Monday, 28 October 2019

BEER REPUBLIC

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Northern Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 250 Cooper Street, Epping
  • Food: Gourmet Pub
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Website: https://www.beerrepublic.com.au/
Beer Republic is the newest kid on the Victorian craft beer scene. They opened on Father's Day 2019, in one of the fastest growing parts of Melbourne but one that has long been devoid of good beer options. It's a bold decision to open a craft beer venue in an area like Epping, especially one of the scale of Beer Republic.

It certainly isn't your standard start up! It's housed in the bottom of the Mantra Hotel on Coopers Road, Epping - just down the road from the hospital and across the road from the Melbourne Market. It's also clearly very well financed; as the fit out is fantastic & using furniture made in Melbourne can't be cheap!

Beer Republic are also sporting a Smartbrew System, the first brewery in Victoria to utilise the technology. For those who don't know what Smartbrew does, it basically allows restaurants/hotels to "brew" their own beer without the actual brewing process. Simply put they receive fresh wort kits add it to the fermenter & add yeast, dry hop additions etc. The fermentation is controlled from the Smartbrew offices in NZ & there is little required from the proprietor. The system also cleans itself as soon as fermentation is finished and the beer is racked out.

They've smartly split their range into two brands; the Beer Republic brand focusing on clean beers, whilst a separate brand, Twist Brewing, focuses on sour beers. In an area that isn't as immersed in craft beer I think it's smart to separate the two, so that people don't go away bad mouthing the beer when they don't understand the style. They've got a clean lager in their range which they hope to use to convert Carlton Draught drinkers across.

As you can see in the image above, the brewpub has quite a lot of wooden elements as well as large windows allowing plenty of light in. There are some boothed areas, as well as a nice secluded area around the corner from the main bar with a cooper fireplace. There's leather bound menus, exposed concrete; it really could be a trendy Melbourne bar. The food offering was really impressive, with a menu that wouldn't look out of place at a gourmet pub.

I was driving on the day I visited so only had the chance to taste one of their beers; the Hazy IPA. I got a whole heap of orange peel on the nose, with heaps of orange continuing onto the palate. There was also a good hit of passionfruit on top of a slightly sweet, creamy base. I was quite impressed with the beer, it's definitely a spot worth checking out.

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

PLAYING THE LONG GAME

2019: The Year of Local


I've had a bit of writers block for the last couple of weeks, there's only so many times in a row you can write "converted warehouse", so have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes to see if we can somehow complete this task, which seems to get longer by the week! The following is a quick wrap up of the breweries that haven't produced anything in 2019 but have plans to in 2020 & beyond. It's a relatively short list but hopefully will help kick start this challenge again.

7 Cent

7 Cent was started by three mates (Doug Bremner, Brendan Baker & Matthew Boustead) in 2013, 10 years after meeting at university.  The boys are currently on a brewing hiatus due to family & day job commitments, but hope to have their interesting range of ales available to the public again soon. 

Cobalt Brewing

Cobalt Brewing is the brainchild of Alister Robbie & Karl Curnow. Cobalt is focusing on the funkier side of brewing, with plenty of barrel aged & bacteria inoculated beers in their future. Since they launched we've seen a couple of Berliner Weisses - however their real passion is aged sour beer. They've had beer in barrels since March 2017 so we should start seeing some beer from that program in early 2020, although these types of beers are ready when they're ready!


Hopscotch Urban Beer Bar

Hopscotch Urban Beer Bar is on Melbourne's famous Southbank. It's the sort of place that if you were overseas you might think of as a tourist trap. It's a well presented bar in the middle of a tourist strip that serves craft beer, cocktails & great food. It also houses a 300L brewhouse known as Frank the Tank & pumps out a new brew roughly every 6 weeks when it's operational. It hasn't been operational all year, but I keep being told it's coming back soon...



Last Word Brewing

Last Word Brewing was formerly known as 40 Foot Brewing Company. It's the brewing arm of the seemingly ever expanding empire that is Carwyn Cellars. I've had a few of their beers in previous years, all of which have been really nice. In early 2018 they teamed up with Cobalt Brewing, mentioned above, to secure a warehouse in Heidelberg. Taking a leaf from the Cobalt team they've been aging some beer in wood & are hoping to release some in the coming months.

Tuesday Night Brewing

Travis Walton is known to most in the Melbourne craft beer scene, if not by name then by face. Travis released a Raspberry Berliner Weisse in late-2017, which was excellent & really got sour beer drinkers in Victoria excited. Since then all has been a little quiet. Like Cobalt & Last Word, Tuseday Night Brewing have barrels of beer & bacteria doing their thing with a view to releasing some more complex sours when the beers are done.



Keep your eye out for releases from these breweries in 2020. I'd be particularly excited for the 3 sour producers; Cobalt, Last Word & Tuesday Night Brewing. Barrel aged sours can take a number of years to fully mature, but the results are often spectacular! I also hope to see 7 Cent & Hopscotch get their operations back up and running as well, I really miss B4. Hopefully bashing this piece out gets me back on the writing wagon & we get another wave of brewery profiles up in the coming days. 

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

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

COBURG BREWING CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Northern Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: Not Yet
  • Brewed At: ???
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.coburgbrewingco.com.au/
Danial Caneva & his wife Jane started the Coburb Brewing Company in 2013. The pair owned Coburg's Post Office Hotel & saw the community sentiment towards craft/independent beer changing. They wanted to brew a better, independent beer that was easy to drink.

Naturally they went down the lager route, something that wouldn't be too alienating to their exiting clientelle at The Post Office, whilst still (maybe not as much in 2013 but certainly now) interesting craft beer converts. They started well by importing quality ingredient; the Weihenstephaner house lager yeast & Czech Saaz & US Cascade hops.

In 2016 plans were lodged, and widely publicized, that Coburg Brewing Co would set up shop in a new development at the the D-Division Wing of the old Pentridge Prison, in the heart of Coburg which has been closed since 1997. That all went very quiet & after much digging I found that council had rejected the proposal - not necessarily the brewery component but the wider residential element of the development.

Not deterred they still pushed on with plans to open a brewpub in Coburg. At the time of writing I haven't been able to confirm when that will be opening, however 2019 was stated earlier in the year - so watch this space. I'll be updating this post as soon as the new site opens!

This is a genuinely good lager! The malt base is clean which compliments the surprising amount of hop bitterness with citrus & grassy characteristics. I'm sorry that I'd written these guys off as just a pub trying to capitalize on the explosion of craft beer. I would be perfectly happy to drink this beer again!

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

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

THE CHEEKY PINT

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Western Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 231 Barkly St, Footscray
  • Food: Gourmet Pub
  • Brewed At: Anywhere
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://thecheekypint.com.au/
One of a number of venues that I have heard of for the first time through this endeavour was today's review of choice; The Cheeky Pint. Located in the old Barkly Hotel, on Barkly Street in the middle of Footscray, owner Mitch Peacock had hoped to have a fully functioning brewpub on-site come opening weekend in September 2018.

Red tape ended up quashing that dream and saw Mitch act like a gypsy brewer of years gone past, brewing his beers literally wherever he could find tank space. He's now managing to keep a core range of 5, 4 beers & a cider, on tap at the Footscray pub alongside 5 taps & 3 handpumps serving either his own limited release beers or offerings from other small independent producers.

The venue has been massively renovated from it's former days as the Barkly Hotel. The new look is modern & what you'd expect to find at most new high end pubs. What you don't see everywhere is the five distinctive copper serving tanks behind the bar. They are particularly eye-catching with the light glinting off them, almost drawing you towards them.

Joining Mitch is chef Massimo Spedalletti, who's spent time working as head chef in both Italy & Australia. Massimo has previously worked at a hop farm & has reportedly mastered the art of pairing beer with food, utilizing the skills he learned in his homeland whilst combining them with craft beer & Australian pub staples.

I always struggle to pass up a hand pump offering; so when I saw Raspberry & Blueberry Stout on hand pump there was only one way this review was going! It's a really impressive beer, with a cavalcade of chocolate & raspberry flavour. There's no hint of blueberry that I could detect, although it may well be hidden under the sweet chocolate.

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

Monday, 7 October 2019

RIDERS BREW CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Yarra Valley
  • Tasting Room: Fulford Road, Wonga Park
  • Food: Charcuterie
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.kellybrookwinery.com.au/beer/
Andy Gargan, better known as Shandy or the guy who hosts Ale Stars in beer circles, was just like any homebrewer brewing in his garage in the inner Melbourne suburb of Elwood. Over the years a number of curious neighbors dropped in for a chat or a beer during his many brew days & before long his garage became something of a cult local Friday night hangout.

Unlike most homebrewers, he happened to have a neighbor by the name of Gus Kelly, of Kelly Brothers Cider & Kelly Brook Winery. This quirk of the universe eventually led to Andy & Gus starting Riders. Gus just happened to have the old Coldstream brewhouse stored in the Moorabbin warehouse where they bottle the aforementioned Cider, making it comparatively easy to start out.

The brand is named after the trio's (including the other Kelly Brother, Phil) shared love of riding - be it skate boards, snow boards, surf boards or mountain bikes. Over the years there's been a few changes; Michael Leslie, co-owner of Black Arts Beer, has been brought in as a full-time Head Brewer & is currently undertaking a revamp of the beer range.

If you've been to a winery in the Yarra Valley you should have a reasonable understanding of what you're walking into at Kelly Brook. There's picturesque views of grape vines, the tasting room is rustic & they serve some lovely cheese platters that pair beautifully with their beer/wine/cider.  There's no restaurant here so keep that in mind.

I'm reviewing their XPA, one of their beers I've never had before. I was quite impressed with the beer; though it's probably more in the style of an APA. There was good biscuity malt character, which was offset by bitey citrus hop notes - dominated by orange. There is also some resinous notes in there. It's beautifully balanced and a beer that I'd happily sit on all afternoon.

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

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

TRUE SOUTH

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Outer Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 298 Beach Road, Black Rock
  • Food: Argentinian
  • Brewed At: Blackman's
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.truesouth.com.au/
Grant & Suzanne Dow opened True South in 2009. They opened in Black Rock, a suburb about 20km S.E. of Melbourne, between better known suburbs Sandringham & Beaumauris. Their venue, when they opened, was a restaurant & with it's own microbrewery something that would not be uncommon now, but would've been almost unheard of in 2009!  2014 the kit went out with Renn to Blackman's in Torquay - where their beers are now brewed.

Since 2009 True South's identity has changed quite a bit. Firstly, they're now an Argentine restaurant - although that change happened very early. Secondly, and probably most significantly for this audience, they no longer brew their own beers. Their last on-site brewer, Renn Blackman, took the kit with him when he opened his own brewpub in Torquay in 2014. Renn has continued to brew the True South beers, which are available for onsite consumption at the restaurant & apparently wholesale, but I can't recall seeing their beer elsewhere for years.

The biggest obstacle I see for True South is it's location - it's very hard to get to by public transport & is a long way from anywhere, making it a reasonably expensive Uber/Taxi. Thankfully, I had Lizzie drive me down one Saturday afternoon. The building used to be an Auto Repair Shop & they've done a great job of transforming it into a pub/restaurant, with it's white paint job you would have no idea of the buildings history.

It's beachfront location is superb, they've got an open top deck which has great views & would be a great spot to have a drink on a warm summer's evening. The main dining area is open and light. There's a few high tables with stools at the front, whilst the rest of the seating is for tables of 2-6 people. The bar spans the whole of the left hand side as you walk in & is laden with 15+ CUB products, including Tank Carlton, & only one of their own offerings...

Beer aside, the wine list is impressive & the food menu is wonderful - making it particularly hard to choose! Lizzie & I eventually settled on an array of starters which we shared. The highlight of which was, at least in my eyes, the snapper cerviche or the tuna tacos. Considering we'd just got back from Hawaii, & the freshest seafood I've ever eate, that's high praise!

So I only had one choice for the review, although it's one I may have selected in any case. The New World Pilsner is a really nice example of the style. The base beer is clean grains and is free of any major faults, while the hop profile gains the grassiness & bitterness of the Saaz hops they've used as well as the unique gooseberry note from the Nelson Sauvin. It's a lovely beer that I would quite happily have several pints of.

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

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

RED DUCK BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Ballarat
  • Tasting Room: 11a Michaels Drive, Alfredton
  • Food: ???
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.redduckbeer.com.au/
Red Duck is one of the more misunderstood brewery's in Victoria. It was initially founded in Lake Purrumbete, near Camperdown, in 2005 by husband & wife team Scott & Vanessa Wilson-Browne. For a number of years, the Red Duck facility at Lake Purrumbete was the only brewery between Adelaide & Geelong, a distance of over 700km!

Issues at the Purrumbete Homestead, where the brewery was originally based, saw the Red Duck team pack up and head ~100km to Alfredton, on the outskirts of Ballarat in late-2011. There they found themselves in a much more suitable, light industrial warehouse with plenty of room for expansion & for the first time a cellar door.

The expansion didn't go as many would've predicted. Rather than installing a bigger brewhouse and add fermenters, in 2016 Scott opened Kilderkin Distillery, in the same facility as Red Duck, with Chris Pratt. Since then a number of barrels (pictured left) have found their way into the brewery, while a lovely copper still takes pride of place on the right hand side of the back tasting area.

Scott's beers, and I think this is where the misunderstanding comes in, have always been weird. Sure they have a core range with a Pale, an Amber & a Porter (alongside others), but that's not what the majority of craft beer drinkers know Red Duck for. They've become known for brewing beers with any number of adjuncts, & of course who could forget their Gruit's & Egyptian Bread beers? At one stage, 4-5 years ago, the brewery had 50+ beers available now it's a far more manageable 15-20.

It's this sort of eccentricity that made my visit to their tap room seem somewhat underwhelming. The venue was pretty normal. There's a small office that has been built into the warehouse for tastings & takeaway sales. A window looks through into the brewery & distillery where there are more tables, alongside a wall of barrels filled with spirits & beer as well as plenty of heaters to take away the cold that Ballarat is known for.

I was intrigued by their decision to not have taps at their tasting room. All beers you try are from a bottle or a can. I didn't get a good answer on why, although I assume it's something to do with install cost or licensing. I saw them crack all 4 beers for my tasting paddle, which makes me wonder if they then hold those beers for the next person? Or whether they only pour the taster...

The beer I'm reviewing is their Passionfruit Kettle Sour Saison. It's a really interesting little beer, which has the added bonus of clocking in at only 4.2% ABV. There's plenty of passionfruit, I'd hate to know how much went in to get this much flavour, & it's reasonably sour. In one of the cans I had I noticed some Saison-esque funk, however that wasn't apparent in the other two. It's a really refreshing little sour!

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