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Crafty Pint

Your Guide to Australian Craft Beer / Thursday 24 April 2014

Up On The Hill

Crafty Pint / 23.04.14


A few months ago, a spy got in touch to tell us he had seen what could only be brewery tanks being craned over a wall close to his house in Clifton Hill. It turned out his eyes were not deceiving him and that his local corner pub – previously a rather more run-of-the-mill suburban Melbourne pub, complete with live music venue to the rear and a TAB – was about to undergo a reinvention as the city’s latest brewpub.

Today, the Clifton Hill Brewpub is up and running, with five of its own beers pouring through five of its 16, almost entirely craft, taps and bolstering the suburb’s claim to be the craftiest in Australia, what with the owners of Mountain Goat, one of the brewers from Moon Dog, the man behind La Sirene and two members of the Good Beer Week team all calling it home; not to mention the presence of quality venues such as The Terminus and the Royal Hotel Clifton Hill nearby. It would seem this latest venture from the family that has owned the pub for more than three decades is going rather well too – they may have five of their own beers on tap now but not that long ago they had none; within weeks of commencing brewing, they had sold out of all of their own beer.

The rebranded, redesigned pub – minus live music and TAB – opened in September but a licence to brew only came through in January. Since then, the five hectolitre brewery system that sits between the front bar and dining area, set up by brewery consultant and La Sirene founder Costa Nikias, has been put to work creating a range of beers that are only sold in house. To date, they include the Queens Parade Pale Ale (their entry-level beer), a delicious chocolate, nuts and mocha Dark Ale, a fruity, bitey American Pale Ale, a flavoursome, full-bodied yet dry Weizen and a fifth that we are yet to sample. An Irish red ale is also being brewed for this year’s Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, while they are hosting no less than three Good Beer Week events, all of which suggests they are rather serious about their foray into the craft beer world.

“Anthony [Molan, the owner] sourced Costa as he was after someone that could offer the whole package: designing and installing the brewery as well as the beers,” says manager Peter Fairley. “The original brief wasn’t for him to run the brewery as well but he stepped in and has been managing it with his assistant brewer from La Sirene, Tristan Barlow, while one of the other members of staff from the pub studies brewing at the University of Ballarat.”


Infiltrating and taking over – the steady expansion of their own bank of taps through the front bar

While the live music venue at the rear has been turned into a large dining and function area, the pub still hosts acoustic music in the front bar several times a week. For the most part, however, the focus is now on quality drinking and quality food in a venue that has undergone a total refurbishment – a gentrification, if you like – that reflects the transformation of Clifton Hill itself in recent years.

Change has been taking place in the Thirsty Camel bottleshop that is attached too. In fact, it was watching the rapid growth in popularity of craft beer within the bottleshop – where once there was a single fridge, now there is an entire wall of Australian and international craft beer with plans to expand further – that helped inspire the change within the main venue.

“We could see there was a changing beer scene and wanted to adapt to our changing clientele as well,” says Peter. “The aim was to brew beers that we would only sell here to create our own market.

“In time, we would love one bank of eight taps in the bar to be all our own products but keeping the decals facing up [in other words, in stock] is the issue because of the capacity we have. Still, having five taps of our own one when we’ve only been brewing since January is pretty good.”

While limited space does restrict their capacity, building the brewery within the pub has plenty of advantages. It is clearly visible from both the front bar and the restaurant thanks to the banks of glass that surround it – something that frequently leads to guests getting up mid-meal and peering in as the brewers go to work. What’s more, you would struggle to find beer anywhere in Australia that travels less distance between where it is brewed and where it is served; approximately eight metres, to be precise.


Costa admiring his handiwork as the latest batch of Queens Parade Pale takes shape

“It’s doesn’t get fresher than from there to here,” says Costa when we catch him at the venue in between his work with La Sirene (which we’ll be visiting at its new brewery in Alphington next week) and travelling the globe installing breweries. “We just want to create some really clean beers that appeal to the people around here.”

At The Crafty Pint, we have felt for years that the brewpub model is one that will thrive in Australia. Admittedly, we had been thinking more along regional lines – after all, how many country towns have a beautiful old pub that has fallen on hard times and closed because the TAB and pokies went to another one down the road and is thus ripe for reinvention as a brewpub with a handful of hotel rooms? But seeing the transformation of this venue in Clifton Hill and hearing that they are already struggling to keep up with demand for their own beers suggests we may soon welcome many more in the major centres too. Here’s hoping, anyway.

The Clifton Hill Brewpub is at 89 Queens Parade.

Strings 'N' Tins

Crafty Pint / 16.04.14


It may have taken them an interminable length of time before they were able to construct their brewery and brew their first beer but, since Six String Brewing poured that first dark red IPA, they have hit the ground running.

Last month, the Central Coast brewery celebrated its first birthday with a sell-out dinner and marked the occasion with the release of a double malt, quadruple hop version of their flagship IPA. They are steadily spreading their beers throughout New South Wales, with Queensland next on the agenda, then Melbourne. The limited releases keep on coming, with two plus the anniversary beer out now and another a week away. And, in just a few weeks, they will be installing their very own canning line.

“It’s going from strength to strength,” says Cameron Flett, the latest addition to the Six String team as self-titled ‘beer pusher and jack of all trades’. “The beers are going everywhere at the moment.”

Among them is the aforementioned first birthday beer, called simply One.

“The dark red IPA was the first one that Chris brewed here,” says Cameron. “It’s our flagship beer so to celebrate he thought why not make a double version of it. He doubled the malt, quadrupled the amount of hops and ended up with a 10.2 percent monster.

“It’s a sleeping giant, though. It’s so smooth in terms of alcohol. The hops are dominant as you’d expect but it’s not bitter, despite being 90 IBUs.”

The One is the brewery’s first packaged beer, presented in rather impressive 750ml bottles with, of course, an axeman giving it some with his guitar on the front. But it won’t be the last.

“We are getting a canning machine sent over from the States,” says Cameron. “We decided to go for cans instead of bottles for environmental reasons and also the impact on the beer itself. There’s also an increase in interest in cans too. Not just here, but in American market.

“We saw that trend over there and figured it would start here in Australia. We know of a couple of others that are moving into cans as well.”

They will be the fourth Australian microbrewery to start canning beer. First was the Australian Brewery in Sydney then, late last year, Melbourne’s Mountain Goat began canning Summer Ale offsite – a move that proved so popular they have now followed it up with Fancy Pants, while Mornington Peninsula Brewery recently released its Pale in cans too. Discussions at Six String have centred around which beer or beers will receive the package treatment. And it seems it might be a fair few.

“I had lunch with the head brewer to push for a definite answer on which beers would be going into cans,” says Cameron. “He says definitely the Pale. And then added that we should do that one. And that one. And that one.”

In other words, the entire core range – Hefeweizen, Golden Ale, Dark Red IPA and Pale – are all potentially up for a guernsey.

It’s not just the beer side of things that is going well for the music-lovin' brewers. The brewery’s tasting room, where they host dinners and guests can tuck into the chef’s “American tapas” on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays when the live music is on, is now the number one rated restaurant in the area on tripadvisor and is “kicking off every time it’s open” says Cameron, with guests unable to get enough of the sliders, pizzas, softshell crab and the like.

With strong support locally, as well as in the bigger Sydney and Newcastle markets, the Erina-based brewery looks well set. The Indie, a British IPA made entirely with British malts, hops and yeast, and Celtic Fusion, an oatmeal stout that has been infused with coffee from local legends Onyx Coffee, are out now, while a rerelease of Torhout – Werchter, a Belgian dubbel that first saw light of day in 2013, will follow soon.

Having had to wait three years to get their doors open, there’s little doubt they are making up for lost time.

“For a brand new job,” says Cameron, “I’ve got a lot of things to do…”

The Rivers Overrunneth

Crafty Pint / 08.04.14


Scottsdale used to be one of Australia’s most significant hop growing regions. Today, there is just one remaining hop farm in that part of northeast Tasmania, one which is growing the increasingly unfashionable Pride of Ringwood hops. But, thanks to the arrival of a new brewery, there is fresh reason for beer lovers to cast their eyes in that direction.

Little Rivers launched earlier this year, pouring beers at the equally new Saint John Craft Beer venue in Launceston for Craft Beer Rising and quickly attracting the attention of venues across the state. Already co-owner Chris Cairns has had to give up his other job, working at Pipers Brook Vineyard, to focus on keeping up with demand for his four beers, demand that has seen him working seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day.

“My partner and I both grew up in the northeast of Tasmania,” says Chris. “We are in a big forestry area and it’s struggling. We wanted to get a bit of a buzz back in town and, since we opened, all the locals have really got behind us. We are already in both local pubs and the bottleshops.

“Demand is just crazy.”

Although he is a Tassie local, Chris learnt the art of brewing at Burleigh Brewing on the Gold Coast after heading there with his partner Jess Coniston when she was studying in the area.

“I did a stint brewing with Brennan [Fielding] and learnt how to brew,” says Chris. “I had been winemaking for four or five years before that. He taught me a lot of things and I got the passion for beer and decided to run with it.”

His training helped guide the four beers that make up Little Rivers' offering to date, with the majority European-inspired: a European dark lager; a Kolsch; Hefeweizen; and a pale ale.

“Brennan is a Hawaiian brewer who learnt from German brewers,” he says. “He passed that on to me. I do plan to release some seasonals when we are not so busy and play around with IPAs and the like.”


The Little Rivers family

Little Rivers is very much a family affair. While Chris handles the majority of the brewing, packaging, labelling and other brewery duties, Jess' stepdad is handling much of the business side of things while Jess learned the ropes – while raising an 11-month-old and working part-time as a nurse.

The brewery itself is something of a homespun creation too. Lacking the funds to purchase a turnkey brewery, they created their own double decoction brewhouse, with Chris' uncle using his welding skills and some winery fermenters repurposed for beer. Originally they intended to build it on a family farm but, when a suitable site cropped up in Scottsdale itself, they snapped it up and now hope to add a cellar door ready for next summer.

As for their flying start and the subsequent long days and weeks, it turns out that there was demand for their beers before they had even got them ready.

“Venues found us on Facebook and social media,” says Chris. “Saint John rang us up and ordered kegs before they had even tasted the beers. I think it was just refreshing to have a another craft brewery in Tasmania.

“It’s a good scene down here. We are lucky to have the sort of community that has embraced us. In this area they are traditional Boags drinkers so it’s great to see them drinking our beer.”

Little Rivers is located at 22 Victoria Street, Scottsdale. You can keep tabs with their latest activities via their Facebook page.

Beyond Craft...

Crafty Pint / 03.04.14


Had enough of craft beer? Then how about cult beer? Clearly, the owners of a new bar in Melbourne feel it’s time to take things a little further, with Two Row announcing itself as a home for “cult beer, wine and spirits”. The intention is to pour nothing but the weird, the wonderful and the downright strange through their five taps and to line their fridges and shelves with off-kilter wines and spirits too. No accident, then, that among the beers pouring when they open today is Hipster Ale.

The arrival of Two Row continues the gentrification – or should that be craftification? – of the road once known as Smack Street, with new bars and eateries stretching ever further from the Gertrude Street end into the territory traditionally occupied by clothing outlet stores. Other recent openings in the vicinity include Lot 347, a bar offering more traditional craft beer fare directly next door, and La Condesa, a new Mexican bar/restaurant a couple of hundred meters away on Johnston Street with a sweet selection of beer on tap and in cans.

Two Row, which takes its name from the type of barley most popular in brewing, comes with impeccable craft beer credentials. It was conceived by Chris Menichelli (above left), the founder of Australia’s first craft beer only bottleshop Slowbeer, and Tiffany Waldron (above right) who, under the Beer Girl Bites banner, works throughout the craft beer industry advising on everything from social media to beer lists and is also part of the Good Beer Week team. The third owner is Stewart Went, who runs Cloud Wine in South Melbourne.

“We both wanted a bar and we both had the same idea so it made sense to open one together,” says Tiffany. “We started planning about a year ago and were originally looking in the western suburbs but nothing popped up.”

Then the venue on Smith Street became available and they headed to the inner north. There they have created as minimalist a bar as you are likely to visit. Downstairs, the walls are painted plain, decorated with just a handful of wooden crates and lined with small tables and chairs. The centrepiece is a large wooden table that would seem to lend itself to hosted tastings or to encourage communal drinking and socialising among guests. Upstairs, the walls are exposed brick with the room (or rooms) filled with tables, chairs and sofas; it almost feels like attending a house party, which would seem to fit with the laid-back vibe the owners wish to create – despite the “cult” status.


Communal cult boozing at Two Row

“We wanted to differentiate ourselves,” says Chris. “A lot of places are moving across to craft beer so we want to push the fact that we are more than that. Cult is a good term because we are looking to feature beers with a following.”

Hence why the other beers being tapped for opening include Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta and the latest draught arrival from Italian sour stars Loverbeer, a beer that has got every bar pouring it rather hot under the collar (“It goes from one to 100 in a second,” we were told by one enthusiast this week).

Aside from the five taps, there is a well curated bottle list and a cellar for ageing “ultra-rare and ultra-limited brews”, plus a small selection of wines and spirits. There will be food, in the form of grilled cheese sandwiches designed to match to different beers on tap, but they’re not quite ready to roll (or bubble) just yet.

Two Row is more than a bar, according to Tiffany. It is, she says, “a place to escape from the mundane and into a haven of intense hops, rarefied botanicals, and quirky vintages. Our mission is to showcase the best, the wildest, and the most passionate expressions of beer, wine and spirits.”

If that sounds like your kind of thing – and why would it not – then they open for business from 4pm today.

Two Row is at 351 Smith Street, Fitzroy, and will be open 4pm to 11pm Wed to Fri and from midday on weekends.

King Henrys

Crafty Pint / 02.04.14


While they may not have enjoyed Australia’s brand of cricket, it seems that the Brits rather like Australian beer. Hot on the heels of the success of Redoak, Hawthorn and 4 Pines at last year’s International Beer Challenge, another Aussie brewer has picked up a top title in the UK.

Earlier this year, Richard Adamson, head brewer and co-founder of Young Henrys, was invited to England by the organisers of the JD Wetherspoon Real Ale Festival. There he hooked up with Banks Brewery (pictured above brewing the beer) to create a traditional real ale version of his Real Ale. He was one of 10 international brewers invited to make a special beer for the festival – his third invite to take part – with 30 British brewers also creating new beers for the nationwide event.

At a launch event at the Trent Bridge Inn in Nottingham, a team of judges from breweries, the festival, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) sampled all 40 beers, with Richard’s Real Ale judged best in its class and taking out the Gold Medal as best overall beer in the festival too.

“I wasn’t even aware they did this,” says Richard. “They used to have an online poll of drinkers in which I managed to take the trophy on the previous two occasions I have taken part, but to take best beer of the festival is fantastic.

“When I came back to the guys [at Young Henrys] I said, ‘Don’t expect too much.’ I enjoy English bitters and drank some fantastic ones while I was over there so I thought we would get comments that it was a nice pint but not much more, but obviously the Aussie hops shone through. We used Ella, Topaz and Galaxy, with the star of the show probably the Topaz. The result has been backed up with what we are seeing on Untappd as the punters are really enjoying it too.”

The title is a welcome fillip at what is a busy time for Young Henrys. They turn two this month, after enjoying an incredible start to life in Newtown. A new brewery is due to be installed to make it easier to fill their recently arrived, much larger tanks and they’re about to release their 500th brew, a double version of their popular Hop Ale called Hop Van Damme.

“Since we started, we have doubled our capacity three times,” says Richard. “[Before launching] we set and together, Oscar, Ben and myself, and decided what we wanted the company to stand for and we have stuck to it. I think that has been the secret to our success: let’s make great beer but let’s have fun. Let’s get into the things that we love, like the arts and culture.”

Given how synonymous the brewery has become with Newtown, it seems amazing that initially they were looking to open in Surry Hills but were unable to get the requisite permits. Now they are on every other tap in the suburb, as well as its surrounds, and have even brewed a Newtowner beer.

“The people of Newtown are massively supportive,” says Richard. “We wouldn’t have had this success without them. Being here suits who we are better.

“Oscar and Ben have lived here many years and I used to come down here as a teenager seeking out inner-city punk bands.”

With former True South and Old Salt head brewer at Sam Füss in place and settling into the team, things look bright for the brewery. They even have another rockstar collaboration on the horizon. Last year, for their Rockstar Brews event at Cherry Bar during Good Beer Week, they originally intended to have Frenzal Rhomb on the bill. Jay Whalley’s nasty illness prevented that taking place, with the event rearranged for Melbourne’s Corner Hotel at this year’s festival instead. Discussions are underway as to what the beer will be, with a rather unusual ingredient being considered.

“We are experimenting with Jay’s dreads to see if we can get some yeast out of it. But the main battle is over the name,” says Richard.

They have narrowed it down to two options, however: Dick Sandwich or Punch in the Face.

The Young Henrys / Frenzal Rhomb beer will be launched at the band’s gig on May 23. Support will come from Front End Loader, will be bring a fresh batch of their 666 for the event. Tickets are available here.

Nail On Tap

Crafty Pint / 01.04.14


WA’s Nail Brewing has been at the forefront of the state’s craft beer industry for well over a decade now. Its founder, John Stallwood (pictured above), has also been instrumental in the rise of the W.A. Brewers Association, the Perth Royal Beer Show and much else that has promoted better beer locally and across Australia. Now, as of today, the brewery is taking possibly its boldest step yet to bring craft beer to the masses. It has hooked up with the local water board for a pilot scheme that will see the brewery’s popular Nail Ale pumped straight into almost 200 households local to the brewery in Bassendean.

Alongside the Water Corporation and the Town of Bassendean, that they will test 182 fixed beer lines into private home kitchens. The operation, which has been two years in the planning, will start pouring Nail Ale today.

The idea was sparked over a beer between the brewers at Nail Brewing and Andy Nylund from Water Corporation and, to date, has seen $1.1 million invested.

Brewer Dan Turley believes it will be “revolutionary”, with the aim to reach an estimated 100,000 people in Australia by 2017.


Dan checking out the tap supply before the pilot went live today

Investment was focused on factors such as:

  • Cooling the beer before pouring.
  • Keeping beer stability in stagnant lines.
  • Recording volume of beer.
  • Cleaning and rinsing pipe work.
  • Legal licensing issues

Dan says: “It’s good for the environment with less glass and less transport. Because we use less packing, less transport and excise on draught beer is cheaper, the consumer will end up saving the equivalent of about $8.85 per carton."

To achieve those savings, an average household will need to drink the equivalent of three cartons per week. Once the trial to the 182 homes has been completed, Nail aims to supply fresh beer to homes within 5 km of its brewery. Beyond that, each suburb will be installed with refrigerated serving tanks which can service approximately 1800 houses per week in a 5km radius.

Western Australia has a history of pioneering in craft beer, with the Sail & Anchor being the first microbrewery in Australia. This first shows their pioneering spirit remains intact.


An excerpt from the Water Corporation’s plans for Bassendean

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