Monday, 15 July 2019

KILLER SPROCKET

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Inner Melbourne
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Brewed At: Cavalier
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttp://killersprocket.com/
Killer Sprocket launched in 2012 as a contract brewing operation. This was in a time where contract/gypsy brewing was far less accepted than it is today. It's a story like many already covered, the company was started by husband & wife team Sean & Andrea Ryan, who had been home brewing for years before launching their own label.

It's on this home brew system that Sean & Andrea develop their recipes that are eventually scaled up to full on commercial releases. Their recipes are often slightly left of centre, I distinctly remember their "Peated Pale Ale" - a pretty heavily smoked beer - as their second release! They also have a Pale Ale in their range, which uses Juniper berries to impart bitterness.

This eclectic nature of their beers comes about, in part, due to the relatively mundane nature of the day jobs of the duo. Sean has a business degree & in work force management, whilst moonlighting as a comedian & podcaster. His wife Andrea is a medical doctor, which probably paid a role in a bank financing a contract brewery back in 2012! They will have been back to the bank in recent times, as they're building a brewery out in Bayswater, which they're planning to have open in September.

The brewery name is derived from a similarly mundane job. Sean used to work for a large insurance company & found out that databases need to be registered with ASIC & other regulatory bodies when they reach a certain size. Normally these databases bear incredibly bland, relatively instructional names. An impulse came over his to create a database with a silly name, that would eventually need to be registered. Hence, The Killer Sprocket Database came into existence.

When naming their brand they found that most of their initial choices were already taken and so, much like in naming the original database, on a whim they became Killer Sprocket. The on a whim theme continued with my choice of beer for this review...

The beer that won out is their Rye IPA. It's a beer that I hadn't had before, something which surprised me as I love rye! It's a good thing I did, as this beer packs a huge punch of that spicy rye character. It's almost, keyword being almost, too much! There is good bitterness from the hops, which are adding some earthy/spicy notes as well as some punchy citrus. It's a beer I could definitely see myself buying more of.

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

Thursday, 11 July 2019

GRAND RIDGE BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Gippsland
  • Tasting Room: 1 Baromi Road, Mirboo North
  • Food: Pizza & Pub Grub
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.grand-ridge.com.au/
The craft beer landscape was very different when Grand Ridge opened the doors to its converted butter factory in Mirboo North, deep in the Strzelecki Ranges in 1989. Only two of the remaining Victorian Brewers were open then; the behemoth that is Carlton United & the relatively unknown Buffalo Brewery in Boorhaman.

Current owner Eric Walters was a minority shareholder in Grand Ridge from day 1. He was working for Telstra at the time, before throwing in his job, buying out his 5 business partners & taking full control of Grand Ridge in 1997. They have long been known for their more subtle brewing, making predominantly classic English beers.

It was remarkable successful for many years. The brewery's history is littered with awards; for many years their marketing revolved around the 250+ international awards they'd won and their record 29 medal haul at the 2002 AIBA's.

This didn't last however and the brand receive a much needed refresh in later 2015. This saw the brewery move with the times and begin brewing a range of beers more suited to modern tastes, alongside their classics. This has seen the addition of some limited releases to the range, something Grand Ridge haven't been known for over the journey. Their new Black IPA, Joker & the Thief, is due out in stores this week.

Something that I was unaware of about Grand Ridge is the commitment to sustainability & the local farming community. The brewery is almost fully powered by its 384 solar panels that it installed in 2013 after receiving a Federal Government grant. Their spin off cider brand, Twisted Sisters, came about because Eric heard that local farmers were going to bulldoze their apple & pear trees due to cutbacks from the major supermarkets. He couldn't see that happen & now has 14 farmers growing apples & pears solely for the production of Twisted Sisters Cider.

One of the great things about this project is that it's making me visit breweries that I really should've been to before. Grand Ridge is one of those, how have I not been to the brewery that really started craft beer in Victoria? A two(ish) hour drive East of Melbourne and you come across Mirboo North. I didn't know what to expect from Grand Ridge, but I know it wasn't the slightly run down old butter factory that I pulled up to...

The inside is much better kept. There's a lot of timber, a throwback to the area's logging days. The tables you find throughout the brewery are all made from recycled timber that they found along the river. As you walk in the bar is to your right, whilst the large dining room is to your left. The dining room has a large wood fire place that was spouting out considerable heat.

Behind the bar there's a large glass window that you can look through to the stainless steel, always a plus in my books, as well as a mezzanine that has been built over the brewery to add more seating. The restaurant was doing a roaring trade the afternoon I was there & their food was really impressive. Apparently their menu changes every 2 weeks, to ensure that they're using fresh in season produce, in keeping with their farmers first attitude

I had a Winter Warmer on tap at the brewery. It's a Milk Stout that's brewed with vanilla & chilies. It was originally their GABS 2016 beer, the first after their re-brand. It's a pretty bold beer, there's good sweetness both from chocolate/caramel malts as well as the vanilla, which is strong but not overpowering. The chilies provide a tickle of heat on the back of the throat, slightly more as it warms, but by no means hot. I was driving so couldn't try too much of the new range, but if this is anything to go by I will be seeking some more out.

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

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

EXIT BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: S.E. Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 406 Bridge Road, Richmond
  • Food: Pies & Deliveries
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.exitbrewing.com/
Exit Brewing announced themselves to the Victorian public with their first release in 2014. Unlike the multitude of breweries launching at the time with safe offerings such as Pale Ales, the boys went big and released a 6.2% Saison utilizing the most polarizing of hops; Sorachi Ace. I know I wasn't the only one who was impressed with the ballsyness - it's amazing to think how far the industry has come in the last five years as people would be intrigued but not surprised now.

Exit was formed by Fraser Rettie & Craig Knight, better known as Frase & Grum around the traps. The duo met in 2000 working in IT, before spending a decade working on various IT projects in Europe. It was during this time away that their brewing ideology was heavily influenced - hence a Belgian Saison first up... It also spawned their brewery name ex-IT.

At this time Exit were brewing their beers out at Cavalier, the brewery that has helped launch so many breweries. They owned a solitary fermenter at Cavalier and so proceeded to focus on single releases, whilst sourcing their own space. That didn't take terribly long however, as their mates at Kaiju offered them to join their project in Dandenong South in late-2015.

With a space to call their own Exit began devising their core range, which was a little bit left of centre. No Pale Ale (one was added in 2017), a West Coast IPA, Amber Ale, Milk Stout & of course a Saison.Unlike their stable mate, Kaiju, Exit have a taproom where they showcase their beers. Unlike most Australian brewers, that taproom isn't at their brewery; but on trendy Bridge Road in Richmond. Their bar is called Uitgang, Flemish for "exit", which is another nod to the country that inspired the now ex-IT duo.

Uitgang is a great bar to watch the footy in of a weekend afternoon. There's plenty of exposed brick accompanying plenty of tables inside, whilst there is a nice beer garden out the back. It's dog friendly, kid friendly and there's a stack of board games at the front. Their taps showcase their own beers alongside at least one Kaiju offering as well as a host of their friends' beers. It's also always worth checking out what goodies are stashed in their fridges...

I really couldn't review anything else; it had to be the Saison. It really is a superb Saison. The malt is slightly on the sweet side, which lays a platform for the yeast to shine. It's got good peppery notes, alongside some hay & green apple. It's got the right, slightly higher than usual, level of carbonation for the style, there's some lemon/lime notes from the Sorachi Ace & it finishes quite dry. It's right up there in the conversation for best Australian Saison.

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

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

40 ACRES BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Goldfields
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Brewed At: Brookes Beer
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.fortyacres.com.au/
Trevor Mitchell is much like a number of other brewery owners already detailed on this blog. He had 25 years of home brewing experience and had numerous colleagues & friends compliment his beers over the years. His path to brewing in the Central Victorian Goldfields was a little different to most.

Trevor spent 13 years working on the artillery & guns on the Westralia as part of the Australian Navy. At the conclusion of his service he and his wife Jo packed up their lives to travel the world. They made it as far as China, before settling into a wonderful expat community comprising American's, Canadian & Brits. It was here that Trevor really gained confidence in his brewing after receiving compliments from the Americans - comparing his beer to that available in their homeland.

The duo came home briefly for Jo to give birth to twins, before moving to Vietnam. The family moved around Asia over the next few years, living in Malaysia, Thailand & China. During a short trip home travelling along the Murray River on a cruise, the urge to move home struck. They knew they didn't want a white picket fence in the city, they wanted to give their children an understanding of the real Australia.

But where would they call home? They ended up on a 40 Acre block in Sandon, a Victorian locality about 25km South West of Castlemaine. Sandon's population is only 81! With the majority living on farms larger than 800 Acres - making the Mitchell's block pretty small for the area! Their farm is completely organic & has never seen any pesticides. The Mitchell's operate an off grid farm stay at their property, which is reportedly very popular.

Trevor made the jump to brewing in 2015 - brewing his first beer under the 40 Acres banner, a Session IPA at Brookes Beer in Bendigo. Where possible 40 Acres used hops grown on their own property, in an area not that conducive to hop production. Over time they grew their range of beers to include an Amber Ale, a Porter & a Lager. 40 Acres developed quite a following in Central Victoria, so much so that their beers rarely made it down to Melbourne.

It was announced in late-June 2019 that the 40 Acres Brewing brand had been acquired by Bendigo's Brookes Beer, the facility they'd been brewing at since their inception. The statement said that they will continue to brew Til the Crows Come Home Session IPA & Clear as Mud Porter, both beers that have gained a strong following in Central Victoria.

With that in mind I managed to track down a Clear as Mud Porter. It's an interesting Porter with quite a lot of malt character. There is some caramel & chocolate upfront, before some quite strong roasted coffee notes come through. There is plenty of bitterness from the hops, although any flavour is masked by the roastiness. It's a really enjoyable beer, hopefully that doesn't change under the stewardship of Brookes Beer.

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

Monday, 8 July 2019

SALT BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Bellarine Peninsula
  • Tasting Room: 45 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet
  • Food: Gourmet Pub
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.saltbrewing.co/
Salt Brewing Company has an interesting history. The idea was first conceived in 2011 when a group of 8 locals, led by Tim Wood & Phillip Johnson, bought the only pub in their town after it went out of business. They eschewed the usual route of CUB installing their taps and the subsequent tap contracts that follow, and instead installed their own having baulked at the idea of Australian beer being foreign owned.

They became a pub known for stocking independent Australian owned beer, such as Little Creatures & Mountain Goat. However, when Little Creatures was sold & with constant rumours surrounding Mountain Goat - the group decided to install their own brewery and maintain independence. Thus Rogue Wave Brewing Company was formed, with their first beers pouring in 2015.

"Rogue Wave Brewing? I thought they were Salt Brewing..." You would be right. They only became Salt Brewing at the end of 2018, having traded as Rogue Wave for their initial 3 and a half years. With the reason given that it was too hard to continually spell rogue for people. The brewery is fully solar powered, highly environmentally conscious & donates its spent grain to the local saddlery.

A lot of this has to do with their location. Salt Brewing Co, formerly known as Rogue Wave Brewing, proudly stands in the iconic Airey's Pub in Airey's Inlet, a town about 50 minutes South West of Geelong on The Great Ocean Road. It's your typical country beach-side pub, although it's a reasonable hike down the hill to the beach from the pub, complete with weathered timber exterior, outdoor furniture and a tin roof.

Inside the fit out is really nice, whilst not straying too far from the beach side feel. There's a large stone fire place in the middle of the main room, that I can't help but feel would be needed on cold winters nights down by the coast. There's plenty of the usual brewery wooden tables with metal stools around, whilst there is a nice nook back around the corner from where you walk in with a pool table and seating around the windows.

The food menu is better than your average pub, with the usual pub staples and pizzas joined by some pretty extravagant mains utilising local produce and fresh seafood. I only had some chips having eaten not that long before arriving, but they were well done and the food being served around me looked great and seemed to be going down well.

I've decided to review the eponymous Salt. It was a toss up between that and Moby, their Pale Ale from which 10% of sales is donated to the Sea Shepherd. Salt is a really clean lager, which has moderate sweetness and nice grassy bitterness. This is exactly the sort of beer I'd want after being in the surf for a few hours. It's seriously refreshing and one you just want to drink more of!

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

Friday, 5 July 2019

BONEHEAD BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 86 Parsons St, Kensington
  • Food: BYO/Uber Eats
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttp://www.boneheadbrewing.com.au/
Bonehead launched in February 2018 on Parsons St, Kensington. Looking at this street, which mixes light commercial warehousing with residential dwellings, you'd have no idea a brewery was here if not for the Bonehead Brewing insignia splashed across the roller door that takes up half it's street frontage.

Photo Credit: Broadsheet
Anthony Dinotto, who opened Bonehead with business partner Travis Nott, has history with Parsons St, Kensington. His family have owned various businesses on the street since the 1970's & still own the mechanics shop next to the brewery.

This story is similar to so many others, two mates who have been home brewing for the best part of a decade decide they want to step up their game and back brewing their career. They initially planned to call themselves Scoundrel Brewing, before running into IP issues in what they called a "boneheaded move". The name stuck and Bonehead was born.

Their beers are all bear a cartoon character on them, which is a bit irreverent, and is meant to show the laid back nature of the guys behind the brand and how they don't take things too seriously. They their beers seriously however, producing a range diverse range of beers mixing classical & modern styles with some eclectic ingredients (think Maple Syrup & Prickly Pear).

Considering the avant-garde nature of some of their beers, I thought the brewery was a little pedestrian. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice new space but it does feel a little generic. As mentioned earlier, it's a concrete warehouse with a large roller door that is up to allow afternoon sunlight in. There are the industry standard wooden industrial tables with the metal stools, as well as a few higher tables for standing in front of the bar.

The stainless steel is in the back right corner of the warehouse and you're able to get quite a good look at it as you walk passed most of it on the way to the bathroom, located behind the bar. The bar itself is well stocked, with some local wines & spirits available in addition to the 12 beers on tap.

Continuing with my recent trend of reviewing dark lagers when they're available I'm going to review their Sweet Pea, which they term a Melbourne Dark Lager. It's a sophisticated Dark Lager, there's that initial sweetness that the style demands, some coffee & licorice follow before it finishes with a touch of bitterness. It's a beer that you could easily sit on for a whole session & it's one that I'd highly recommend trying.

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

THE CRAFT & CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 390 Smith Street, Collingwood
  • Food: Pizza, Gourmet Pub
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.thecraftandco.com.au/
The Craft & Co opened in December 2015 on Smith St in Collingwood. Their first beers launched not long after, although to simply call The Craft & Co a brewery would be to do disservice to what is one of the most well rounded & focused small producers in Victoria, if not Australia. They place a huge emphasis on quality local produce, with anything they can't make themselves being sourced from as close as possible.

The Craft & Co produce a whole range of products alongside their beers. They have an operating still & produce a number of different spirits. They make their own cheese & small goods, as well as offering classes on how to do this yourself. In addition to all of the above, and probably something else I've forgotten, they also operate a restaurant on site.

As is becoming more apparent as more Gypsy/Contract operations are added to The Year of Local directory; The Craft & Co are becoming one of the leading venues for new startup breweries to get their beer brewed at, through their Gypsy Hub brand.

The venue is, understandably given the variety of things they do, a bit of a mismatch. The floor is polished concrete with industrial tables, which are well spaced out, scattered around in various sizes. There's a large, white tiled deli section directly in front of you, whilst the bar, also white tiled, is over to your left. When standing at the bar directly behind you is their functioning still - which they somehow got a license to use right at the front of the building, next to the street front. It really is a venue that my words won't do justice to - you have to see it for yourself!

They have a really diverse menu, that changes regularly and showcases what's fresh & local. I had a sausage & fennel pizza with jalapeno's the day I was there, which was really impressive. I'd actually quite like to go back to see what some of the bigger plates are like.

For the beer I've gone with their Bangholme Beer. It's ostensibly an English Bitter, despite them, strangely, proclaiming it as a Table Beer. There's some sweet biscuit note initially alongside an avalanche of caramel malt flavours. The hops are punchy and typically English, with earthy & herbal characteristics.

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

Monday, 1 July 2019

HENRY ST BREWHOUSE

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 5/38 Barrett St, Kensington
  • Food: Bags of Crisps
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://henrystbrewhouse.com.au//
Henry St Brewhouse is a brewery that very few in Melbourne would've heard of. It's tucked away in a little factory in the industrial part of Kensington that most people drive through and never stop. Interestingly, Henry St Brewhouse isn't on Henry St. The Brewhouse is named after Phil's house on nearby Henry St, which is where they started brewing.

Some of you may be aware of them through our earlier The Year of Local post on Inner North Brewing, who's owner Zack Skerritt initially started Henry St Brewhouse with Phil Quayle. The duo used to be coworkers and began homebrewing together in 2010. In 2015 they opened Henry St, at which time Zack left his job to brew fulltime. It obviously didn't work out the way he'd planned...

Phil is still there and is operating one of the smallest brewing kits in the country, his handmade 100L system ''Blue Billy the Rainmaker"! It's not only the kit that is small at Henry St Brewhouse; everything is! And it has to be, the venue is one of the smallest breweries I've been to. There's room for maybe 30 people inside, and that'd be tight, with a small courtyard that could hold another 10 or so out the front.

Just like the brewing kit, everything at Henry St seems to be handmade. From tables made out of pallets, to plywood benches around the walls of the warehouse, to the cool room that is stacked high with all manner of brewing equipment and ingredients. There's a little wood fired stove, which pumps out some serious heat as well as some really cool industrial light fittings. There are these quite nice looking cooper light fittings above the bar, which look a little out of place in a space that otherwise looks like a work in progress (which I mean in the nicest way possible)!


In a venue this small you should be able to work out where the bar is (it's on your left as you walk in). They have an array of spirits, wine & soft drink for the non-beer drinkers in your life and are kid & dog friendly. While they don't do food, they do offer packets of chips & allow you to order your own food from their neighbours.

I had a couple of quite nice beers at Henry St, however I'm going to write about the Hop Harvest Ale briefly. This is brewed with hops that Phil grows himself up in Taggerty, on the edge of the Victorian High Country. It's a English IPA - brewed with Wet Hops - that balances malt and hops really nicely, whilst retaining that green wet hop character that I enjoy. Definitely go down and check out Henry St, they are making some really nice beers in a space that has to be seen to be believed.

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

SOW & PIGLETS

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Western Victoria
  • Tasting Room: 18 Tregea St, Port Campbell
  • Food: Snacks
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.sowandpiglets.com/
Sow & Piglets is not your typical brewing story. The brewery was started by John Moloney after he retired. With the help of the guys at Grain & Grape John managed to successfully turn the BBQ area at the bottom of the Port Campbell Hostel into a functioning brewery, which opened in April 2017.

John put plenty of research into the venture, first visiting the Craft Brewers Conference in the U.S. before embarking on a brewing course with SA TAFE. Quickly he realized that to realize his dream he needed some help; and that help arrived in the form of German brewer Julian Widera.

They are predominantly producing German styles of beer, which proved very popular with the locals & hostel visitors alike. The brewery very quickly outgrew its site at the hostel, admittedly that wasn't hard as the brewing area would be under 20sqm, & a second production brewery was opened in nearby Corriemungle almost a year to the day after first opening.

This expansion allowed Sows & Piglets, named after the original name of the famous rock formation "the 12 Apostles" just off the coast near Port Campbell, to begin selling their wares across their region and begin pushing into Melbourne. Their beers have been popping up in a few locations around Melbourne in 2019 & I would expect that to only increase into the future.

The original facility in Port Campbell is one of the more unique breweries I've walked into. You enter from the carpark, through a very narrow area that houses the stainless steel, before entering another door next to the hostel kitchen. If not for the stainless you've just walked passed, it isn't immediately apparent that you're in a brewery.

The bar itself is like any hostel bar you'd find around the world. There's a few stools at the bar, which is set into the wall, with heaps of mish-mashed couches scattered around some tables and barrels. There's the usual array of eclectic knick knacks from a mix of cultures. There's also an outdoor decking area which I'm sure would be great to have a beer on in the warmer months.

For the beer this time I've gone with one of their best sellers; the Four Grain Lager. It's a very clean lager, with good malt complexity and some crisp, grassy hops. It's a very German take on a lager, with far more malt character than you would normally find in an Australian brewed lager. I can see why this beer is very popular with the hostel goers in Port Campbell!

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