The Swan Valley is home to a colourful collection of craft breweries. Within an hour of touching down at Perth’s airport, visitors can take in stops that celebrate the Aussie spirit, German beer halls and wild experimentation in the space of a short drive. At the heart of the region is Mash Brewing, a contemporary brewery and restaurant on the side of the West Swan Road that also brews beer for a pair of sister venues in Rockingham and Bunbury.
Very much one for families as well as beer lovers thanks to a dedicated play area, Mash’s Swan Valley home base offers bar seating where you can work your way through the range of regulars and rotating seasonals just metres from the brewhouse as well as heaps of terrace seating (complete with mist sprays to keep you as cool as your beer when the summer sizzles). Time it right and the brewers will be making beer as you order at the bar as the brewhouse is located directly behind the taps.
A new brewery team was brought in during 2011 and set about reinventing the beer range. The result is a mix of those aimed fairly and squarely at the more mainstream drinker, such as the Freo Doctor (pale lager) and a pair of ciders, alongside sessionable wheat and pale ales and an ever-changing lineup that’s as much designed to satisfy the brewers as it is visiting beer geeks. The latter has included an IPA aptly named “Challenger”, a series of rye beers and the Deville, a smoked German ale that picked up one of the few gold medals awarded at the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards. Since then, an American IPA called Copy Cat has taken out the Champion Australian Beer at the 2014 awards.
If you can’t make it to the Swan Valley, Mash’s other venues pour their beers and offer a similar range of quality pub fare too. The Bunbury Mash is found on the Marlston Waterfront overlooking the Indian Ocean, while Mash has also taken up residence in the Rockingham Shopping Centre, where you’ll find 16 taps. Those living on the East Coast – particularly those in Melbourne – can find their beers with increasing ease too these days, with more and more Mash beer making the trip across the Nullarbor.
Mash Brewing Beers
Mash Freo Doctor (aka Pale Lager)
The beer for newcomers to craft beer, this is Mash’s entry level beer, which keeps things simple. All Australian malt and relatively gentle bitterness make for a beer that’s approachable and sessionable and will keep your mates who aren’t interested in the more colourful offerings happy while you explore the rest of the range.
Style: Pale Lager
Mash West Coast Wheat
Mash’s take on the southern German hefeweizen style uses a traditional German yeast to deliver those familiar fruity and spicy characteristics: banana, clove and vanilla, with a touch of citrus in the mouth too, in a beer that finishes nice and dry.
Mash Pale Ale
A beer that’s all about the hops. With the malt there to do little more than provide a backbone on which the hops can go to work, it’s opens up with welcoming floral and citrusy aromas and follows through with similar hop flavours and an impressively full and smooth mouthfeel for a beer of its size. Balanced, rounded and sessionable.
Style: US Pale Ale
Mash Brewing Rye Porter
Ever since bringing in a new head brewer two or three years back, Mash Brewing in the Swan Valley has been impressing with its beers, from the unique, subtly oaked session beer Grasscutter, the fine recreation of an English IPA, Challenger, and most recently the newly crowned Champion Australian Beer Copy Cat American IPA. Despite taking ownership of Melbourne’s 3 Ravens last year, which allows them to brew some Mash beers on the East Coast, many of their limited releases only (or at least initially) only appear in WA, other than two kegs that are heading to Beervana. And that’s the case with the latest, a Rye Porter that is the brewer’s attempt, as with his Koffee Stout, to “squeeze character and complexity into small beers”. It’s a 4.2 percent beer, brewed with “a good whack of rye” in the mix. We’re told it’s pretty straightforward other than “an interesting little hop addition”.
All three Mash Brewing venues
Selected craft beer venues
Style: Rye Porter
Mash Brewing Bon Scotch & Copy Cat
Although maybe not attracting as much attention as many of their peers, the brewing team at Mash has been steadily knocking out some intriguing seasonals in recent years. From the Rye The Hop Not ESB to the smoky DeVille to the unique Grasscutter, a lawnmower/session beer gently fermented on two toasts of French oak, their beers are always worth keeping an eye out for. Now they’re back with not one but two limited release beers: a Scotch Ale and a West Coast IPA, and both, according to head brewer Charlie Hodgson, “are crackers”.
The former is called Bon Scotch and features some peated distilling malt that we’re told “adds wafts of smoke to its raisin and chocolate like aromas”. At 7.5 percent ABV, it’s a full-bodied affair with the alcohol adding a soft warming touch, which suggests it should be perfect as the temperatures start to cool. As for the Copy Cat, the name hints at the sort of West Coast IPA it is – in other words, it may seem familiar. According to Charlie, it is “bulging at the seams with tropical, piney, resinous hop bitterness and aroma” with the malt there just to hold it all together and stop the bitterness spilling out into the streets. It tips the scales at 6.8 percent and 70IBUs, suggesting it isn’t one for the fainthearted. NB He was on to something when he claimed the Copy Cat was a cracker; it won Champion Australian Beer at the 2014 Australian International Beer Awards.
Awards: Copy Cat was named Champion Australian Beer at AIBA 2014
Style: Scotch Ale & West Coast IPA
Strength: 7.5% & 6.8%
Mash Brewing Russell
Ever since they rode to the rescue of 3 Ravens like a knight in shining stainless steel, WA’s Mash has been brewing some of its specialty releases at Ravens' Thornbury base for the East Coast market. Among them have been the Illustrated Ales series for which they’ve invited Melbourne artists to create the label designs. Following in the footsteps of the likes of the Challenger comes Russell. He’s an American Amber Ale and also a rather demonic looking dog in what appears to be the torso of a skeleton in a vase. Or something. The artwork’s by Mike Maka, AKA Makatron – part of the Everfresh collective; the beer is by the 3 Ravens / Mash brewers. First whiff brings to mind Jaffa Cakes (or whatever the Aussie equivalent of a chocolate orange cakey biscuit is), with those chocolate, orange and citrus characteristics carrying through to the flavour too. At 4.5 per cent ABV it’s not chewy like some American ambers can be, instead pretty light on its feet, but still hides a pretty solid punch behind its sweetness and light. Like the sabre-toothed Russell on its label, it has bite.
Style: American Amber
Mash Brewing Dubbel Brown
Another new beer that’s playing loose and fancy free with styles is the latest from Mash. With a tale that sounds not too dissimilar to that of The Mash Collective’s Aureus Chrysalis, the Dubbel Brown mixes a Belgian ale yeast (the Dubbel part of its name) with and English style brown ale malt bill. However, further twisting its DNA, the brewers have used US hops too. According to head brewer Charlie Hodgson: “We have fermented it on the cool side to keep the yeast on the down low but to still have a subtle impact. It comes with fantastic malt depth and complexity. A careful and somewhat generous blend of English style American grown hops late in the boil contribute layered fruit notes to support the heavier malts.The Americanised spin is just a reference to those guys taking normal styles and lifting them to heights not seen before.” He says to look out for “big raisin and caramel malts” plus “fruity notes coming from yeast and hops with soft warming alcohols to finish.”
Style: Belgian Dubbel
Mash Brewing Belgo
Here at The Crafty Pint, we like a good story, so here’s one from Mash’s head brewer Charlie Hodgson: “It all started in the brewery one wintry day with the schedule a little quieter than during the madness of beer season. Winter sure has its upsides at times… I had some of our Belgian yeast sitting dry and in need of somewhere warm, worty and sugar-filled to hang out for a couple of weeks until it was required to be pitched again into our Belgian Blonde. We were feeling very much like putting something quite hop driven through the brewhouse when I had a lightbulb moment!! Why not make a Belgo-American IPA?? The initial plan was to use our Pale recipe and pitch it with the Belgian strain but brewers being brewers we couldn’t help ourselves and had to start tweaking, first subtle changes to the grist, then thinking maybe we should up the ABV. I guess we probably should lift the bitterness as well if the ABV will be higher and so on until… The Belgo was born!” Subtitled the Tussle in Brussels, it’s a battle between classic US hops and the funky Belgian yeast strain he says has a “fruity, floral, orange nose with sweet caramel malt surrendering to a powerful finishing blow from high alpha hops.” The End.
Style: US-Belgian IPA
Mash Koffee Stout
A winter seasonal from the Swan Valley brewery, this is described as “A wonderfully simple yet complex little beer made with Yahava Koffee Beans. It displays hints of chocolate, cocoa, soft acidity and the signature fresh coffee nuttiness in flavour and aroma.” Relatively low in alcohol, it’s only available on tap.
Style: Coffee Stout
The clue’s in the title… Challenger hops are a classic variety when brewing English style ales and this is just that, an English style ales brewed with lots of hops thrown into the whirlpool and more used for dry hopping. As well as the English hops, there are some Kiwi representative too that add some tropical fruits on the nose before the more typically British apricot and orange – plus some caramel malts – join in the fun.
Style: English Bitter
Mash Tank 8
A Belgian style ale from the Swan Valley brewers that they’re calling a “dirty blonde”. We presume this is for all the right reasons, however, such as keeping it dirty (aka cloudy ) to ensure the beer retains its distinctive yeast character and the fruity esters that come with it. Look out for “an added spice or two which combine for an unmistakable Belgian nose” as well as “tart acidity” with the malts very much there just to keep things ticking along.
Style: Belgian Blonde
Mash Rye The Hop Not ESB
One of a series of rye beers produced by the Mash brewers, this uses the rye’s earthy, spicy character to add richness and complexity to a meeting of the continents: an English style Extra Special Bitter dry-hopped with varieties from the US and Europe.