Little Creatures' little brother White Rabbit opened in the Yarra Valley in 2009, promising to bring the expertise that created modern Aussie classics like Little Creatures Pale Ale from the West Coast to Victoria. The brewery’s launch beer – their Dark Ale – has since been refined so successfully it picked up a gold at the 2010 Australian International Beer Awards. A second beer was introduced in 2010: a honey-conditioned White Ale made in the traditional Belgian witbier style, created by head brewer Jeremy Halse, formerly of Matilda Bay.
Designed around two custom built 5,000l open fermentation tanks and decorated with imagery from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the White Rabbit approach to brewing is unique in Australia. Once a brew is completed, the wort is transferred to these open top fermenters where the yeast is added and allowed to go to work making beer unconstrained by the closed containers used in most other breweries. There’s no risk of infection as the tanks are kept in a controlled environment filled with filtered air while the benefits of this centuries old method are the creation of unique complexities in the beer and greater flexibility in the management of yeasts.
The brewery is found next to Giant Steps winery’s impressive cellar door, in Healesville, where you can sample both beers alongside other craft beers and delicious, fresh food produced onsite. Better still, sink into one of the comfy chairs next to the brewery’s own bar where you’ll find tiny batch beers on offer. White Rabbit’s offerings are also on tap alongside the Little Creatures range at the vast Little Creatures Dining Hall, in Fitzroy, and at its brewery in Geelong.
White Rabbit Beers
White Rabbit Dark Ale
A beer that has been tweaked and refined over its lifespan to become one of the best dark beers in Australia, as evidenced by its gold medal in the 2010 Australian International Beer Awards. A welcoming floral aroma derived from the hop flowers used in the brewery’s hop back and the addition of hops into the tank after fermentation draws you in to a smooth, rich, malt-driven beer full of dark chocolate and light roast characteristics with fruity esters from the open fermentation and a solid bitter finish.
Awards: Gold Medal - 2010 Australian International Beer Awards
Style: Dark Ale
White Rabbit White Ale
The second beer from the Healesville brewery is their take on the traditional Belgian witbier style. It’s a fairly restrained recreation, given a touch of both sweetness and dryness from the addition of honey in the kettle. These beers have a history stretching back centuries to the days monks played with spices and fruits in their beers. Here, you’ll find hints of coriander, juniper berry and bitter orange that lend themselves to a welcoming, fruity aroma, particularly when sampled in draft form.
White Rabbit "Belgian style" Pale Ale
While regular visitors to the brewery in Healesville and the Little Creatures Dining Hall in Fitzroy will be aware that there is a steady stream of often experimental tiny batch beers coming out of White Rabbit, it has been a while – three years in fact – since they added a beer to their core range of Dark and White. Among those tiny batches has been a number of beers that have loosely played around with the Belgian pale ale style and thus it is that the third White Rabbit year-round beer is this “Belgian style” Pale Ale. Described as a meeting of old school and new, it’s a beer that pours a brilliant copper in the glass with subtle herbal aromas that are joined by a touch of fruitiness once it warms. There’s some caramel sweetness to taste, with the Belgian influence adding much in the way of spiciness and helping create a distinctly dry finish.
Style: Belgian Pale Ale
White Rabbit Porter
One of the side benefits of Little Creatures opening its new base in Geelong is that White Rabbit Dark Ale will now be brewed into open fermenters there, opening up capacity at Rabbit’s Healesville home. This will allow Jeremy and his team of brewers to take some of the frequent mini-experiments they carry out onto a far larger scale. Visitors to the cellar door or the Little Creatures Dining Hall in Brunswick will have come across all manner of weird and wonderful things in kegs and firkins, with the Porter the latest. There were only a few kegs brewed (and we’re a little lax in popping this up so there may be little of those left), but should you find some we’re told it “has a fairly solid hopping with whole New Zealand Pacifica and Rakau, and the malt backbone is comprised of pale, Munich, Midnight wheat, roast barley and a touch of dark crystal.” The beer has been barrel fermented with the same English ale strain as the brewery’s dark ale in “a little bit of French oak but not too much”. The result is “sweet and high-bodied which balances out a fairly high bitterness level and helps contribute to some really nice chocolate character sitting well with some great stone fruit and green orange from the generous Kiwi hopping.”
If we have left it too late and missed the boat on the Porter,we’re told that next up is a series of four single keg Belgian pale ales. Each one has received a different dry-hopping: Styrian Goldings, Pilgrim, Glacier and Citra.
Style: Barrel Fermented Porter