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!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

BILLSON'S 1865

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: High Country
  • Tasting Room: 29 Last Street, Beechworth
  • Food: Cafe
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.billsons.com.au/
I heard sometime last year that there was another brewery slated to open in Beechworth. Nathan & Felicity Cowan had bought a cordial company, housed in an old brewery & had dreams to turn restore it to it's former glory. The plan was to sell cordial, beer, tonic water, soda water as well as some spirits. It sounded like a massive undertaking!

The history of the original Billson's Brewery is fascinating. Founded in 1865 by English immigrant George Bilson Snr at 4 Last St, Beechworth. the brewery moved down the street to the site it now sits on in 1872. With the passing of George Bilson Snr his son, Alfred Arthur, took over the business and with it became A.A. Billson Brewery.

1892 saw the brewery change names again and become the slightly unwieldy, A.A. Billson's Anglo-Australian Brewing Company. 1911 saw a merger with the Albury Brewing & Malting Company, started by George's son George Henry, in which they became the Border United Co-Operative Breweries Ltd, before becoming Murray Breweries in 1914.

Murray Breweries continued operations as normal until the 1950's when they stopped producing beer. They continued to produce Herbal Beer until the 1980's, but production of their famous cordials never stopped. In 2017 Nathan & Felicity Cowan purchased Murray Breweries, restored the original Billson's name & set out produce beer again, something they managed to achieve in late-2018.

The next step was to re-invigorate the old Billson's Brewery site & turn it into a space people want to come to. They've done a brilliant job! The main room couples a tasting room with a shop where you can buy the huge array of products mentioned above, of which there are a huge number of variants.

Behind the tasting room is a cafe, which seemed to be filled with locals having a coffee rather than a beer! They had some really good cafe offerings, I really enjoyed my caramel slice. I think they plan to increase the times they're open (currently 9-5) but are experiencing some licensing issues. They also have plans to open some accommodation, which I imagine will be great with how well they've done with the brewery space.

The one area that I thought they haven't quite nailed is the beer. Everything I tried was solid but not amazing. I'm sure they'll get this right in time however. The Australian Ale is the recreation of an 1888 handwritten recipe found in the brewery. It's a pretty typical Australian Sparkling Ale, with a solid malt backbone and some fruity esters. It could probably do with a touch more carbonation. I think it's a beer that they could tinker with and make into something quite iconic.

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

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

FREXI BREWING

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Brewed At: Bonehead
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.frexibrewing.com.au/
One of the newest entrants to the Victorian craft beer scene is Frexi Brewing, with their first two beers hitting the market in late-July 2019. It's the brainchild of Eddie Haro & Cha Lapage, a couple who fell in love with beer (& probably importantly with each other) in London. They set off on the trip of a lifetime that would eventually lead to them to Melbourne.

The duo travelled Europe & South East Asia before settling down to live & work in Australia about 3 years ago. On their travels they'd visited heaps of breweries in different countries but it was a trip to Little Creatures, where they were advertising home brewing classes. that really sparked the idea for what would later become Frexi.

As all those who homebrew will attest, it's a hobby that can get a little out of hand. What started out as the two of them brewing for fun started to morph into something they would like to pursue commercially. An article from Clint Weaver in Froth about how it isn't that expensive anymore to launch a craft label in Australia was the straw that broke the camel's back and saw the duo take the plunge into commercial brewing.

Cha is a chef from France, whilst Eddie is an architect from Mexico - which means they run their lives on very different schedules! Their nationalities are also the inspiration behind the brand name FR (France) & EXI (Mexico). The duo have hopes to be able to turn Frexi into their careers with dreams for a brewpub that serves the cuisines of their homelands.

When a brewery launches with a Porter you know it has to be good. There's a big hit of coffee in this beer, with the expected accompanying roast. There's a bit of bitterness on the back end, but its certainly not overpowering. As the beer warms there is some sweetish caramel malt flavours. It's a Porter that I can see myself drinking a lot more of!

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

Monday, 2 September 2019

BLIZZARD BREWING COMPANY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: High Country
  • Tasting Room: 5 Cattle Pen Drive, Dinner Plain
  • Food: Bar Snacks
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.blizzardbrewing.com/
Blizzard Brewing Company is the highest brewery in Australia, sitting in a typical ski fields building on top of Dinner Plain at 1550m. It was setup by an American, Mark Hubbard, who was working in tourism in the ski fields and thought that the only thing the region was missing was a brewery.

It proved harder to achieve than he could possibly have imagined! In the middle of 2015 Mark secured the site that the brewery now sits on in Dinner Plain & ordered his brewing kit from San Diego & China. Everyone starting a brewery in Australia is aware of the freight costs involved in acquiring brewing equipment, but no one could expect the last leg of the journey, once the equipment had landed in Australia, would be the most expensive!

That's just one of the challenges of being located at one of the highest points in Victoria. Lizzie, Jimmy & I, braved the same journey up Mount Hotham & managed to fit Blizzard into our High Country weekend without having to sacrifice any breweries! And I'm so glad we did!

The tap room & brewery is lined with plywood plastered with Blizzard posters and artwork from a local artist. The bar is directly in front as you walk in, it's an L-shaped bar with a large chalkboard above the bar displaying what's on offer. The stainless is right out the back of the brewery & is a little shielded from view if you're sitting in the front. There's a lot of high tables in front of the bar, with most of the stools made from converted Singer parts, whilst there are also a couple of areas with couches, quite reminiscent of a living room.

Probably the most unique aspect of the brewery is the number of dogs inside the brewery, including our own Jimmy. Most breweries have an outdoor area where you can sit with your dog, however there aren't that many where they can come inside with you!

Blizzard Brewing is one of those rare places - I'm guessing it has something to do with the negative temperatures just outside the brewery walls. Once you step inside, you'd have no idea how cold it was outside, as long as you can look past all the people wearing ski gear...



I've decided to review Ice Horse, their 5% American IPA. Normally I think of IPA's having more ABV than this one, but I don't really mind if the beer tastes good. And the beer does taste good! It packs a really good whack of bitterness, with tropical fruit & pine notes from the hops. It's a beer that I'd quite happily have a session on - there's enough hop character to keep it interesting, but it's not overpowering.

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

Sunday, 1 September 2019

LITTLE GIPPSLAND BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Gippsland
  • Tasting Room: No
  • Brewed At: Temple
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://littlegippslandbrewing.com.au/
Three mates spurred by the seemingly constant string of bad economic news in their part of Victoria set out to do something about it & give back to the community they love.  Dylan Berends, Rhys Brown & Aaron Falzon are the three mates looking to give back to Gippsland through their Community Beer Project.

The trio decided to do something after watching friends and family be affected by the closures of the Hazelwood Power Station & Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts as well as the milk crisis. Everywhere you looked in Gippsland people were losing their jobs or livelihoods. They felt that there needed to be more support for the local community.

Sports clubs are crucial to the way of life in the Australian countryside. They put their heads together and thought about what all sporting clubs, the heartbeat of many of these communities, have in common; a bar!  They decided to brew beer and reinvest all of the profits back into the local community.

And so began the process of recipe development, knowing the locals would only switch over from their tried and tested brands if the beer was good. Supposedly the final recipe was the last one standing from 153 recipes! They consulted with a number of industry experts, spent countless hours driving between Gippsland & Temple Brewing in Brunswick, before finally releasing their beer in late-2017.


I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting a heap from a beer called Craft Draught... I was pleasantly surprised however! Firstly, this is an ale not a lager. It's got big caramel malts, which combine really well with these orange & stonefruit notes. The combination reminds me of some English Ales, with that sort of marmalade flavour. I'd quite happily drink many more of these!

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

SEPTEMBER BLOG UPDATE

Hi Guys,

With 2/3rds of the year gone I thought it best to update you all on where we're up to with The Year of Local stuff. I didn't get anything done on my Hawaiian flights or holiday, which has put us a little further behind than I would've liked. As of today, there are 167 breweries/brewing companies in Victoria - we've lost a few this year, while gaining more by the day! I've complete 59 profiles & have plenty more that have at least been started.

That means there are, at least, 108 brewery profiles still to finish; there are 121 days left in 2019... It's certainly possible that we'll finish this challenge on time, but it's going to require more content than I've pumped out in a long time! The good news is that I've got a lot of the visiting out of the way - there's still a few regions to get to, but that's more than manageable. The trick now is to track down a few more of the beers from brewers without taprooms.

There are quite a few breweries that I'm hearing are close to opening including a few in pretty far out of the way regional places. I would never wish anyone's business ill-will, however my life would be a lot easier if there are some inexplicable delays at a couple of prospective breweries... In any case, I better stop writing this post and get back to writing up the High Country breweries that I visited last weekend!

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