Of all the breweries to appear across Australia in recent years, it's fair to say none has arrived quite like Thunder Road. From its lavishly hi-tech brewery to the bold green livery adorning its refurbished 1940s delivery trucks - not to mention the decision to launch with a lager and go after the 98 per cent of Aussies not drinking craft beer - its approach has been unique.
The long term project of beer loving business man Philip Withers, for whom the Brunswick-based brewery is a return to his family roots, Thunder Road launched its first beer, the Full Steam Pale Lager, in June 2011. The first release in its declared mission to create "brilliant, beautiful, clean, bright beers", the goal wasn't just to create a high quality European style lager, but also a beer that drinkers wedded to mainstream beers would find approachable and - if the plan works - worth making the switch to. An ale made with all Victorian ingredients, the Brunswick Bitter, followed, while a 400l pilot brewery that's an exact replica of the main brewhouse is designed to let brewers Harvey Kenney and Marcus Cox let their imaginations run wild.
The brewery itself is based in a factory fronted by an historic bluestone cottage just off Lygon Street, in Brunswick, with a striking wooden bar lined with 30 taps in the shadow of the brewhouse as the centre piece. The aim is to pour 30 different Thunder Road beers through the taps one day, although ongoing licensing issues mean the venue is yet to open to the public. When it does, the intention is to offer food they're calling "modern Brunswick".
As for the cottage, it's set up to offer private tastings, but also contains a veritable treasure trove of beer literature and memorabilia amassed over the years by Withers. His research into the history of beer and breweries in Australia before setting out on the road to create Thunder Road was nothing if not exhaustive and it appears that much of what he read has made it into this small, private library-cum-museum that promises to become a great resource for keen beer lovers.