Monday, 16 September 2019

MITTA MITTA BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: High Country
  • Tasting Room: 1639 Mitta North Rd, Mitta Mitta
  • Food: Modern Australian, Pizza (Night Only)
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.mittabrewing.com.au/
Mitta Mitta is a community of approximately 200 people in North East Victoria. It's over 400km North East of Melbourne, is stunningly beautiful & is about the last place you'd expect to find a craft brewery. But find a brewery there you do! Just off the Omeo Highway, over the Mitta Mitta River and you come across this charming looking brewery.

Firstly, some backstory on how Mitta Mitta Brewing Co came to be. Tim Cabelka & Alec Pennington had been mates for years. Tim was working as a brewer at Red Hill Brewery, where he had been since 2007, while Alec had just completed building his own home in North East Victoria. He needed a new challenge & had a block of land in Mitta Mitta.

Alec put in a call to his mate Tim in 2012 & asked if he'd be interested in moving up to the High Country & starting a brewery. Tim, with family in tow, moved to the Mitta Mitta Valley to pursue his dream of running his own brewery. Although, it probably took a little longer than he was expecting to come together.

The journey from idea to finished brewery took almost 6 years! They, along with their respective partners Jen & Chris, built everything by hand using their own savings & the help from some generous family members. In late 2017 they were close to opening, but needed a little more cash. It was then that they became one of the first Australian breweries to use formalized crowd funding, when they used Ready Fund Go to raise about $10,000 to pay for trades & things they weren't able to do themselves. They smashed the goal; ending up with over $35,000!

This money meant that they were finally able to open the doors to the brewery they'd built themselves. The taproom is approachable & has been made using local timber & re-purposed materials. From the car park in front of the brewery you get a lovely view over the beer garden to the brewery itself; ostensibly a tin shed, that has had some wood fitted to it to make it look homely & inviting.

The beer garden is exactly where we took our place on a cold but sunny winter's day. It's a tree lined, grassed, fenced area where there were a number of kids running around. Dogs are also welcome on leads. The seating is quite heavy looking wooden benches and tables & is located in a perfect sun trap. The views from the brewery looking towards Mt Bogong are stunning!

Mitta Mitta offers one of the widest brewery food menu's that I've seen. What Lizzie & I had was excellent, from the picking platter complete with a wide array of local offerings to the chicken with wasabi mayo and citrus & fennel salad. They do pizza's in the evening, which I assume are as good as the day time offerings! If you're looking for local High Country food - you'd do worse than stopping in at Mitta Mitta.

The beer I'm reviewing is their Pale Lager. It's a really impressive lager, one of the better ones you'll find in Australia. The base malt is clean with some slightly sweet cereal grains, I'd also wager there's a touch of wheat as the mouthfeel is quite full. There's good grassy bitterness from the hops that they produce on site. I've also got to give a shout out to their Maibock, which was superb!

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

Sunday, 15 September 2019

SOCIAL BANDIT BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: High Country
  • Tasting Room: 223 Mt Buller Rd, Mansfield
  • Food: Pizza
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.socialbandit.com.au/
Social Bandit was started by Jeff & Jeanette Whyte in 2015. If those names sound familiar to you it's because they owned and operated the old Jamieson Brewery for 14 years until they sold in 2013. They spent a few seasons managing venues in the Mount Buller ski fields, before deciding they wanted to run their own hospitality venue again.

First they had to find a site, in the end selecting the warehouse site on the outskirts at Mansfield for it's ability to produce enough beer for a wholesale operation as well as servicing the local community. November 2014 saw them order their Austrian built copper brewhouse from Japan. It arrived in Mansfield the following February, with no English instructions. Jeff spent the next several months putting together a 10,000 piece stainless steel & copper jigsaw puzzle!

The venue definitely surprised me a little when I walked in, with it being much larger than I expected. They had a huge array of fermenters at the back of the brewery, behind the impressive copper brewhouse that really draws your eyes as soon as you enter. The whole thing has got an industrial vibe to it - with almost everything you can see having been recycled, from pallet tables to the tasting paddles made out of the slate from the Jamieson Post Office roof, which was recently replaced.

They've become well known for their pizza, as well as their beers, we unfortunately didn't indulge in any having already eaten but the ones we saw looked great. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing for the service - with the guy on the bar seemingly more interested in talking to his friends than serving beers... Hopefully just an off day & not a sign of wider issues.

I really ummed & ahhed before settling on The Beast. It's a revitalization of the beer that really endeared Jamieson Brewery to the craft beer public back in the day. While my memory of the beer isn't perfect, we are talking 6-7 years since I last had it, this is a good representation. It's dank, it's bitter, there's a bit of that marmalade thing going on & there's plenty of malt. It tastes like the IPA's that really got me into IPA's way back when!

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

Thursday, 12 September 2019

KING RIVER BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: High Country
  • Tasting Room: 4515 Wangaratta-Whitfield Rd, King Valley
  • Food: Pizza
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttp://kingriverbrewing.com.au/
King River Brewing opened it's doors in the King Valley in late-2016. The business is a family affair, owned by husband & wife team, Nathan & Brianna Munt. It's located on Brianna's family farm, in one of the most picturesque areas of Victoria. The King Valley has a multicultural history and also has produced a wide variety of agricultural products, including hops!

The family farm had lived a previous life as a tobacco farm, a legacy of the Chinese who moved to the area from the Goldfield in the 1880's. Italian immigrants like Brianna's family moved to the area in the 1940's & 50's & continued the Chinese legacy of growing tobacco. It was converted into a wood fired pizza restaurant by Briana's late-mother.

Their Italian heritage shows through in the building design, featuring a typical Italian al fresco seating area, complete with large paving stones, wooden tables and big wicker arm chairs. You can see through into the stainless steel through large windows, whilst also having wonderful views over the garden, where you can drag plastic chairs out during the summer months, or the neighboring paddocks depending on your vantage point.

This area adjoins the small taproom, housed in the old tobacco kiln whilst the brewery is in the tobacco grading shed. The taproom features 6 rotating taps, including 2 brand new beers on the day we visited. Brianna's mothers legacy is continued by the couple, who's brewery serves small wood fired pizza's alongside their beers. They are supposed to rival those of 400 Gradi - a Melbourne restaurant which once took out the World's Best Pizza title - and I have to say I was impressed!

I deliberated for ages before settling on the Fig Porter to review. I initially thought a Fig Porter was a strange idea before a beer, before finding out that the brewery has a copse of Fig Trees on site. The resulting beer is beautifully balanced with the sweetness of the figs counteracted by the roasty malt character. It's a beer that really evolves as it warms, with the fig flavour becoming more and more pronounced throughout drinking.

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

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

REBELLION BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Ballarat
  • Tasting Room: None
  • Food: N/A
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://rebellionbrewing.com.au/
Rebellion Brewing was started by John O'Brien in 2003, five years after he was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. It's a similar story to that of Richard Jeffares from Two Bays, the very first installment in The Year of Local project. John loved a beer and after having that taken away from him by his medical diagnosis he had to find a solution.

That solution led him to his backyard shed. Countless batches of beer were brewed with a variety of different grains, before stumbling on a winning recipe. Investors were sought throughout 2004 before the first O'Brien's beer was contract brewed & released to the public in August 2005. The resulting beer, a Premium Lager made predominantly from sorghum with a touch of millet, was believed to be the first commercially available Australian brewed Gluten Free beer.

The question then arose; how much demand was there for Gluten Free beer? The answer was A LOT! So much so that by 2007 John had invested in his own brewery, complete with custom modifications to ease some of the difficulties of brewing with grain other than barley, in the heart of Ballarat. It wasn't long before they outgrew this and relocated to a much larger site in Wendouree, outside Ballarat, where they are still based.

For years O'Brien's Beer was the only Gluten Free beer produced in Australia. Slowly the options are growing, but they are by far the largest still - with their beers available nationwide throughout the major chains. Interestingly they don't have a taproom, however you are able to visit the Wendouree brewery to buy their beer during business hours.


I've gone with the Pale Ale as I feel this is the beer that will appeal to the most drinkers. I think the most positive thing I can say about this beer is that I can't tell it's gluten free. The body isn't thin, it certainly isn't the most classical malt bill but it's serviceable. There are some hop aromatics, with very little bitterness imparted.

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

OLD WIVES ALES

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Brewed At: Craft & Co.
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttp://oldwivesales.com/
Old Wives Ales is one of a number of gypsy brewing operations to launch from the Merri Mashers Home Brewing Club. The operation was founded in 2015, after Nathan Keatch realized that there was simply too much work for one man & that he needed help to take his commercial brewing dream become a reality. He put out the call to his fellow Mashers to see if anyone would be interested in taking the jump with him.

Thankfully for Nathan, & the wider beer community, a number of Mashers jumped at the chance. The final quartet consisted of Nathan Keatch, Justin Spicer, Shannon Brooks and Mattias Isaksson. All brought their own unique set of skills to the table, which allowed Old Wives Ales to hit the ground running.

I hope most people can tell that the name Old Wives Ales is a play on Old Wives Tales; a phrase used where people believe a story is true when it isn't - think bad luck from breaking mirrors. Their beer names have for the most part taken their names from this line of thinking. It's a brand that really hit onto a good thing when it started out with Hair of the Dog XPA at Carwyn Cellars.

With these gypsy/contract brewing operations I feel that their branding is essential to their success. Old Wives Ales has never had the most interesting packaging, until the beer that I'm reviewing at least (which has some IP issues...). I'd love to know if package sales of their other beers picked up once they'd release the soon to be mentioned beer...

Old Man Yells At Cloud Double NEIPA follows on from the original NEIPA bearing the same name, just lower in ABV. It's an incredibly dangerous beer! It packs even more of the passionfruit & mango that made the original so popular, with no sign of the increased ABV. It's one of the finest Australian NEIPA examples! But, I'm sure everyone reading this immediately recognizes the IP issue, even if it is less obvious in the photo than on the can in person...

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

EAST 9TH BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Brewed At: ????
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://e9thbrewing.com/home/
East 9th Brewing was recently described by Australian Brews News as a "drinks marketing company". I think this is the most apt description for a brand that is commonly referred to as a St Kilda brewery, a moniker that the company does nothing to dissuade. Much like the mysterious Sample Brew, that they took over in July, there is very little information out there about East 9th Brewing.

First things first, there has never & will never be an East 9th brewery in St Kilda. The company has had their beers contract brewed since day 1 & instead invests their time building the various East 9th brands. They launched with Doss Blockos, named after the famous squat on East 9th Street in New York, in 2010. A number of other products have since followed with Lick Pier (ginger beer) and Future Memoirs of a Root Beer (alcoholic root beer), the most popular.

They aren't the most forthcoming company I've come across; as yet I still haven't been able to coerce out of them where they have their beer brewed. What I can tell you is that the company was started by Josh Lefers, Stephen Wools & Ben Cairns who have all been along since day 1 & still maintain active roles within the company.

East Ninth are probably better known for their political advocacy rather than their beer. They've called out Pauline Hanson for being racist, lambasted the Margaret Court & the Government in the lead up to the Marriage Equality vote & joined the Polished Man campaign against child violence. They've also courted publicity when they attempted to trademark the colour of beer in early-2018.

Doss Blockos is their flagship beer & has always sold well due to it's packaging - whoever thought of the brown paper bag was a genius. The beer is a perfectly acceptable lager. It's on the maltier side & has enough earthy hops that provide balancing bitterness. For a beer brand where it's more about the brand than the beer, the beer isn't too bad!

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

Monday, 9 September 2019

TWO POT BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: High Country
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Food: N/A 
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.twopot.com.au/
Two Pot Brewing Co has quite a history for a brewery I'd never heard of! Brothers Brendan & Joe Kellaway had been passionate home brewers for years, saving up money to one day start their own brewery. Their first steps into commercial brewing were taken Brendan's garage in Wodonga in 2014. At the time they were predominantly selling beer to one bar in Sydney, which happened to be Joe's local, when working his day job as a Barrister.

Over time they outgrew the Wodonga garage & in 2017 moved to their family property outside Yackandandah in Victoria's High Country. There they constructed a brewery that collects rain water & has enough solar panels to sustain their single phase power requirements. They've got 4 x 500L fermenters in addition to their brewhouse which is made from converted dairy equipment.

While not an official tasting room, you can always find Two Pot Brewing beers on tap at The Star Hotel, Yackandandah. It's their local pub, and a fantastic old country pub to boot, & their strongest supporter. At the time of writing they had 4 beers on tap Koelsch, APA, Dunkel & Black. The Star has developed a reputation for excellent American BBQ, if that's your thing.

I settled on their Dunkel. It's not a Dunkelweizen as the name may suggest, however a Dark Ale with the name a reference to it's European influence. It's a tasty little Dark Ale at that! Chocolate dominates at first before some caramel and roast notes begin to come through. It's mildly bitter with a touch of old world grassy notes apparent right at the end. I have to admit that it went down dangerously well & I would've quite happily sat their all day if it weren't for my tight time schedule.

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