A genuine one stop shop for the discerning beer tourist, Holgate’s Woodend Brewhouse combines a brewery, public bar, restaurant and hotel under a single roof. Just an hour from Melbourne, in the shadow of the Macedon Ranges, you’ll to find up to eight site-brewed beers on tap, including their ESB (Extra Special Bitter) hand-pulled from the cask in traditional British fashion.
The unintended consequence of holidays in England (’93) and the USA (’97) for owners Paul and Natasha Holgate, the business started life in 1999 as an extension of his home brewery while both still worked in the city, but soon demanded a bigger venue. They took over Woodend’s former Commercial Hotel/Keatings Hotel and have never looked back, producing an ever-expanding range of beers inspired by classic styles from Europe and – especially since Paul was joined by American brewer Ian Morgan – the North American micro scene.
On monthly brew days, visitors can watch beer being made in the brewery, head to the bar for a tasting paddle, including a beer poured through their homemade ‘Randall’ (a machine that adds a hit of fresh hop flowers to the beer before it reaches your glass), then move to the restaurant for a meal, many of which are cooked with Holgate’s beers as a key ingredient. And, if you’ve had one too many, Natasha will find you a clean, comfortable room upstairs for the night.
Holgate Brewhouse Beers
- Holgate Brewhouse Double Trouble (500ml)
- Holgate Brewhouse Millennium Falcon 2014
- Holgate Black Forest Summer Porter
- Holgate The Little Heifer
- Holgate Nut Brown Ale (500ml)
- Holgate Brick Kiln Dark Wheat
- Holgate Beelzebub's Jewels 2013
- Holgate / Nøgne Ø Half A World Away
- Holgate Millennium Falcon
- Holgate Bruges Bombshell
- Holgate White Ale
- Holgate Road Trip IPA (2011)
- Holgate UXB (2011)
- Holgate Nut Brown Ale (2011)
- Holgate Empress (bottled)
- Holgate Beelzebub's Jewels 2011
- Holgate White Ale
- Holgate Double Trouble
- Holgate Road Trip IPA
- Holgate Ladyboy
- Holgate Nut Brown Ale
- Holgate Brick Kiln Wheat Beer
Mt Macedon Ale
Named after nearby Mt Macedon, this was one of the first Holgate beers to hit the market. The use of Vienna malts means it pours a deep honey colour and has a delicate caramel malt flavour finished with a piney, resinous hops from the US Pacific North West. A flavoursome yet approachable introduction to the brewery’s range of ales.
Style: American Pale Ale
Bitterness: 25 IBU
ESB (Extra Special Bitter)
Anyone who’s ever enjoyed a quality ale at a good British pub will be transported back instantly by Holgate’s ESB, as fine a recreation of a traditional English ESB as you’ll find anywhere in Australia. Deservedly shortlisted for Best Victorian Beer at the 2010 Australian International Beer Awards, it’s a malt-driven beer rich with layers of caramel, toffee and biscuit, backed up by a firm hop bitterness derived from a generous addition of English Fuggles and Golding hops. A Crafty Pint favourite.
Style: Extra Special Bitter
Bitterness: 35 IBU
A true European style lager that uses a bucketload of Czech Saaz hops but is brewed to the Dortmunder style, it’s a light straw-coloured beer with a clean malt palate and a grassy / floral hop aroma and dry bitter finish. A crisp, refreshing beer for thirst-quenching on hot day, the brewers recommend pairing it with seafood or rich dishes such as deep fried fish or pizza.
Style: German Pilsner
Bitterness: 28 IBU
At a beer masterclass at which Holgate’s beers were paired with different food samples, this chocolate porter was served last with some rich chocolate desserts. It drew gasps. “How could a beer have so much chocolate flavour and still taste like beer?” asked the guests. With the addition of plenty of Dutch cocoa and whole vanilla beans to the boil. Originally introduced as a one-off, the Temptress proved so popular and picked up so many awards that it became part of the brewery’s permanent range. As it warms, it also reveals caramel and coffee notes, making it a rewarding dessert beer or great winter warmer.
Style: Chocolate Porter
Bitterness: 35 IBU
Holgate Pilsner (new recipe)
While a big seller for the brewery, Holgate’s Pilsner was always Crafty’s least favourite of their range. And before anyone thinks we’re being out of order saying this publicly, we’ve told the brewers how we felt in the past. So we were delighted to hear rumours that they were revisiting the recipe with the intention of creating a more true-to-style German pilsner, using imported Bavarian pilsner malt and increasing the alcohol content. Right from the off the signs are promising, with the sweet aroma that was often present in the past gone to be replaced by the “canned corn” smell from the malt (believe us, this is a “good thing”, despite how it sounds) in a medium-bodied beer that pours a very pale straw colour. There’s a hint of spice from the hops, some biscuity flavours – and honey as it warms – and a solid but smooth bitterness. Paul Holgate says: “We might lose sales, but we’d rather do that and have a beer that’s a better representation of the style.” That’s the spirit, soldier!
Style: German Pilsner
Holgate Brewhouse Hopinator
Brewers who aren’t constantly tweaking and seeking to improve their beers are no doubt few and far between. And certainly that’s been the case at Holgate Brewhouse in recent times, where they’ve been revisiting and subtly reinventing a number of their core beers. Among those are the Hopinator, their double IPA, that – prior to the release of the Millennium Falcon – was the hoppiest in their lineup of pale ales. The latest batches coming out of the Woodend brewery feature a new recipe with a slightly higher alcohol content and brand new packaging in 500ml bottles. The resinous character of the body remains, as does the firm, lingering bitterness. Rich amber in colour, with a foamy, slightly off white head, the aroma seems to have taken on new characteristics, however: while the fruity (passionfruity?) aromas remain, there’s something almost herbal and spicy alongside the soft caramel malts. The hop flavours go deep too – is that a hint of aniseed in there, perhaps? – to create the beer with added complexity when stood next to its predecessor.
Style: Double IPA
Bitterness: 80 IBU
Holgate Brewhouse Double Trouble (500ml)
You don’t see a huge number of Belgian Dubbels been brewed around Australia. Thankfully, generally when you do they are rather tasty. There’s Little Brewing’s deeply complex Mad Abbot version, Hargreaves' occasional AD (new batch available at the cellar door right now) and a handful of one-offs, while Bright has long had its Fainters Dubbel, recently reworked by head brewer Jon Seltin who, in a conversation last week, declared a barrel-aged version of said beer that is due for a very limited release imminently to be the beer he is currently most excited about. One of the longest in the tooth is Holgate’s Double Trouble, another beer that’s – like most in their range – been given a wee tweak. The latest version, which features a new yeast variety and also comes in eye-catching livery and 500ml champagne bottles, is an absolute treat. It’s awash with enticing dried fruit and sweet toffee malt aromas and flavours and has a lovely full and soft mouthfeel to boot. Gently warming without being notably boozy, it’s a rich and layered ale that’s ideal as the mercury starts to tumble.
On tap at Holgate
Nationwide at good beer stockists
Style: Belgian Style Dubbel
Holgate Brewhouse Millennium Falcon 2014
The beer originally created for Holgate’s 1,000th brew is back. The Star Wars-inspired Millennium Falcon is the brewery’s hoppiest beer, sitting atop a hierarchy of pale ales that starts with their Mt Macedon Ale and continues through the Road Trip IPA and Hopinator to this Imperial (or Empirial) IPA. Continuing the Star Wars theme throughout the beer, it features Millennium, Falconer’s Flight and Galaxy hops. Plenty of them too, with the beer registering 10 percent ABV and 100 IBU (a measure of bitterness, with 100 also referred to as “shitloads”). We had a taste from the bottle prior to its release and we’re happy to report that the 2014 vintage is a step up on the original. This time around, the brewers have captured far more hop aromatics, making it as hard to resist as the Great Pit of Carkoon.
Style: Imperial IPA
Holgate Black Forest Summer Porter
Holgate’s Temptress, its cocoa and vanilla porter, has been one of the most surprising and enduring success stories of the rise of Australian craft beer. An instant hit upon launch a few years back, its lusciousness has continued to win over drinkers and diners ever since. It is, however, perhaps not the first beer you’d reach for when the mercury heads above 30C so the brewers decided to create a summery version instead to tide you all over. Named in honour of the gateway to Woodend, the Black Forest, as well as the fabled European chocolate and cherry cake, the limited release Summer Porter is brewed a touch lighter in colour and with a lower roastiness, but adds complexity through the addition of fresh summer cherries and orange peel.
Style: Fruit Porter
Holgate The Little Heifer
With the last drops of their dunkelweizen, Brick Kiln, drained from the Brewhouse bar, Holgate has lined up a new, more seasonally suited, wheat beer. It is, as far as we’re aware, their first hefeweizen (southern German style wheat beer) and, after much discussion over potential names – Banana Snuggler (don’t ask), Island Farm Hefe – they decided it would be christened The Little Heifer. Brewed partly to appease a Bavarian regular at their pub, it follows “classic wheat beer lines, but with an international recipe sheet”. What means is the yeast has its origins in Bavaria, imparting banana and clove aromas, the barley and wheat malt is from Bohemia, Australia and New Zealand, and there’s “a dash” of Czech hops to provide the mildest of bitterness. Out just in time for the remaining Oktoberfests – prost!
Bitterness: 13 IBU
Holgate Nut Brown Ale (500ml)
The beer that Paul Holgate created to mark the brewery’s 10th anniversary was one dusted down from the pages of his old home brewing recipe book. It’s been released ever since as a winter seasonal, tweaked along the way too. It’s back to warm the cockles during the colder months once more, it being a reimagining of the Northern English style that’s loaded up with lashings of Australian macadamia nuts and hearty English malts to create a brew that the brewers like to claim “smokes a pipe and spins a yarn”. It’s one of our favourites from the Holgate range, a great match with game and other hearty foods and a suitable winter session beer with heaps of rich, malty (and nutty of course) character. Now in a more sessionable 5.3 per cent and 500ml format too.
And good craft beer bottleshops across Australia
Style: Brown Ale
Bitterness: 10 IBU
Holgate Brick Kiln Dark Wheat
A winter beer that’s not an Imperial Stout – who’d have thunk it? At least that’s how it feels this week, with Holgate’s annual release of its dunkelweizen coming in the midst of a wave of big, black beasts. A beer named in homage to Brick Kiln Road in Holgate’s hometown of Woodend, which was where founders Paul and Natasha had the inspiration to open a brewery while out rambling, it’s one inspired by the dark wheats of Bavaria. It pours such a deep brown that the punch of the candy bananas on the nose is quite surprising, the sweet milk chocolate malt flavours that follow less so. There’s the faintest hint of tartness to finish in what’s otherwise a rich, sweet, almost dessert like beer that’s now out in 500ml bottles.
Holgate Beelzebub's Jewels 2013
The team at Holgate Brewhouse releases plenty of beers year round that require careful nurturing and nudge at the boundaries of what beer can be. But there’s nothing in their roster quite like the Beelzebub’s Jewels. First released in 2010, when it was based on their Double Trouble – given a boost inside some Curly Flats pinot noir barrels – it’s since been enhanced, starting from a brand new recipe in 2011, with refinements and lengthier periods in barrels ever since. The changes were obviously a wise idea as it picked up a gold medal at the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards. And now it’s back, with the 2013 version launched this week. Changes this year include its transfer from 750ml champagne bottles to 500ml antique green sparkling wine bottles to make it more affordable and also an appearance on a handful of taps across the land.
According to Holgate founder Paul Holgate, this year’s spent five months ageing in the Pinot barrels, “has gained considerable oak character” and is “tasting a treat”. He says there is also a little of last year’s gold medal winner around – or available direct from the brewery – if anyone wants to grab two devils by the balls and undertake a little side by side action.
Style: Barrel Aged Belgian Strong Ale
Holgate / Nøgne Ø Half A World Away
Anyone else suspect the team at Nøgne Ø is after Aussie citizenship? Perhaps they’ve grown tired of the endless winters and fancy a life in the sun. Either way, they seem to be gifting us an endless supply of collaborative beers, which to date already includes the India Saison, Aurora Borealis, Our Dark Secret and now this, with a collab with Moon Dog and another with Bridge Road already in tank (and barrel and fish bowl or whatever else they can find to use). This is the beer that came about through the brewer swap that took place between Holgate’s Nick and Nøgne Ø’s Ingrid: an imperial red ale that’s all about the layers of malty goodness.
According to Nick: “Ingrid and I both approached our collaboration with the concept of a beer that would cellar and would be something of a special occasion beer. We are also both of the opinion that ‘original’ is getting out of hand in craft beer. We aimed to make a unique beer that showed creativity and originality, but without resorting to novel or non-traditional ingredients: no spices, fruit or exotic animal excrement in this beer!
“We ended up settling on an imperial red aleish type beer, the hefty use of various crystal malts gave this beer a complex aroma, a full body and a beautiful deep red colour. A whack of bittering hops balanced all that sweetness and some chinook at end of boil helped give the aroma some complexity. We like the idea that this beer showed off this group of malts and is truly unique in flavour; it’s a beer thats hard to categorise and I think quite original using just malt, hops, water and yeast!”
Style: Imperial Red Ale
Holgate Millennium Falcon
There has been no holding back for the 1000th brew by Victoria’s Holgate Brewhouse. Taking the millennium as the starting point, they spun a Star Wars-inspired tale and followed it through to the nth degree by throwing as many references as possible into the beer. It features Millennium, Falconer’s Flight and Galaxy hops, is subtitled an “Empirial IPA” and was launched at the Village Brasserie with the entire brewery crew dressed as Star Wars characters, including a rather dashing Hans Solo… As for the beer, it’s a 10 per cent, 100 IBU (a measure of bitterness) affair brewed with nothing but pale malt to allow the hops to take centre stage. The result is an impeccably pale ale that surprises, mainly because the hop character is apparent more in the flavours than on the nose, which is surprisingly subtle and leans more towards light, sweet malt / alcohol. The body is unsurprisingly full and resinous, although far from the chewy beasts such beers can be, with the finish also remarkably contained – no runaway bitterness here despite the massive hopping. A refined rather than boisterous affair, in keeping with the polishing that’s been going on throughout the Holgate range in recent months. (Go try the Mt Macedon on tap to see what we’re on about if you’ve not had it in a while – easily one of the country’s best session beers.)
Village Brasserie, Melbourne
Bottles in all good bottleshops
Style: Imperial IPA
Bitterness: 100 IBU
Holgate Bruges Bombshell
A beer that was originally going to be called the Clock Tower, until in the week it went into tank the brewers at Holgate noticed that True South was releasing an IPA with the same name. So back to the drawing board it was and up came the Bruges Bombshell. Why? Well, because it’s a bolshy Belgian style ale and Bruges is in Belgium, where head brewer Paul Holgate had just been on holiday and… you get the message. So what of the beer? Well, we’re told it’s “full flavoured but easy drinking with an emphasis on the biscuit malt flavour accented with sweetness from Belgian candi sugar and the fruity esters from the Abbey ale yeast used”. So there you go.
Style: Belgian Golden Ale
Holgate White Ale
Back in time for the warmer weather is Holgate’s take on the Belgian witbier style, this time with a new recipe. Following in the footsteps of tweaks to many of their beers, from the Hopinator to the Pilsner, the White Ale returned late in 2011 with a different yeast strain, one that seems to have boosted its “wit-iness”. A beer that was previously drier, with hints of coriander and citrus characters, now has more of both, particularly on the citrus front (thanks to the addition of oranges to the kettle), along with a touch of tartness and a dry, wheaty finish that should find plenty of beer garden dwellers feeling one simply isn’t enough. The tweaking has continued in 2012, with some spicy lessons learned from the Gruit beer applied to the latest version.
More to follow…
Holgate Road Trip IPA (2011)
Holgate’s hoppy, hoppy Road Trip, the IPA inspired by a trip through the Pacific Northwest of the States, is back for Spring. It’s a beer that, following a successful experiment last year, has hops added from the very first moment to the last: hops go into the mash tun, get multiple further additions throughout the boil and then reappear en masse during fermentation. If you know your US hops, think of any beginning with C and chances are they’re in it. We’d imagine that if you drop into their hotel in Woodend, there’s a good chance it’ll be pouring through their hopinator too, meaning you’ll get another layer of hoppy goodness. So, what else do you need to know? It’s hoppy, it’s tasty and it’s out now.
Style: US Style IPA
Holgate UXB (2011)
When it’s at its best, Holgate’s ESB is one of few Aussie beers that can transport the drinker 11,000 miles to a pub in the UK without leaving their seat. And this, the UXB – or unexploded bomb – to give it its full name, is the ESB but bigger; 60% bigger to be precise, with the malt bill and hops boosted by that amount. This is only its second appearance, after it graced a few taps to acclaim around about the same time last year. As you’d expect, the result is a thicker-bodied beer, smooth and full of rich, sweet malts and finishing off with a solid bitterness. Just one batch again this time so get in before it’s gone.
Style: Extra Special Bitter
Holgate Nut Brown Ale (2011)
The beer that Paul Holgate created to mark the brewery’s 10th anniversary is back to warm the cockles during the colder months once more. Notable in that, rather than concoct something wild and crazy to mark the occasion he chose a style he loved and wanted to see more of Down Under, it’s a beer that features roasted macadamia nuts added to the boil. A blend of six malts mean there’s plenty of rich, dark chocolate, toasty and nutty flavours to play with and, in this year’s, a drier, less sweet, finish that suits the beer well. We put it up against a course at a beer vs wine dinner and it came up trumps, pairing nicely with a braised leg of guinea fowl pithivier. We had to look up what that was before the dinner too; pastry turret was our layman’s version.
Style: Nut Brown Ale
Holgate Empress (bottled)
A beer that one punter told Crafty he’d like to take to bed, the Empress really is as sensual an experience as beer gets. Taking the brewery’s Temptress as the start point – same malt bill and bitterness, same use of Dutch cocoa and vanilla beans – this originally took a journey to lands anew for the first Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular in February. As well as making it into an Imperial Mocha Porter (10% to the Temptress' 6%), the brewers were keen to give it an Aussie twist so invested in some coffee from Eureka, grown around the Queensland / NSW border, that after much experimentation was added to the fermenters to add some coffee bitterness to the luxuriant vanilla-choc richness of its forefather (or mother). The result is a real treat: thick, smooth and creamy, like a naughty and nice after-dinner liqueur chocolate. What’s more, there are only 133 bottles in existence so it’s a rare treat too.
Style: Imperial Mocha Porter
Bitterness: 50 IBU
Holgate Beelzebub's Jewels 2011
The second appearance for what is to be the Woodend brewery’s annual Easter release, this year’s Devil’s Whatsits is a different beast to last year insofar as rather than basing it on an existing Holgate beer, it’s a whole new recipe, one that includes masses of candi sugar as the brewers set about creating a Belgian-style Quadrupel. At 12%, it’s designed to age. And at $60-plus a bottle, it’s designed to be a special occasion beer too. But what of it now – just released from the brewery, where it spent several months aging in Pinot Noir barrels from Curly Flat? Well, three thumbs up from the impromptu Crafty tasting panel for a beer that belies its youth. Some initial sweetness on the nose gives way to pinot and oak in a beer that pours a dense, cloudy deep chestnut with a tan head that clings to the glass. It’s one that deserves to be savoured as the experience changes over time, with the different layers of malt and rich dark fruit characters revealing themselves as it warms. The considerable alcohol level only really shows itself on the nose once it’s approaching room temperature in a beer that will surely continue to develop complexity as it ages.
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
Holgate White Ale
Without wishing to be too old-fashioned, chauvinistic and all-round Ocker about it, a Holgate brewer did suggest to Crafty that, of their two summer seasonals – the other being the mash-hopped Road Trip IPA – this was the one “for the ladies”. The latest version of their Belgian witbier-inspired White Ale comes with the addition of coriander and whole Valencia oranges into the boil to give a little citrus and spice boost to the fruity esters already gained from the yeast. It’s on tap at the Woodend Brewhouse throughout summer – or at least until it runs out.
Holgate Double Trouble
Another of Holgate’s beers to have undergone something of a tweak for 2010 (see the Mount Macedon and Hopinator for other examples), the new Double Trouble is causing trouble at the brewery – the brewers can’t stop drinking it… A Belgian Abbey style Dubbel, it’s all about richness of flavour: intense dark fruit, toffee and dark rum characteristics that make it a good match for sweet desserts or cheese platters. Paul Holgate says to look out for the October 2010 date on bottles if you’re after this year’s vintage. That said, Crafty remembers finding an earlier version thought long gone at the back of the cupboard a while back and discovering it tasted even better than when fresh. EDIT 2010’s vintage uses a special Weyermann Abbey Malt and a load of Belgian candi sugar, making it a whole lot sweeter and adding some lighter fruit notes too. Hard to believe it’s the strength it is.
Style: Belgian Dubbel
Bitterness: 38 IBU
Holgate Road Trip IPA
We’re beginning to suspect there’s something in the Woodend water at the minute. Holgate’s original Mount Macedon Ale has discovered a punchier new hop character, the Hopinator’s reacted in kind and their seasonals are flying out the door like there’s no tomorrow. With this year’s final batch of Brick Kiln Dark Wheat Beer still conditioning, it’s time for Spring and the arrival of the Road Trip IPA. Inspired by Paul Holgate and family’s holiday in Pacific Northwest USA last year, it’s a hop lover’s treat. This year sees the Chinook and Centennial varieties return, although the Cascade of last year is replaced by Citra. Together, they still make for an aromatic pine, passionfruit, grapefruit and marmalade nose – and a sizeable smack of bitterness too.
Style: American IPA (India Pale Ale)
Bitterness: 60 IBU
Anyone who’s met Paul Holgate and his team of brewers will know they’re a swarthy lot: real men with testosterone literally teeming from their pores. However, they are known to like a ladyboy or two. “What?” you say. Well, for the past year or so, they’ve been offering them over the bar at their Woodend brewhouse, the Ladyboy being a Black & Tan style mix of their cocoa and vanilla bean Temptress (the lady) and roast macadamia-laden Nut Brown Ale (the boy). For a limited time only, two Victorian bars are following suit, tapping both beers simultaneously. Try it – or go for the Alan Partridge version instead.
Style: Black & Tan
Strength: approx 6.2%
Holgate Nut Brown Ale
When choosing a tenth anniversary beer in 2009, Paul Holgate eschewed the idea of creating something extreme in favour of a style he’d enjoyed making in his home brewing days. The resultant Nut Brown Ale, made with roasted macadamia nuts added to the boil was an instant winner. A blend of six different malts lent it multi-layered rich, dark roasted flavours with a touch of caramel sweetness, lifted by the nut addition and rounded off with a short hop finish. Originally a one-off, it’s now scheduled in as a regular winter brew and, at 6.3%, is deceptively strong too. 2010 batch update: Take one sniff and try to resist!
Style: Northern English Brown Ale
Bitterness: 19 IBU
Holgate Brick Kiln Wheat Beer
A hearty winter special, this is a dark wheat beer (dunkel weizen) inspired by the Bavarian version and made with imported German malts and a special wheat beer yeast strain that gives it prominent banana and clove aromas. Pouring a hazy apricot orange, it boasts a clean palate and gently bitter finish.
Style: Dunkel weizen
Bitterness: 16 IBU