Beer Travel: The Beers They Are A-Changin'
Justin McPhail / 22.06.12
Regular readers of The Crafty Pint will be well aware of the activities of Bendigo Beer, a group of beer lovers who have helped turn their city from a virtual craft beer wasteland into a thriving regional hub into which more and more breweries are sending their beers. There is word of more than one brewery in the pipeline too. As well as encouraging venues and drinkers to get behind better beer, they also keep a keen eye on what’s brewing locally, which is what drew Bendigo Beer founder Justin McPhail to Tooborac Hotel & Brewery to see how things were going under their new brewing team…
The last six to 12 months have seen changes in the way Tooboorac Hotel & Brewery is doing things. Two new brewers, new beers and tweaked recipes have breathed a new lease of life into James and Valerie Carlin’s brewpub, located five minutes outside Heathcote in Central Victoria, where the brewery itself is located in old Cobb & Co stables (dating back to 1857).
John Chapman and Simon Lew are the duo behind the brewing, with John part time (formerly a process engineer) and Simon full time (with seemingly over the top qualifications in Chemical Engineering / Biology and Biotechnology). Simon always dreamed of brewing, and the quality behind the beers shows his passion. The brews are meticulous and well defined, suggesting there’s a big future for this young brewer.
The menu has the usual pub grub, classic parma, but also rabbit pie and the obvious dark (amber) ale pie… On the day I trekked out to the pub, Val was running a full house by herself, with some people in from the nearby Hidden Valley in Wallan (including one lad who had brought along a growler from Lobethal Bierhaus in SA), a group of regulars, and a bunch of tourists going through the tasting paddle, eagerly taking in all the knowledge offered up to them about what ‘beer’ really is.
Meanwhile, James took a group of ten through a tour of the brewery and brewing process. Witty as hell, and along the way describing how he and his children all put in a helping hand to bottle the products they sell.
“The family that brews together, stays together,” he says.
As for the beers?
- Shearers Lager – a sweet, lightly floral and nutty lager – is converting the locals from the macro lagers common in country areas.
- Stonemasons Pale has a big fruity aroma, and delicate malts backing them up.
- Woodcutters Amber Ale features light chocolate, minute roastiness and overwhelming smoothness.
- Scoundrels American Ale – a delicate, lightly bitter number that is bringing the hops to the locals.
- Blacksmiths Porter – probably the standout, big, chocolate, roast malt, warming, smooth, bitter toffee/caramel.
And if you fancy a beery weekend away in the region, here’s Justin’s suggested itinerary: “Come to Bendigo via Tooboorac Brewery and leave via Castlemaine, where you can call into The Public Inn, then stop in Woodend for Holgate Brewhouse. "Two breweries, a craft beer town and some of the nicest parts of the country you will see. (Shameless Bendigo and Bendigo Beer plug over!).”