East of Melbourne in the Yarra Valley. This is about all I've been able to confirm about them; and even that was based on Liquor Licence records! It's very difficult when there is next to no information about them online & they don't answer emails or Facebook messages. Hopefully this post spurs them into action & I can give you guys a little more info down the track! If anyone knows anyone at Seville Ridge, please ask them to drop me a line!

I'm going to make a couple of assumptions to avoid this being one of the shortest posts in The Year of Local! Based on Untappd data I think the brewery started producing their beer commercially in 2013, although it could be as far back as 2010! I believe that this is a very small commercial brewery located in someones garage, based on the liquor licence address. Their website is a kit website, which I've seen used by a couple of the smaller breweries in Victoria, & provides no information!


When a brewery only produces one beer, it makes the beer selection far easier! The Seville Ridge Pale Ale is a well made English Pale Ale.The malt bill provides mostly caramel malt flavours. There's a touch of honey & apple, whilst there is also moderate herbal & citrus hop aroma. The bitterness is above average, but not overpowering, for the style.

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

Thursday, 25 July 2019

LA SIRENE BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Food: N/A
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttp://www.lasirene.com.au/
I remember the hype that followed La Sirene when their beers first hit the market in 2011. At first it almost seemed like a myth, there were supposedly these guys brewing farmhouse beers up in the high country & their beers were particularly hard to track down, but oh so worth it if you could!

Those guys were James Brown & Costa Nikias & in 2011 they were juggling other commitments (James studying wine making & Costa working in brewing consultancy) and sporadically brewing Saison at the Jamieson Brewery (which became Wrong Side eventually). With every sporadic brew the hype increased and so did the clamour for more La Sirene beers!

In 2013 Costa decided it was time to fold to the peoples wishes and make more beer. James couldn't commit to the increased time requirements and left the business to be replaced by Costa's wife Eva. They secured an old warehouse in Alphington and set about installing their "Urban Farmhouse Brewery".

Since installing their brewery La Sirene have slowly expanded their offerings, still entirely within the farmhouse realm. Praline was the beer that put them on the map of most craft beer drinkers. It's a Belgian Strong Dark Ale with heaps hazelnuts that took out People's Choice at GABS 2014. It's also the beer that really kick started the push from La Sirene into less traditional farmhouse beers. Their label artwork also helps them stand out from the pack. 

Interestingly they've bucked the trend and haven't opened a brewery tap room. I'd love to know the thinking behind it - La Sirene have a brand and a brewing philosophy that would really benefit from explaining it to new consumers. Maybe they're happy with the number of consumers they already have. In any case - I'll keep drinking their beer whilst they keep producing it!

I've decided to review their straight Saison. It's a superb beer and one I don't drink anywhere near enough! The malts are slightly sweet but this is offset by the peppery spiciness that you'd expect in a good Saison. There is also some hay, barnyard funk & hints of raw alcohol (in a good way). It finishes beautifully dry and is a beer that I always hope to have at least one of in the fridge.

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

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

FIXATION BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 414 Smith St, Collingwood
  • Food: BYO/Uber Eats
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.fixationbrewing.com.au/
The story of Fixation Brewing Company is inextricably linked with their founder; Tom Delmont. Tom Delmont is one of the best known characters in the Melbourne beer scene. For years Tom was associated with Mountain Goat, as one of their lead Goat on the Road. So beloved was Tom by the team that he was immortalized in a beer; The Delmont, a 7% West Coast IPA that was the second installment in their "In-Breed" series

Tom's love of IPA's was formed on a beer trip to the USA in 2010, at that time there were very few West Coast style IPA's brewed in Australia. He'd been working for Mountain Goat for 3 years at this point & was completely immersed in the world of independent craft beer.

Fast forward 5 years and Tom found himself up in Byron Bay on a family holiday. He wandered into Stone & Wood to pickup some takeaways & in somehow ended up in the offices talking to the founders about life & beer. 2 weeks later he took the call from Mountain Goat informing him that they were going to accept an offer from Asahi.

Loving independent craft beer and not wanting to work for a multinational, Tom thought back to that conversation he'd had with the Stone & Wood founders. They'd mentioned the possibility of an IPA-only offshoot from Stone & Wood, as an IPA didn't really fit with the Stone & Wood brand. Some calls were made and Fixation Brewing was born with the sole objective of producing IPA's.

Within 3 months of Mountain Goat's sale, Fixation IPA, a beer that regular readers of this blog would be more than aware of, hit the market! To say the beer was a success would be to do it a disservice. The beer blew up, particularly in inner Melbourne where you can now find it on tap at most pubs in the Fitzroy/Collingwood area. More IPA's were added over time, but it seemed like something was missing...

After a long search for the right venue, which took in sites from North Melbourne, to South Yarra to Fitzroy, The Incubator opened in September 2018 in the heart of Collingwood, an area that had become more synonymous with the brand that it's Byron Bay production facility. There was no debate for me about including Fixation in the list of Victorian breweries/brewers; all their beers bar their eponymous flagship IPA & Obsession Session IPA are now brewed on The Incubator's brewhouse.

If you love IPA's The Incubator is a must visit. There are all manner of IPA's on offer, with Sour IPA's, Hazy IPA's, NEIPA's, Black IPA's, Rye IPA's all in the rotation. The brewery is decked out with hop motifs, from the murals on the wall to the tasting paddles in the iconic shape of the hop. There's a lot more stainless in the brewery now than when they opened a year or so ago - with fermenters now on either side of the central bar.

They've done so well with what used to be a derelict warehouse on Smith St that had been vacant for years. It's amazing what a fresh paint job and floor to ceiling windows will do to a space. Most of those windows also face North, which is a blessing few breweries in Melbourne can count. The natural light in the brewery makes it seem very inviting & really dispels those people who think breweries are dark & dingy...

Inside the space is nice and open with an array of metal tables and wood topped stools. The bar top is more of the same metal, whilst the beer is served from a wood lined cool room, complete with white tiles & taps. There's a lot of greenery found throughout the brewery, which contrast nicely with the industrial light fittings and exposed metal that has been added to the skylight heavy roof.

After much consideration I've decided to talk about The Fix. It's their seasonal Double IPA & it's big & was released in cans for the first time earlier this year! The pours beautifully golden & clear, just how I like my IIPA's. It's dry hopped with Simcoe, Citra & Mosaic and packs the huge tropical fruit aromas that you'd expect as well as rounded, but assertive, bitterness.

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

Monday, 22 July 2019

URBAN ALLEY BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 12 Star Circus, Docklands
  • Food: Pizza/Pub
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://urbanalley.com.au/
The brewing industry in Australia is predominantly made up of white males (with a large number of them sporting beards). In recent years there has been a steady influx of females to the industry, at all levels from brewery owner to tap room staff to head brewer. What we're yet to really see is an influx of people from different backgrounds - there are a few spotted about but not in any significant number.

Urban Alley is one of the breweries pushing diversity. The brewery was established by a number of people from the large local Jewish community. The history of the brewery is as unique as the space they currently call home, located in The District Docklands, directly under the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel.

What would eventually become Urban Alley was founded by Ze'ev Meltzer in 2016. It was a contract brewing operation called Collins Street Brewing Company. For those not familiar with the geography of the Melbourne CBD, Collins St is the cities most prestigious address and where you will find the cities highest real estate prices.

They launched with a Golden Ale called Once Bitter Urban Ale. From memory it was actually a pretty enjoyable beer, that ended up on tap in a number of bars around the city. The plan was to secure a space on Collins St and open a brewery, however this proved impossible logistically. They changed tack & ended up securing the lease to the old Harbour Town Hotel in 2017, as part of the revamp of Docklands, & began setting up a brewery that would be able to entice the tourists visiting the Melbourne Star.

The venue that they launched with in the second half of 2018 is massive! They've got seating for approximately 500 patrons in a very slick looking brewery. There's a large decking area out the front, all of 20m from the entrance to the Melbourne Star. It's an area full of timber and metal tables of different sizes, with plenty of heaters alongside a large brick fire place.

Inside, there's a lot of different textures going on. The tables are the same as outside, the floor is polished concrete, the bottom of the bar is exposed brick, the top of the bar is a darker wood, there's white tiles/painted bricks, there's distressed timber & there are huge windows through to the massive wall of  stainless steel. Despite all those textures, the space actually looks pretty clean, see the image above.

Earlier in the piece I was lamenting the lack of diversity in the Australian craft beer scene. Head-brewer Shaya Rubinstein has an extremely diverse background. He was born in Baltimore to Jewish parents, before being raised in Brooklyn. He spent years in the Israeli, before marrying, moving to Australia & beginning home brewing.

He met Ze'ev through the local Jewish community & when the time came to open Urban Alley he landed the job as Head-brewer. Despite having no commercial brewing experience they hand Shaya the keys to a 25hL brewhouse, capable of putting out over a million litres of beer a year! Their range of beers includes a beer based off that original Once Bitter Urban Ale; fittingly now known as just Urban Ale, alongside an English Brown, a Pale Ale & a Lager. They also brew a number of interesting limited releases.

The food menu is pretty diverse, there's the brewery standard pizza alongside a good pub menu that also features a steak section. It's a menu that everyone should be able to find something they like on, something that fits with their location To provide something for their community, they operate a Kosher kitchen inside their regular kitchen that operates 3 days a week (currently Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday).

It's a little weird for a brewery to launch with a Brown Ale in their range these days. That's what Urban Alley have done. The beer is really quite a good example of the style that I've now been lucky enough to try both on tap & in cans. There is good chocolate & caramel malt flavours, a touch of roast, complimented by some earthy & herbal hop notes that also provide nice bitterness. It's one of the rare darker beers that I could quite happily sit on for 4+ pints over an afternoon.

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