Located inside the historic former Astor Theatre and forming part of the city’s impressive Grand Hotel complex, Mildura Brewery has been flying the craft beer flag in Victoria’s far north since 2004. Under the joint ownership of Don Carrazza and Stefano de Pieri, it produces a range of all natural beers taking their names from the local region that, as of 2010, are regularly embellished by seasonal and limited release specials.
Rod Williams joined as head brewer in 2009, a Brit who cut his brewing teeth with the likes of Young’s, George Gale’s and Ringwood in England before moving to Australia and helping to establish Coldstream Brewery in the Yarra Valley. Since heading north, he’s been tweaking some of the existing Mildura recipes and helped oversee the introduction of the brewery’s eco-friendly Stefano’s Pilsner and a limited release triple chocolate beer, the Choc Hop, that debuted at the Victorian Microbreweries Showcase in October 2010.
The brewery itself is an impressive setup, with a 2,350l brew length, 5,000l and 10,000l tanks and a bottling line capable of packaging up to 3,000 bottles an hour. The brewers regularly double brew – producing 4,500l in a day – and also make a number of other beers under contract for a range of brewing companies.
The brewhouse is complemented by the neighbouring Mildura Brewery Pub where drinkers can sample all of the Mildura beers on tap while enjoying great views of the brewers at work. The Pub runs a Beer Club offering member discounts and a personalised beer glass – while visitors can also take part in tutored tastings of the entire Mildura range. In a region best known for its wine, it’s a must-see destination for beer lovers.
As of 2013, the brewery is also home to a number of smaller tanks – purchased to allow the brewing team greater freedom to create seasonals and limited release beers. It is an opportunity the brewers have grabbed with both hands, with saisons, a lambic and a popular English IPA all appearing within the first few months following the installation.
Mildura Brewery Beers
Mildura Mallee Bull
A bull that’s been given added beef since Rod Williams took over, the Mallee Bull is the biggest of the brewery’s regular beers. Brewed with Carapils, chocolate and roast malt to give it nutty and toffee flavours, a deep amber colour and an aroma with hints of fruit. East Kent Goldings hops are added at the end of boil to give a floral and grassy touch, although the malt-driven finish leads the brewers to suggest matching it with meaty or game dishes.
Style: Strong Ale
Mildura Desert Lager
Mildura’s flagship beer, the Desert is produced from all Australian pale pilsener malts – a blend of barley varieties from three states malted in Victoria – and Kiwi hops Super Alpha and Southern Cross. Bitterness and hop character are kept in check in the quest for a thirst quenching, but more-ish beer suited to the hot, dry surrounds in which it’s brewed.
Style: European Lager
Mildura Murray Honey Wheat
When looking to make a wheat beer that connected with the Sunraysia region, brewery founder Stefano suggested using locally made honey, with the aim of capturing some of the citrus blossoms the bees harvest their nectar from in the beer. The result is a delicate beer with a touch of sweetness and only mild hopping, with German Perle hops adding just a touch of spiciness.
Style: Honey Wheat
Mildura Storm Cloudy Ale
Mildura’s take on the American Pale Ale style, which means it favours its hops, particularly on the nose, which gives off plenty of pleasant citrus aromas from the Amarillo and Cascade hops as soon as it’s poured. The Amarillo also adds to the flavour, giving it grapefruit and lime characters, while as you’d expect from a hop forward beer, there’s a relatively high bitterness, hence why the brewers recommend matching it with Asian or chilli-inspired dishes. The cloudiness comes from leaving some of the yeast in the beer when it leaves the brewery, which helps boost its fruity esters.
Style: American Pale Ale
Mildura Sun Light
There are plenty of craft beer lovers out there who claim they’ll never go near a light beer, but when you’re brewing beer in a region where long, dry 40C days are common and plenty of people work in the great outdoors, you know there’s going to be a need. Made with the Saaz hops found in Czech pilsners that give it a slight citrus and peppery nose, it’s designed to be crisp and dry – with the mere 3% alcohol meaning it can be quaffed in a hurry in relative safety.
Style: Low alcohol lager
Mildura Stefano's Pilsner
The latest addition to the Mildura arsenal is a tribute to the beers from Stefano de Pieri’s Italian heritage, a recreation of the beers his forebears would have enjoyed in Europe. Brewed with a blend of Australian Pilsner and German specialty malts then generously hopped with the noble Czech aroma variety, Saaz, it sets out to achieve an elegant blend of soft malt and subtle hop characteristics with a reasonably firm bitterness. This is aided by a fermentation carried out under cool conditions proceeded by a long period of lagering conducted over several weeks at a very low temperature.
Style: Czech Pilsner
Bitterness: 30-33 IBU
Mildura Astor Ale
A beer that takes its name from the theatre that was once housed in the building that is now home to the Mildura Brewery was conceived as a take on the brewery’s longstanding Storm, but without the cloudy appearance. A mix of Old World and New that combines British Maris Otter and crystal malts with tropical aromas derived, in the main, from Galaxy hops. The balanced and sessionable golden-coloured pale ale wasn’t originally intended to be a mainstay, but it’s popularity has made it look that way.
Style: Pale Ale
Mildura Brewery English IPA
There are IPAs aplenty around Australia at these days but few and far between that are based on the original IPAs out of the UK. But continuing the stream of limited releases made possible by the purchase of some new tanks late last year, Mildura has produced one. It is a beer close to head brewer Rod Williams' heart as he brewed in the UK for many years before moving to Australia. The first tastes were offered at the recent Good Beer Week Gala Showcase, with the beer proving popular there and, subsequently, with venues to the extent that a second, larger batch has been brewed. The beer itself is an old school, wholesome treat, featuring Golden Naked Oats and malted oats among the grain bill to give it a lovely, soft, almost creamy mouthfeel and a combination of Target, Challenger and Fuggles hops, including dry-hopping with Target, that give it some distinctly earthy aromas unlike the vast majority of IPAs on the market. There are soft caramel and toffee flavours, a touch of fruitiness and a broad and softly building bitterness.
Style: English IPA
Bitterness: 50 IBU
Mildura Brewery Raspberry Lambic
We figured 2013 would be the year that we saw sour and wild beers on the rise around Australia, but it seems that, while a few appeared last year, 2014 is going to see far greater numbers. Mildura has produced a tiny (300 litre) run of a Raspberry Lambic as part of its ongoing program of experimentation that sees each of the brewing team take it in turns to create a one-off beer on their new, smaller single batch tanks. Their take on the Belgian style saw them leave unhopped wort (the sugary water that is obtained after grain has been mashed in hot water) subjected to a very warm, uncontrolled fermentation incorporating macerated whole raspberries. The result is a very dry and sour example of the lambic style with, we’re told, “delightful fresh raspberry overtones”. Sounds, um, delightful!
Style: Raspberry Lambic
Mildura Elderflower Saison
In 2013, Mildura Brewery put in some smaller tanks so they could put out more small batch releases than their main, rather large, brewery setup allowed. One of the first was a Spring Flower Saison featuring local orange blossom that proved so popular it had gone before they even had time to tell us about it. By the time it had gone, so was the orange blossom so they got creative, with head brewer Rod Williams sending his daughter off to snaffle some elderflower from the bushes at Domaine Chandon in the Yarra Valley where his wife works. The result is this Elderflower Saison, which has landed at a couple of venues and will be pouring at the 2014 Ballarat Beer Festival. It contains 1kg of said flowers that add to “the fruity nose complexity” of a beer they describe as the perfect summer quencher – “cloudy pale in colour, light bitterness, fruity on the nose, with a dryness that will have you coming back for more.”
Style: Elderflower Saison
Mildura Choc Hops
Sometimes a beer makes you sit up and take a fresh look at a brewery: Burleigh Brewing’s Black Giraffe coffee lager or Grand Ridge’s Mirboo specials – the first limited releases from the brewery in its 23-year history. Chances are the Choc Hops will do the same for Mildura, whose beers have tended to play it fairly safe, a legacy in part of being situated in the heart of Sunraysia: typically hot and dry and not the kind of place where you’d often be in the mood for something big, bold and boisterous. All of which makes the Choc Hops not just a treat, but a full on eye-popper. Taking inspiration from Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (a product of the UK brewery where Mildura’s Rod Williams once brewed) but going even further down that path, it’s pure luxury in a glass: layers of vanilla and rich, creamy chocolate swirling around each other, anchored by the faintest hint of roast bitterness to remind you it’s a stout (of sorts) and not merely a dessert. It gets to where it is thanks to the addition of both raw and roasted cocoa nibs and chocolate malts, while you’ll also find hints of dark fruits in there too. Having wowed people at the Fed Square Microbreweries Showcase, it’s due for release in time for Easter when it’s sure to do the same to many more.
Style: Chocolate Stout
Bitterness: 26 IBU