Sunday, 29 September 2019

CLIFTON HILL BREWPUB

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 89 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill
  • Food: Gourmet Pub
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttp://www.cliftonhillbrewpub.com.au/
The Clifton Hill Brewpub is located in Clifton Hill, a small wedge of a suburb in Melbourne that many wouldn't know that sits on the juncture between Fitzroy, Collingwood, Abbotsford & Northcote. The building the Brewpub is now housed has quite a history; having served beer to the Clifton Hill community since 1884 as The Clifton Hill Hotel.

At the end of 2013, the same family that has owned the hotel for 30+ years decided to rip out the TAB & the band room and replace it with a brewery. The Clifton Hill Brewpub was installed and commissioned in 2014, which is far later than I had recalled - I must've first visited within weeks of it opening.

The venue appears to be a classic Melbourne pub from the outside, complete with drive thru bottle shop at the rear. The bottle shop is pretty well stocked, with a wide array of craft beer in addition to a good wine & spirit selection across multiple price points. 

Inside the pub still has some features showing it's heritage, although most of it has been replaced by a more contemporary vibe. There's plenty of exposed brick, so very Melbourne, some predominantly white funky wallpaper, which really lightens up both the bar and the dining room at the rear of the building. The decor is quite modern in the dining room, whilst showing come character with bright yellow metal tables and stools in the front bar.

Throughout the venue there are a number of windows through to stainless steel, so that you still know you're in a brewery. Speaking of the stainless steel, they currently run a 600L custom designed system, which allows them to keep their taps stocked with their core range offerings as well as a number of limited releases. In the last year or so they've started to package a small number of their beers into 750ml bottles for takeaway consumption.

At the back of the building is a lovely little beer garden, which continues the more modern/contemporary vibe. It's a restoration that's been done really well, without taking away all the character of the old building. The food at Clifton Hill is well worth trying, they've got one of the more extensive brewery menu's I've seen!

One of those limited releases was their Russian Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels. As an indicator of just how limited, I had bottle 125/408. It's also one of the better Imperial Stouts I've had this year. There was huge notes of chocolate, roast & bourbon barrel, as well as notes of caramel & dark fruits underneath. It's beautifully integrated for such a small release.

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

Saturday, 21 September 2019

THE PUBLIC BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Yarra Valley
  • Tasting Room: 13 Lacey Street, Croydon
  • Food: Gourmet Pub
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://thepublicbrewery.com.au/
The Public Brewery is located in Croydon, a suburb of Melbourne that certainly wasn't known for its plentiful craft beer offerings. It's at the doorway to the Yarra Valley approximately 40 minutes drive East of Melbourne. It's a brewery which offers a number of services that many others don't - it's a one stop craft beer stop.

In 2013, local cafe owner Dale White & his wife Bek dreamt of bringing craft beer to their neck of the woods. They teamed up with local homebrewer Brendan Guild to make it a reality. The idea came to Dale when he noticed the local grain store & auction house had fallen into disrepair and plans were being made for its demolition.

Rather than let that happen he set about attempting to secure the site, with the idea to have a brew on premise facility with a good hospitality offering. They were successful & then spent several months dealing with planning & building issues before slowly opening the various elements of their business.

The bottle shop, which is still there today, opened first at the end of 2013. This was soon followed by a bar, complete with kitchen & beer garden. The 8 x 50L brew it yourself kits, where anyone is able to learn to brew,  followed before the brewery proper was installed. The kit at Croydon is only slightly larger than the brew it yourself systems at 250L & it quickly became apparent that they would need more capacity. A larger production brewery was installed at 100 Acres in Warrandyte in 2016.

It's a really nice venue. It's a old brick warehouse that they've done significant restorations to. As you walk up to the building you're struck by the amount of plant life there is, in planter boxes & all over the walls of the warehouse. You enter through the small, tidy bottle shop that proudly stocks only independent products, before continuing past the small batch kits to the main bar area. The bar area has an array of timber tables of varying heights & sizes and has been nicely fitted out.

Not much has changed in here since my last visit 4 and a half years ago - there's still plenty of exposed brick, aluminium & greenery. The staff are friendly & thankfully they had more of their own beers on! My favourite part of The Public Brewery experience is the little outdoor area, with a couple of tables & a small grassy area it's a great place to relax with a beer in hand. The food is also really good & changes with the seasons, again focusing on local produce.

I've ended up with Funky Town, their American Brown Ale, to review. It's a style I love and one that isn't seen anywhere near enough in this country. This one is probably roastier than I'd expect for the style, with bitter coffee & roast flavours overpowering the underlying caramel sweetness. It's quite an easy sipping Brown Ale & one I'd happily enjoy by the pint, next to a fireplace in winter.

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

RUTHERGLEN BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: High Country
  • Tasting Room: 121C Main St, Rutherglen
  • Food: Gourmet Restaurant
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/RutherglenBrewery/
Gavin Swalwill & Fiona Myers opened Rutherglen Brewery at the back of their award winning restaurant, Taste @ Rutherglen, in 2015. Both had a passion for beer & thought that Rutherglen would be the perfect place for a brewery. They figured they had enough room for their brewery at the back of their restaurant & with the help of Simon Bardhill, ex Red Hill & Mornington head brewer, they got up and running. Before long Fiona took over the brewing operations, a role she continues in to this day.

Many of their beers take their names from the history of the local area. Rutherglen, the town, supposedly got it's name when John "Seven Stars" Wallace, a Scottish immigrant in the Gold Rush, entered the bar and offered the constituents of Barkly, as it was known at the time, a round of drinks for the naming rights to the town. The legend goes they accepted & Wallace named the town Rutherglen after his home town in Scotland.

The venue certainly isn't your traditional brewery. It's much more reminiscent of a cafe/restaurant, which I guess it is. The stainless steel is hidden away out the back & a few chalk boards advertising the beer gives the only indication you're in a brewery. The outside space is a little more brewery-esque. There's an undercover brick courtyard, as well as a wooden decking area draped in vines which I can envisage being lovely on a warm summers day.

We were taking advantage of earlier opening time of the brewery and so didn't partake in the food, having just finished breakfast. If you're looking for somewhere to eat in the High Country, Taste @ Rutherglen is highly regarded. Gavin & Fiona also own Buller Wines so there's excellent wine on offer if your significant other doesn't like beer.

One of the beer names that references the history of the area is Wallace's Pilsner. The beer is quite a traditional tasting German Pilsner, with some sweetish malts contrasting nicely with bitter grassy hops. It's a really refreshing beer and one that I imagine sells very well up in Rutherglen.

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

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

BRICK LANE BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: S.E. Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 41 Imagine Way, Dandenong South
  • Food: Not Yet!
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://bricklanebrewing.com/
Brick Lane Brewing was announced in 2017. Their plan seemed ambitious, to launch a multi-million dollar, 50 hectolitre startup brewery within a year. It was heavily backed by more than 25 high profile people from the sporting, business & culinary world; Paul Bowker, Eddie McGuire, Andrew Scrimgeour & Shane Delia to name but a few.

A side view showing
the scale of the operation
The appointment that really made the craft brewing world stand up was that of Jon Seltin as head brewer. Jon has had an extensive career where he forged his reputation at Bright and then Hawkers. Jon used his relationship with Hawkers to get Brick Lane beers to market before their brewery was completed, by contracting the initial beers at the Reservoir giants.

Brick Lane opened their brewery in August 2018. While they build their own brand they intend to make their space open to contract brands and smaller players to produce larger batches of their beers. With the capability to churn through 10,000 bottles & 15,000 cans an hour - I think it will be a while before Brick Lane requires all of their capacity, let alone the capacity they've left room to grow into (up to an annual capacity of 25 million litres).

Not only is their brewery enormous, it's also one of the most environmentally friendly breweries out there. They've invested in a number of energy & water saving strategies, something that you're able to do when you've got a number of wealthy investors. They've also created a nice little circle with some local farmers, whom they are providing spent grain with to feed their livestock, which the brewery will then buy to serve at their taproom as soon as the licensing comes through.

Venturing out to Dandenong South I knew Brick Lane was big, I had no idea it was as big as it is! It's enormous, easily the second largest brewery in the state (possibly pending Moon Dog World opening). With that said, the hospitality space is quite small. There's a reasonable area out the front where you can sit and drink in the sun - although inside would barely have capacity for 50 people.

The bar is directly in front of you as you walk into the the long, but narrow hospitality area. There are huge glass windows that look through into the brewery, where there is just row upon row of massive stainless steel fermenters. There's tables, both high and low around which would mostly seat 6 people. Off to the right is a merch area, that doesn't seem as professional as the rest of the operation.

I've previously known Brick Lane for relatively uninspiring, but certainly not offensive offerings. At the brewery I sample version 3 of the IPA they're testing. I assume it was stupidly fresh as it was tasting incredible! Clocking in at 7.1% with this bitter, juicy citrus taste. It really reminded me of IPA's from a few years ago - it really left me wanting more. I can't wait to see how the finished product of this beer ends up!

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

MALT SHED

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: High Country
  • Tasting Room: 8-10 Tone Road, Wangaratta
  • Food: American BBQ
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://maltshed.com.au/
Malt Shed was started by three mates, Andrew Bett, Grant Jones & Matt Saunders, who wanted to bring craft beer to their hometown of Wangaratta. Grant was an avid homebrewer who in August 2014, at a whiskey tasting event, managed to convince Andrew & Matt that Wangaratta, a town of almost 30,000 people 250km NE of Melbourne, was ready for a craft brewery. It was the first brewery to operate in Wangaratta since 1887!

It took them a while to find a suitable site, before they eventually settled on an old farm supply store that had recently been operating as an Italian Restaurant. They ran into all the usual issues that brewers face, before being able to begin renovations of their building in late 2016, before opening to the public in July 2017.

Malt Shed first came to my attention properly when they were still known as Malt Shed Brewery. Earlier this year they reached an agreement with Lion Nathan, who opposed their trademark due to the similarity in name to their Malt Shovel Brewery, where they got to keep Malt Shed as long as they dropped "Brewery" from their name.

As the name would suggest, Malt Shed brew predominantly malt forward beers in a shed. To call the space a shed would be to do it a disservice. It's a large light industrial warehouse, which has had some plasterboard added to improve the aesthetics. There's sturdy leather chairs and wooden tables of all sizes, ranging from 2 seaters right up to large parties. Out the back is a decking area & large bricked courtyard that backs onto One Mile Creek.

I was intrigued by their decision to have some macro offerings (CUB) products on tap next to their own beers - of which I think there were 11 on. I wonder if this is a way to get more locals in the door who are a bit hesitant about the whole craft beer movement. I'd be really interested to know how they are going converting those drinkers, even if just to their lager offering.

The food offerings clearly designed to be shared amongst groups, with a focus on American BBQ. Everything we had was delicious; from the onion rings, to the wings, to the pulled pork. The service was great & they had a huge array of hot sauces, which is always a plus!

I'm reviewing Red Wang, their Red IPA, which incidentally was their first beer to be canned. It has one of the better malt bases I've had for the style with layers of biscuit & caramel laying the platform for the all Australian hop bill to shine. The Ella & Galaxy provide all the tropical fruit and citrus notes you'd expect, there's some bitterness, but it doesn't override all of the sweetness of the malt bill. It's a beer I'd highly recommend.

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

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!