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Crafty Pint

Your Guide to Australian Craft Beer / Monday 22 September 2014

Beer In The Valley

Crafty Pint / 18.09.14

Napoleone-brewery-1

Not too long ago, it seemed that pretty much every brewery in Australia was falling over itself to add a cider to its range, whether brewed in-house or paid for and badged accordingly. Now, however, the boot appears to be on the other foot with local cider makers entering the beer world.

A few weeks ago, we ran the tale of Riders Brewing Company, a spin-off from the Kellybrook / Kelly Brothers wine and cider business with The Local Taphouse St Kilda’s home-brewing Ale Tsar Shandy at the brewing helm. And now, established Yarra Valley winery Punt Road, producer of the Napoleone & Co cider range, has opened its own brewery and released its first beers into the market.

The Punt Road winery and Napoleone Brewery and Ciderhouse share the same family-owned property in Coldstream – also home to the family’s vineyards and orchards. Taking charge of the brewery is Ben Waymouth, a man who chose one of the more challenging first jobs in brewing before moving to the Yarra Valley earlier this year.

“I started out as an assistant brewer at O'Brien in Ballarat [brewers of gluten free beers] for two years,” he says. “They got me in when they moved to their new venue and I did quite a lot of the brewing.”

And not just the brewing. Given the market for gluten free – in other words, no barley and no wheat – beer is tiny, O'Brien uses a small maltster to provide them with malted sorghum and millet. To create different types of malt, for example crystal malts for their medal-winning and delicious Belgian ale and IPA, Ben would have to roast the grains himself, having been trained up by head brewer Andrew Lavery. Not only that, with each crop small and variable, they would have to carry out tests on the grains with the farmers to ensure they were suitable for malting and ultimately to make beer.

“There’s not many [brewing] positions where you get to assess the raw grain and then get it malted or have to work without malt spec sheets [that tell a brewer what extract they should expect from a batch in a brew],” says Ben. “It was a pretty good education!

“They were banging out five pallets of beer a day so I’d be brewing, running a filter and helping on the packaging line while roasting grain!”

Having helped O'Brien achieve the first ever trophy awarded to a gluten free beer by the Australian International Beer Awards, Ben moved to Napoleone in March this year, having met one of the brewery’s staff, Simon Wright, and hearing that they had purchased Moo Brew’s old kit and were looking for a brewer. Positive noises about the Yarra Valley community and, in particular, the team at Punt Road / Napoleone from a friend who worked in the industry there encouraged him to apply and soon he was packing his bags.

Since unpacking them at Coldstream, he’s been given a pretty free rein in the brewery. The one demand the owners had was for an American pale ale but beyond that they have allowed him to choose his own direction and backed his requests to use the best, rather than the cheapest, ingredients to ensure he has every chance of creating top-notch beers.

The first beers to hit the market were a porter – which fared well in our last Blind Tasting and is designed to be dry and suitable for year-round drinking – and a traditional-as-you-like ESB. The first Napoleone Breakneck Porter batch was brewed at Cavalier while they commissioned the brewery but, from now on, everything you come across will be brewed by Ben on the former Moo Brew system. Following those two beers will be a saison – currently being packaged in 330ml bottles, a rarity for the style – a Munich style helles lager and a wheat beer. Evidently, Ben is no hophead.

“The saison is hopped at just 14 IBU [a measurement of bitterness – a typical pale ale would register around 30 / 35 IBU], the helles is 12 IBU and the wheat beer just 16,” he says. “I’m not a huge hop guy.”

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Ben Waymouth, lover of fermenting, malt and beards

He does love playing with malt, however.

“No one really told me what I can and can’t do in terms of malt. The porter and ESB use floor malted varieties; we’re using the best we can. The ESB is very, very traditional: English yeast, English malt and late hopping with East Kent Goldings. It has low carbonation and the only things that are perhaps not traditional are the use of Magnum [an American hop] for bittering and the five percent alcohol is perhaps a little high for the style.”

As for why the team behind Punt Road and Napoleone Cider moved into beer, he says it’s simple.

“Joe [one of the owners] loves beer! He has a real passion for it so put up the capital [for the brewery]. He has backed me and let me get the things for the brewery I wanted to achieve the quality I want.”

What that means is a few additions and enhancements to the Moo Brew kit, which is now installed as part of the Brewery and Ciderhouse, where the ten taps in the tasting room built from the foundations of a 19th century dairy are shared between Ben’s brews and cidermaker Behn Payten’s creations, themselves based upon the fruits of the onsite orchards. Among the additions are a packaging line that will allow Ben to send bottled product out into the wider world – along with kegs – as he develops the Napoleone range.

“I’m going to go maltier,” he says. “I’ve given myself six to 12 months experimenting in the brewhouse to see how it behaves and to perfect recipes. I want to have a look at our wine barrels and am always playing around with new ingredients.

“The plan at the minute is to try not to make any massive hoppy beers and hopefully people will want to try something that isn’t an IPA, except maybe a traditional English IPA. I’m looking more to Belgian and German styles.

“Mead was the first [alcoholic beverage] I ever attempted and that got me into fermenting stuff. Scott from Red Duck interests me with his variety and approach – doing something new and challenging yourself.”

The brewery and tasting room is open seven days a week and Ben has set up his working week so he’s there on Saturdays, the busiest day, and, if not brewing or packaging, on hand to chat to visitors about his beers, brewing and beer generally.

“It’s all about education,” he says.

Education and great tasting beer, of course. Something he’s determined to bring to the Valley and beyond.

Napoleone Brewery and Ciderhouse is at 12 St Huberts Road, Coldstream.


Out Back

Crafty Pint / 16.09.14

Carwyn-back-bar-1

It’s not just beer styles being bastardised in the craft beer world these days. It seems that increasingly the lines between bars and bottleshops are being blurred too. In Victoria in particular, where the likes of drink-in bottleshops such as Mordialloc Cellar Door and Chapel St Cellars have been operating for many years, and where, after expanding and installing additional taps in the kitchen, Valley Cellar Door asked to be moved from the Crafty bottleshop directory to the one for venues, the hybrids keep on coming.

In the past two months alone, two popular bottleshops have added bars at the back of their stores. First to open was the six-tap affair at Grape & Grain in Moorabbin, with Carwyn Cellars in Thornbury following suit in the past fortnight. They are united by more than their melding of bar and bottleshop as one too; like fellow Melbourne bottleshop-with-taps Slowbeer, peruse their draught offerings and you’ll find them heavily weighted in favour of the esoteric as opposed to the every day.

“I just wanted my own bar,” says Ben Carwyn, who has operated a bottleshop in Thornbury High Street for a number of years and first told us of his intention to add a bar three years ago.

“[When we moved to the current site] the spot lent itself to this situation. We have the ability to expand if needed too.”

Having offered a sneak peek of the Back Bar – when it was still a work-in-progress – during this year’s Good Beer Week, the finished version was unveiled earlier this month. It features 16 taps on a single font – “The biggest single font in Melbourne, I think!” says Ben with faux hubris – as well as 140 whisk(e)ys, a lineup of Mezcals that will rise to 40 and a colourful wine list that includes such rarities as orange wine alongside a selection of natural wines.

One tap will always pour a “house beer”, with staff member Ben Duval bringing some of his homebrew recipes to life in partnership with nearby 3 Ravens, while there is a food offering of cheese and charcuterie that will be expanded through a partnership with local Lebanese “inauthentic pizza” venue, the Moor’s Head.

Aside from the long bar, the venue features a series of tall benches – long and short, lightbulbs hanging low on long leads from the ceiling and walls lined with artwork. There is also seating on the graffiti-lined pavement outside.

“The offering ranges from left of centre to very left of centre,” says Ben. “We’re looking to do some takeovers and launched with one from Feral and will always have three or four solid dark beers on. We had to consciously rein in the list otherwise, if we did it to our own tastes, it would be too big, too many high ABV beers, and too many big flavours.”

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Ben Carwyn manning his big boy’s font

He says they’re in the process of making their own bitters as well as their own tonic water and will be adding the ability to put beers under nitrogen as well. Add to that plans for beer events and beer launches and it seems fair to say Melbourne has a quality new northern outpost for craft beer.

Since opening the bar, the Bens have also noticed an increase in takings at the bottleshop, a pleasant side benefit that has also been witnessed at Grape & Grain (not to be confused with Yarraville home brew specialist Grain & Grape.). The bottleshop opened at the end of 2012, bringing a great selection of quality brews to an area that had previously been something of a desert. Spotting potential in a site close to the Nepean Highway and Moorabbin train station, social media and word of mouth soon saw John Tei’s venue become a destination for beer lovers from the eastern suburbs and Mornington Peninsula alike, with the lure increasing since the bar was opened.

“The regular tastings we were holding were getting bigger and we had the space,” says John. “We rang the council that the end of 2013 thinking it would be a nightmare. They came out the next day and said, ‘Fantastic. How can we help?’.

“They said it was just what they needed the area.”

Thus he set about turning the back half of the bottleshop into a “home from home”, with 40 seats of the vintage shop kind, plus chess, cribbage and the like. And it’s proved to be a combination that people like.

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A happy John Tei

“It’s going fantastically well,” he says. “We’re not making a lot of noise yet it is growing organically. We’re getting a great craft beer crowd coming along as well as a lot of locals.”

As with the Carwyn Back Bar, every tap is a rotating one – when we spoke to John he was pouring Make Beer’s Apple Pie Rye alongside beers from 8 Wired, Yeastie Boys, Rodenbach and Doctor’s Orders – and is turning them over fast.

“It’s given us a hell of a lift,” he says. “We couldn’t be happier.”

And with plans under way to add a nano-brewery to the venue in the future, it seems the story may not be finished yet…

Grape & Grain is at 14-16 Station Street, Moorabbin and is open until 11pm all week (although tends to close earlier at the start of the week.

Carwyn Cellars Back Bar is open 10am to late seven days a week, with a 2am license when required.

Photo of John Tei from the Moorabbin Junction website.


Craft Beer Awards Need U

Crafty Pint / 15.09.14

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Next month will see Australia’s first Craft Beer Awards take place in Sydney. They have been launched by the Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA), a national association representing craft breweries in Australia. With submissions closed, they have received 277 beer entries from 80 breweries – and now they need help running the various stages of judging and the awards night.

Volunteers are required for a number of positions both in the run up to and on the presentation night at the Giant Dwarf Theatre on October 24 during Sydney Craft Beer Week. They cover a range of roles, with volunteers receiving various benefits, including a t-shirt, meals, beer and a half price ticket to said awards night. The first duties kick in in less than a month so applications are needed pronto.

The available positions and dates required are as follows:

  • Sorting Team (4 volunteers) – October 13 to 17 at Tooheys Lidcome
  • Database Guru (1 volunteer) – October 21 & 22 at Novotel Olympic Park
  • Table Captain (5 volunteers) – October 21 & 22 at Novotel Olympic Park
  • Stewards (10 volunteers) – October 21 & 22 at Novotel Olympic Park
  • Comment Cards (3 volunteers) – October 21 & 22 at Novotel Olympic Park
  • Randomising Crew (2 volunteers) – October 21 & 22 at Novotel Olympic Park
  • Awards Team (4 volunteers) October 24 at Giant Dwarf Theatre

Full details of what each of these roles entails as well as more information on the volunteers requirements and benefits can be found on the CBIA website here.

To apply, fill in the form found here.

Please note: If you are affiliated with a brewery that has beers entered in the competition unfortunately CBIA cannot accept your help with the sorting or judging processes but would welcome your assistance with the awards ceremony.


Stockings & Spice

Crafty Pint / 12.09.14

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Admittedly, you are opening yourself up to all sorts of danger when inviting a whole bunch of brewers into your home to brew a collaborative beer for which there is only a loose concept, plans to design it on the hop, and an instruction to the visiting brewers to “bring along anything you might like to add to the brew”.

That was how the second annual Down South brew day at Cheeky Monkey in the Margaret River region started out, featuring brewers from Cowaramup, Colonial Brewery, Bootleg Brewery, Eagle Bay Brewery, Duckstein, Bush Shack and the soon-to-open WA wing of Young Henrys – as well as Roxy Boubis from Five Bar in Perth, where the beer will be launched. Things were going fine – Bootleg had brought some Galaxy hops, Colonial had brought some Enigma, but most had just turned up to lend a hand – when Nick d'Espeissis from Eagle Bay wandered in and announced he’d brought some star anise and cinnamon quills to add to the brew.

“We had a rough idea of what we wanted to do from talking over email beforehand,” says host brewer, Alex Poulsen of Cheeky Monkey. “We knew we wanted to do something Belgian using our house yeast and something with a reddish colour, something nice and drinkable that would keep everyone happy, from the beer geeks to those just wanting a drink.

“Then Nick rolled in with the spices and the smell from the star anise permeated the brewery. We didn’t know if we had anything in the brewery to put them in to add them to the beer so at one stage were considering using Roxy’s stockings…”

In the end another solution was found and the rest of the brew day went smoothly. The beer, which will turn out around about 6 percent, will be launched at Five Bar’s South-West in the City during WA Beer Week. Kegs will also appear at The Pourhouse in Dunsborough as well as several of the British hating breweries.

The name has yet to be decided – they are looking at Bitsa (as it’s a bitsa everything beer) or Roxy’s Stockings (for obvious reasons) – to follow last year’s Council Worker, so named as there were so many brewers in the building that the was six or seven of them standing around with nothing to do for most of the day but supervise the one person working.

As for the inspiration for the collaboration, it first came from Colonial head brewer Justin Fox, who was keen to take advantage of the fact there are so many microbreweries in the region.

“It’s pretty special what we have down here,” says Alex. “The Brewers get on really well and drink each other’s beers. It’s a really good community.”

As for life at Cheeky Monkey, he says: “We are ticking along nicely. I’ve been tweaking the recipes [of former brewer Jared Proudfoot who is building a new brewery called Pirate Life in SA] and enjoying the calm of the winter period before things explode later in the year.

“We have a double IPA coming out in the next couple of weeks – 8.5 percent and stupidly hopped – and there will be a new addition to the core range.”

The South West in the City event is at Five Bar, Mt Lawley, on October 26, where the collab will be pouring as part of a celebration of beers crafted in south WA. There will be a south west inspired lunch board to match too. It kicks off from 12pm and tickets cost $50.00 and are available from Five Bar.


Australia Reigns Supreme

Crafty Pint / 10.09.14

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Australian brewers have taken out the two most prestigious trophies at the world’s largest package beer competition. For the second year running, Sydney’s Redoak won the Supreme Champion beer award. Last year, it’s sublime Special Reserve barrel-aged barley wine took the top prize with the 2014 trophy going to its Château Sour, a wild-fermented Flemish red. And, following up a trophy for its Australian IPA in 2013, this year saw Hawthorn Brewing Company named Supreme Champion Brewer after picking up a gold for its Golden Ale and three silvers for other beers.

“We are absolutely rapt,” says Hawthorn co-founder Peter Willis. “It’s a real honour. We did well last year getting the trophy but went better this time.

“[Fellow owner] Darren [Milo] lives in London now so went along to the awards on Monday night. He accepted the award and said it was a great night – when we got called up he was like, ‘What?!?’.”

Hawthorn marked five years as a brewing company this year, with the past 12 months their most successful yet, both in terms of sales and competition success. For the time being at least they continue to have brewer Hamish Reed’s recipes brewed under contract at BrewPack in Sydney, having previously utilised Mildura Brewery and Southern Bay, although Peter says the hunt for their own premises has been stepped up over the course of this year with the intention to find somewhere in – or at least close to – Hawthorn in time.

“These awards vindicate to some degree what we are doing,” he says. “Contract brewing can get a bad rap, but BrewPack brew a lot of beers for a lot of breweries yet only one is winning awards.”

He describes the Golden Ale, the latest addition to their core range – alongside Pale, Amber, Pilsner and Australian IPA – as “fruity and floral”, brewed with all Aussie hops Summer, Topaz, Galaxy and Pride of Ringwood.

“We missed out on entering it into the Australian International Beer Awards as we didn’t have any of the first batch in stock,” he says. “So we sent over some of the second batch to the UK and are very pleased.”

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Hawthorn’s trophy haul

Redoak’s co-founder and head brewer David Hollyoak (pictured above enjoying one of his supreme champion beers) said he was “pretty stoked” to take out the champion beer trophy for the second year running. He was especially pleased that the Château Sour had won the title as it is a beer that he has been playing around with for some years.

“I’ve always felt it’s a pretty special style of beer,” he says. “The malts we use are Château malts from the oldest family-owned maltings in Belgium [Castle Malting]. They have about 10 malts that are uniquely theirs and they give the beer these unique malt flavours.

“The beer is wild fermented in barrels, which give it a bit of wood, but as we use old barrels you don’t get too much. It’s more about the malts and the wild sourness: you get a hint of malt sweetness then really well balanced sourness. It’s a Flemish red so Rodenbach is probably the closest comparison. It’s a bit like the sweet and sour coke bottles you used to get as a kid: sweetness outside and sourness inside.”

The trophy follows success for Redoak’s Icebreaker, an eisbock that took out the top prize at the Queensland Royal Beer Show and was brewed for Redoak’s 10 year anniversary this year. Both beers are currently only available at the Redoak Cafe in Sydney’s CBD but there are plans to have some Château Sour ready for release in time for Christmas.

“I think it’s exciting that Australia is getting recognition for sours because there’s quite a few getting into them now,” says David. “Red Duck is doing some, Bridge Road brew some farmhouse ales, Two Metre Tall are doing sour ales and a Kriek, which is fantastic.

“What amazes me is that the ones I have tasted in Australia from people who have done it for the first time is that they have done an awesome job.”

The International Beer Challenge is the largest packaged beer competition in the world. This year a team of 30 judges – made up of brewers, retailers, publicans, flavour analysts and journalists from across the globe – awarded just 30 gold medals to the 570 beers entered. Beers were divided into six categories – ales up to 5 percent ABV, ales above 5 percent abv, stout or porter, lager, wheat beer and speciality beer. After the medals were awarded, the most experienced judges met in London to taste all the gold medallists before awarding the trophies.

You can view a full list of trophy winners and medallists here.


Setting Up Homestead

Crafty Pint / 08.09.14

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One of Australia’s most highly regarded brewers is set to return to the beer scene after a hiatus spent scouring the country for a new adventure. And he is doing so at the helm of a brand new brewery that means serious business. And by serious business, we mean serious, with the owners becoming the first in Australia, possibly even the Southern Hemisphere, to import a brewery from the world’s oldest established brewery manufacturer, Germany’s Kaspar Schulz, and planning to fully utilise barrels from the winery with which it shares a home for various ageing and sour beer programs.

The brewery is called Homestead and will pour the first beers at its 2,500 capacity Swan Valley home later this month. The brewer is Ron Feruglio, who first made his name creating beers under the Temple banner as a “gypsy brewer” on other people’s breweries around Victoria before helping to establish Temple’s own home in Brunswick East. Following a change of ownership last year, Ron left Temple before being lured out west by the grand vision of property developer Allan Erceg, who arrived in Australia from Croatia with his family in the 1950s and is establishing a multi-million dollar tourist attraction at Mandoon.

“It’s an opportunity to brew the beers that I like to brew, that I have a reputation for,” says Ron. “Everything is about quality – no compromises. It’s not about volume sales. The wine is premium, the food is premium and the beer will be premium.”

As for how he ended up swapping coasts, he says: “They heard I was looking for a project so we got in touch, I came over and spent the whole day chatting about it and looking at the place being constructed. It was very much a case of a meeting of the minds. There’s a really nice cross-pollenation [between the different elements of the business] to make it the best place we can.”

From a beer point of view, that extends to sharing the love between the winery, Mandoon Estate, and the brewery.

“There’s a great synergy between the two,” says Ron. “The winemaker [Ryan Sudano] only uses barrels once so I have an endless supply of wine barrels. We already have a barrel ageing and sours program in place. They’re going to build me my own cellar so I can keep the sours away from everybody.”

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Ron Ferulgio at his new home in the west

It sounds like the ultimate craft brewer’s playground, and even over the phone it’s easy to sense Ron’s enthusiasm for the project. For those interested in the details, his shiny new toy from the family-run Kaspar Schulz, which has been making breweries and brewing parts since 1677, is a fully automated, 20 hectolitre system comprising a mash kettle, separate lauter tun and a whirlpool. There are six 40 hectolitre fermenters, similar sized bright tanks, serving tanks to supply the three bars and 48 taps in total in the building. It is, he says, “a beautiful marriage between traditional look and method and modern cutting edge technology”.

“It was chosen for quality but it also has the looks,” says Ron. “It’s a showpiece with mirror polished stainless steel domes, backed up by the quality of craftmanship and history and tradition of its manufacturer.

“It allows me to do some really cool things too, like with the Hefeweizen [called Kaiser’s Choice] I brew it using a triple decoction technique – the old school way of doing it – and it’s tasting gorgeous.

“The results are outstanding: all German malts, a German brewhouse and traditional German brewing techniques – it’s as German as you’re going to get!”

The brewery and associated venues, which include the region’s original homestead, are located just 25 minutes drive from the centre of Perth, in an area already well served by microbreweries, with the likes of Mash Brewing, Feral, Duckstein and Ironbark all calling Swan Valley home. Alternatively, you can visit by boat; the venue has its own jetty on the banks of the Swan.

Once there, you can make yourself at home in the beer garden, a fine dining restaurant, the brewery tavern, a deli and provedore or pull up a pew on the deck overlooking the vineyard. To put things in perspective, there are 30 chefs there led by Michael Hartnell, whose CV takes in Eureka 89 in Melbourne as well as big name restaurants in New York and London. The site will play host to concerts for 1,500 people and the owners are opening a series of individual, architect-designed townhouses.

“It’s awesome,” says Ron. “A one-stop destination.”

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The restored original Swan Valley homestead

The owners will be hoping the brewery matches the success of the winery. Mandoon Estate is home to the oldest vines in the Swan Valley and, since releasing its first wines in 2012, has picked up numerous awards. Initially, the beers will only be pouring at the venue itself as Ron concocts enough to fill the taps, but the plan then is to put them on at select venues around Perth with the occasional excursion outside WA too. In fact, some of his beers will be on the lineup for The Alehouse Project’s next Hopfest.

As well as the Kaiser’s Choice and plans for the aforementioned barrel program, Ron has already brewed a pale ale, Belgian pale, a Munich helles style lager and a pilsner and will be making both a cider and perry in time for this summer while creating a barrel-fermented Normandy style cider for release next year featuring apples from a local orchard.

“Everything here is about keeping things local and real,” he says. “There’s a couple taking all of our spent grain to feed their pigs and cattle. We’ll then buy the pigs and cattle to use in the fine dining restaurant.”

He’s enjoying the experience of living and working in a different beer culture to Victoria too, describing craft beer around Perth as “a bit more established” and requiring less “looking over your shoulder to see what other people are doing”.

Which is all well and good, but the most important question is a very simple one: “Will there be a black IPA?”

The answer, happily, is: yes.

Homestead Brewery’s soft opening is on September 15. You can keep up to date with happenings there via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


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