Proof that size doesn’t matter. In a shed at the bottom of a driveway in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, with tanks cooled by water from the backyard swimming pool, began the story of Kooinda – a tiny brewery producing a big, big beer.
In the middle of the last decade, four mates decided their home brewing skills were worthy of a wider audience and spent their spare time over several years amassing, designing and building a brewery with the help of friends and family. Finally – having produced six kids between them in the meantime – they secured a license and released the first batch of their full-bodied, richly malty and highly hopped Pale Ale in 2008.
They’ve since moved their operation to an industrial unit in the north of Melbourne, where they still fit much of their work around family life, pulling in mates to help with bottling and delivery runs. The move has allowed them to expand – and expand. What’s more, the Pale has become one of a wider range of regular releases, including a hugely popular and huge black IPA, a witbier and a milk porter. On top of that are occasional seasonal releases, such as the karakaberry witbier.
The move has also allowed them to convert part of the warehouse into a brewery bar, complete with snooker table, big screen TV and plenty of seating. Opening hours are few due to licensing constraints, but it’s a great place – when open – to sample their beers as fresh as can be.
Kooinda Brewery Beers
Kooinda Pale Ale
There’s nothing like announcing yourselves on the map with a bang. And that’s what the guys at Kooinda did. Not content with testing the market with an easy-drinking, inoffensive first beer, they came roaring out of the blocks with a big, ballsy American style Pale Ale. Boasting a hefty hop aroma from the moment it’s poured, their beer is a rich golden amber, full of toffee and caramel body and finishing with a firm, lip-smacking bitterness. It won them an instant cult following and has been refined to ever greater heights over time. Can’t wait for their second one…
Style: US Pale Ale
Talk about doing things arse about face…! First they take their witbier and rack it over raspberries. Then they discover a new fruit called a karakaberry they like the sound of and rack the raspberry witbier over that too. Then finally, they decide to give us the chance to taste the witbier as nature intended, virginal and fruit free. And well worth the wait it is too. Set to be the second full time release from the brewery, it’s towards the golden end of the colour scale you’d expect from such a beer, complete with a little yeasty cloudiness, and boasts a rather creamy consistency too. From nose to gullet, the likes of bubblegum, coriander, vanilla and candied citrus aromas and flavours flit around each other pleasantly, underpinned by a slight, but very welcome, farmhouse tang and given edge by some peppery sharpness. Much more of this and people are going to start suspecting these guys really know what they’re doing.
Kooinda Hop Transfusion
From the word go, the brewers at Kooinda have left people in no doubt that they like hops. OK, so they’ve got the likes of a porter and witbier on their roster now, but when they launched their first beer it was an American style pale ale that stood out from the crowd with its hop forward punch. Since then, they’ve released a hugely popular black IPA only matched for in-yer-face ferocity by the Moylan’s / Nøgne Ø Good Beer Week collaboration Our Dark Secret. And now they’re playing with another hoppy monster. The Hop Transfusion has thus far only appeared on tap at the rarely open brewery bar and festivals but will hopefully see a wider audience, given it’s a packed-to-the-rafters-with-hops IPA, all piney, fruity, resiny goodness, with a rich enough malt backbone to make drinking it rather too easy for something that registers 7.5 per cent. At least one set of fingers is crossed for a wider release anyway.
Kooinda brewery bar (open to 7pm some Fridays only)
Kooinda English Red Ale
Hot on the heels of their Milk Porter comes another new release from Kooinda – and it’s another beer designed for quaffing in these cooler times. Their take on a traditional English red ale is as it should be: plenty of rich, sweet toffee and caramel malts countered by the subtle earthy aromas and distinctive bitterness of British hops, in this case Fuggles and Goldings. With interest in British ales seemingly on the rise (a move by some away from big US-inspired hoppy ales or the impact of the Jubilympics perhaps?), it’s as good a time as any to be bringing out such a beer. That it’s one you’d happily return to once the last dregs of the previous one have been drained doesn’t hurt either.
Decanters by the Bay
Lower Plenty Cellars
Black Hill Estate
The Pizza Pub, Launceston
Style: English Red Ale
Bitterness: 25 IBU
Kooinda Milk Porter
A beer trialled by the Kooi boys last winter finally takes its proper bow. The Milk Porter is the first of two winter seasonals coming your way with a Red Ale following in the next week or so. Very much a winter quaffer, the Milk Porter is a deeply dark number that leans more towards the rich and chocolatey than the roasty, coffee side of things, with the addition of lactose giving the beer an extra touch of sweetness. Hop aroma, flavour and bitterness are subdued, resulting in a beer you’ll find disappears from your glass rather quickly. Thankfully, at just 4.7 per cent you can quite happily go back for more.
Style: Milk Porter
If there was one thing the mythical Nordic hall of Valhalla wasn’t short of (other than slain warriors) it was booze. There are references in literature to a mead produced from a goat’s udders on which the inhabitants of the hall would drink, but thankfully this newie from Kooi isn’t goat udder mead. Nope, instead it’s a golden ale of the sort they believe worthy warriors would have wanted to quench their battlefield thirst upon arrival. It’s also the first Kooinda beer that could be described as a true quaffer, with the brewers realising they didn’t have a beer with which to welcome newcomers to craft beer. The result is a beer with a lovely floral nose (from the use of Amarillo hops for those who aren’t newcomers to craft beer) with a hint of sherbert sweetness, a delicate, slightly fruity flavour and next to no bitterness. It should achieve its main aim with ease, while also offering up enough interest to keep craft beer lovers looking for a session beer happy too.
Style: Golden Ale
Bitterness: 10 IBU
Kooinda Black IPA aka Full Nelson
Having launched themselves upon the world in 2008 with a first beer that pulled no punches, the Kooinda crew’s decision to release a raspberry witbier when invited to make a beer for the first Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular back in February surprised a few who were expecting another big hitter. Well, those seeking a fresh smack in the chops from the northern Melbourne brewers needn’t wait any longer. Nope, because here comes a Black IPA made with nothing but Nelson Sauvin hops (hence them naming the 750ml version the Full Nelson). It’s not for the faint-hearted, even if at first whiff you could be forgiven for thinking you merely had a particularly potent Knappstein lager under your nose (it uses the same hops in case you’re wondering). The colour would tell you otherwise, of course, given it’s as close to black as to make no difference. It’s got a pretty hefty body on it too, although not in the chewy sense you find with some bigger IPAs. The six-malt combo makes some effort to get in on the act in the mouth, but not for long as the hops comes muscling back in on the action – as you’d expect in a beer with 70IBUs that’s been dry-hopped for a week – ready to be joined in a lingering mouth-coating finale with a touch of dusty roastiness.
Style: Black IPA
Bitterness: 70 IBU
Kooinda Karakaberry Witbier
Does the fact that we’ve never tasted a karakaberry – a blackberry hybrid only recently developed in New Zealand – put us at a disadvantage when sampling a beer that features them? Given the vast majority of the human world hasn’t even heard of the fruit, we’d suggest not, and given a sampling panel containing a number of Aussie brewers gave it the thumbs up, who cares? The latest variant on Kooinda’s witbier was racked over raspberries for a week before being transferred to a tank containing karakaberries sourced from the Yarra Valley and the result is really quite lovely. Pouring cloudy, with a slight pink tinge and a foamy head – like a Bellini on the streets of Venice – there’s plenty of sweet fruits up front, both on the nose and in the mouth. It maintains the soft, pillowy texture of their straight witbier while the subtle spices of the base beer come through as the fruit fades too. Crafty guest reviewer Neil Whittorn (Matilda Bay) says: “It’s a karaka!” – suggesting you probably want to get your hands on one of only 250 750ml bottles before they’ve gone.
Style: Fruit witbier
Kooinda Raspberry Witbier
The beers made specially for the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular are making their way onto taps now, including this, only the second beer ever released commercially by the Kooinda crew. Using a faithful creation of the Belgian witbier style as their basis, with citrus and coriander to the fore, they then racked the beer over raspberries to create a wonderfully refreshing, softly sweet beer perfect for summer. Whether this – or at least the witbier minus the raspberries – becomes a permanent addition to their offering, we’ll have to wait and see.
Style: Fruit-infused witbier