Regular readers of The Crafty Pint will know all about Boatrocker already. Launched as a brewing company back in 2009, with its beers brewed at Southern Bay, its co-founder Matt Houghton has written a series of features about the trials, tribulations and excitement of starting a brewery (read them here). Today, he and wife Andrea are owners of their own brewery in Melbourne's south east.
The story started with the launch of Alpha Queen, a hoppy American inspired ale with an old world malt backbone, that set out Boatrocker's stall as a brewer of beers with character. When the brewery's second beer, Hoppbier - a New World pilsner inspired by Matt's time living in Northern Germany, promptly won a gold medal at the Australian International Beer Awards, it was clear it was a story worth following.
The Hoppbier is only an occasional release now (thanks to a shortage of the Riwaka hops that lent it much of its charm), but the Alpha Queen has now been joined by the Hop Bomb IPA and the Big Love Suburban Red and Suburban Pale (formerly Smash!), the last of these sessionable beers under a second banner launched following investment from Made by HAND, a business launched by the men who launched Little Creatures. Yet such beers hint more at the businessman in Matt than the brewer; they're beers designed to have widespread appeal in the beer world, whereas his true love is for Belgian styles.
Matt has made multiple visits to Belgium to visit breweries large and small in an attempt to learn the tricks of the trade. The intention is to release a wide range of Belgian styles, from Australian versions of lambics to bruins and beyond. As such, before he'd even put the first test brew through his brewery, he was already the proud owner of 60 wine barrels and, towards the end of 2015, opened the doors of a dedicated Barrel Room with its own bar in which he plans to have up to 70,000 litres of beer ageing in oak at any one time.
Even before the Barrel Room opened, all manner of barrel-aged beers have appeared, from the low ABV Chardonnay barrel-aged, trophy winning Berliner Weisse Mitte to the all-conquering whisky barrel-aged Ramjet imperial stout, Banshee barley wine, a brett saison and more as the Houghtons – aided by their new business partners – establish Boatrocker as one of the most exciting breweries to watch in Australia.