Monday, 29 April 2019

THE CRAFTY SQUIRE

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: CBD
  • Tasting Room: 127 Russell St, Melbourne
  • Food: Gourmet Pub
  • Price: Inexpensive
  • Websitehttps://thecraftysquire.com.au/
The first of the big boys to get a run out in The Year of Local is The Crafty Squire. As the name would suggest their is a link to the James Squire range, which is owned/produced by Lion (formerly Lion Nathan). James Squire bears the name of a convict who was transported to Australia in 1788 on the First Fleet for stealing. There is a lot of hyperbole & mistruths that abound around James Squire's life; what we can say for sure is that he was the first person to cultivate hops in Australia and one of the first brewers.

Photo Credit:
Untappd
The Crafty Squire is one of the brewpubs that Lion setup to further the illusion of the "craft" nature of the James Squire brand, they have one in almost every major city around Australia. The brewhouse was installed in 2001, however the venue continued operating by its former name, the Portland Hotel, until 2015.

The brewhouse is operational and used to create seasonal offerings, unique to each brewpub. Alongside these brewpub specific beers you can also sample the full range of regular James Squire offerings as well as some nationwide limited releases. The brewhouse is situated at the front of the building, so that passersby can admire their wood clad kit.

There are a number of different spaces throughout the building, it's a huge old Melbourne pub after all! However, I seem to always find myself in the "Craft Bar". It's a space that you would find hundreds of times over in Melbourne. High tables, plenty of stools, plenty of TV screens showing a variety of sports until the wee hours of the morning (they're open til 5am Fridays & Saturdays!). Despite being a semi-regular visitor, I've never eaten here so can't comment on the food offerings. I'm sure they're reasonable though as I'm aware that a lot of people do repeat functions at The Crafty Squire.

For the beer, I'm reviewing one of the more aptly named beers; The Convict. It's a straight up and down English Bitter clocking in at 5.5% ABV, brewed in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. It's also excellent! English style ales are rarely brewed well in Australia but this one fits the bill. It has layers of malt, predominantly biscuity variants, which pairs superbly with the earthy hops that provide plenty of bitterness.

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

JETTY ROAD BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Mornington Peninsula
  • Tasting Room: 12-14 Brasser Avenue, Dromana
  • Food: Sharing Snacks
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://jettyroad.com.au/
Jetty Road became the latest brewer to join the growing number of breweries on the Mornington Peninsula - about an hour S.E. of Melbourne - when it opened it's hospitality venue in late 2017. At that time, as for the previous year, their beer had been contract brewed at various sites around Melbourne. That all changed in November 2018 with the installation and commission of their own equipment on-site at their venue in the same industrial park in Dromana as Two Bays.

Photo Credit: Visit Melbourne
The brewery is the owned by 6 Mornington Peninsula locals. led by Head Brewer Blake Bowden & Managing Director Grant Rogers. They also have a relationship with "independent craft accelerator" Founders First - who provide a similar funding model to venture capital.

The name regularly confuses people; why is a brewery on Brasser Avenue called Jetty Road? The answer is relatively simple. 2 of the founders used to brew at a private residence on the actual Jetty Road in Dromana - a 5 minute drive from the brewery. The name simply stuck!

Jetty Road's brewery and restaurant/beer hall is located in a huge warehouse space in the industrial area behind Dromana. It's clearly undergone significant renovations to create the wide open space. There's a mix of high and low tables scattered around the restaurant with a few tables out the front in case you want to bring your furry friend along. The food is mostly share plates & it's genuinely good! The wine list is well curated, as you'd hope in one of Victoria's best wine regions. It's a venue you really could bring anyone to.

The bar is on the wall alongside a huge glass window which you can see through to the stainless steel. It gives the illusion of being in amongst the brewery when it is in fact completely separate, handy for OH&S. There's a few mural scattered around (as seen above) and by all reports there is a beer garden, which I may have not come across...

Now to the beer. Jetty Road have had a core range (Pale, IPA, Draught) available in cans since before they opened their Dromana brewery. The beers are clean, well branded and placed well in the Hottest 100 last year. I wasn't sure how their more experimental offerings would fare

Thankfully they were pretty good. I've chosen to write a little about their Infinite 8, an Imperial IPA clocking in at 8.8%. As you can see from the picture, it's a little lighter in colour than you'd expect from the style. This translates to the flavour, with less malt character coming across although there is some biscuity sweetness. There are plenty of hops, mostly offering tropical fruit and a little citrus as well as some balancing bitterness. Overall I thought it needed a little more malt as there was a touch of unmasked raw alcohol.

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

Thursday, 25 April 2019

WEST CITY BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Brewed At: Grand Ridge
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.grand-ridge.com.au/shop/category/west-city-brewing/3440
West City Brewing was the brainchild of Bevan Dalziel, founder of Facebook group Westside Beer Drinkers, & Fergus McGregor. The brand launched in late 2015 with their first release Footscray Ale, baring a wonderful cartoon landscape of the iconic West Gate Bridge, the gateway to the western suburbs. It gave the brand a real sense of place, something that is hard to do with gypsy brands. Footscray Ale developed an almost cult like following, in a very short space of time, in the inner west of Melbourne.

Things seemed to be going along swimmingly until Bevan had to step away from the business to focus on family & other business interests. The duo, who had gained a few others along the way, simply couldn't give the brand the attention it needed and subsequently put the business up for sale in August 2017.

The story went very quiet thereafter, it seemed as if West City was dead. That was until news in August 2018, that Grand Ridge had reached an agreement with the original owners to brew Footscray Ale & Oaty Session Stout and relaunch the brand, with stock to hit the shelves in mid-September.

Grand Ridge were attracted to the fun nature of the brand and the organic nature in which the brand had developed a community around it. I thought long and hard about whether to include West City or not - but decided that the original story & the fact that Bevan is involved in the relaunch was enough to tip me over the edge. It's a great brand and will be interesting to see if the reception is as strong now that the beer is openly brewed 170km away from its spiritual home...

Thankfully in the relaunch they've kept the original artwork! In the process they've moved the beer from bottles into cans, which I think really fits with what West City Brewing (& in particular Footscray Ale) is all about.

The beer is more hop forward than I recall; with citrus, predominantly grapefruit, & tropical fruit notes really shining through. There is a good amount of caramel malt flavours, paired with some breadiness that lays a platform for the hops to shine through. There's a moderate amount of bitterness that leaves you wanting another.

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

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!