For many years, lager was the enemy for craft brewers. Or at least the weapon of choice with which the perceived enemy – the handful of large breweries who had swallowed up or crushed their rivals – used to convince Australians that beer was pale lager. Craft brewers made ales: often fruity, malty, big-flavoured ales designed to show as much what they were not as brewers as what they were.
These days, however, with craft beer now accepted by the mainstream and those early battles not necessarily the main ones being fought by the country's small, independent brewers, attitudes are softening. More are exploring the world of lager – sometimes even trying to make their own versions of the pale lagers that once inspired them to be different. Heck, one brewing company even chose to launch itself into the Australian beer world's collective consciousness in 2014 with a lager.
That company is Barrow Boys, initially made up of a trio of mates who've been around the local industry in various roles before coming together, supported by a fourth, Ross Sudano, who was CEO at Little Creatures before it became part of Lion. And the beer with which they first appeared was the Stormy Lager: not a pale lager, admittedly, but a rich, malty affair pitched somewhere between a Vienna lager and a schwarzbier. Or, perhaps more acutely, pitched into an area of the beer spectrum where no one in Australia was operating.
As well aiming for a beer that could plug a gap in the market and thus gain early traction, the Stormy Lager was also a beer with characteristics close to Barrow Boys' original head brewer Ash Hazell's personal tastes, both in terms of flavour but also in terms of those such as "drinkability" and "balance". It's something you'll find in subsequent releases too, both the Pedlar's Pale that's part of the permanent release and the draught only seasonals he went on to create before taking up the head brewer role at Colonial in summer 2016/17, particularly the fantastic India Amber Ale that debuted in Spring 2015.
There's a sense of fun suffusing Barrow Boys, from that lively online presence to their involvement in a number of collaborative projects since launching in 2014 and also in their packaging too; put it this way, you won't easily miss their neon orange and lime green bottles on a bottleshop's shelves.
As for the name, it dates from their very earliest days when they were on the hunt for a brewery site and hoped to land in North Melbourne, ideally around the former markets where barrow boys and pedlars would ply their trade. That site never transpired and, at time of publication, the hunt around Melbourne for their own home continues. But, with brewing of most of their beers having switched to the Australian Brewers Guild, home of Hawkers Beer, they're in safe hands until they're able to park their barrow in its own shed.