Other than play around with its younger sibling, White Rabbit, when creating the Little Rabbit beer for the 2012 Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, Little Creatures has kept its brewing mitts to itself. Yet a few weeks ago, we heard there were plans for a collaboration with another brewer, one that the staff at the brewery were excited about but keeping close to their chest.
“Who could it be?” we wondered. And when the answer was revealed it was one that made perfect sense: the Challenge was to feature Creatures and Emerson’s, the iconic Dunedin brewery that was bought by Lion in 2012, just a few months after the multinational took 100 percent control of Little World Beverages, owner of Creatures and White Rabbit. The first of two brews took place in Dunedin a couple of weeks ago, when brewers from Freo headed to New Zealand, with the return brew taking place in WA last week, where Max Brearley was on hand to ask what it was all about…
With Richard Emerson heading over The Ditch to brew at Little Creatures in Freo, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a collaboration brew. But Richard and Freo head brewer Russ Gosling are quick to point out that this is a Challenge brew.
“What’s a Challenge brew?” you ask.
Well, in this case, each brewing team threw down a style and hop varietals for the others to have a crack at, for what could become an annual trans-Tasman challenge. No pilot brewing allowed, with the recipe worked out and honed on the day.
While the two breweries are Lion owned, there’s a wealth of differences between their set ups that spice up the challenge, from largely computerised (Creatures) to old school hands on (Emerson). Emerson explains that “it’s a challenge to each other and to the brewers. It’s about what we can learn. We brew in isolation so the opportunity to learn from each other is what this is about.”
The New Zealand leg of the challenge saw Russ and Brett Shore head to Dunedin, where they laid down the challenge of brewing an Australian red IPA using Topaz and Ella hops. It’s not a style Emerson’s had attempted previously, added to which the hop varieties were also a new to them. For Emerson, this is what the challenge is all about. That and the odd game of brew house pool, where the rivalry really came out.
It set the tone for the return challenge.
Russ explains: “It’s a saison that Richard has challenged us with. Traditional and true to style, no going mad with hops [they used just East Kent Goldings and Czech Saaz].
“It’s a style that’s well structured and unforgiving. It’s a technically difficult beer, so it can be very right or very wrong. Of course it’ll be very right!”
Historically the saison is perhaps the perfect seasonal offering to take us from Winter to Spring, which is a good thing as both beers will be out in late October in keg and available at all Single Batch stockists, which can all be found at the Little Creatures website here.
There was one more unexpected challenge too: that of getting Richard back to New Zealand.
“We didn’t want to let him go,” says Creatures marketing manager Ash Cranston. “He was great!”
Max Brearley writes on beer for all manner of publications in Australia and overseas and is one half of Offshoot Creative.
Who wouldn’t want to go to Beerland? Aside from the fact that it just sounds so damn appealing, it’s also conveniently located in the heart of Northbridge, Perth’s nightlife centre…
Northbridge Brewing Company by Beerland (NBC) is the latest WA brewery to open its doors to a thirsty public. It is a project many years in the making, with beer geeks across Perth long wondering when the doors would open. Their question was answered last week as the founders welcomed their first customers to a soft opening.
Commanding the 12 hectolitre brewhouse at NBC’s heart is Ken Arrowsmith, who was coaxed out of brewing retirement after just over four years spent running his own business. His love of beer goes back many years; in fact, he was involved in brewing Redback in its early days and speaks highly of Phil Sexton of Matilda Bay and Little Creatures fame. From there, his career takes in an impressive list of roles with larger breweries, including Swan and Toohey’s. You may well have “met” him too as it’s his caricature that features on cans of Emu Bitter.
“It sounded like too much fun not to get involved,” Ken says of his return to brewing at NBC. “I’ve always been interested in science and brewing and it’s just a wonderful industry to be involved in.”
The new, state-of-the-art brewhouse features a reverse osmosis water system, up to eight fermentation tanks upstairs, and serving vessels that will send the beer straight from the tanks to the drinker’s glass. The brewery fits snugly into its custom brewpub surroundings, while the building is textually interesting: a combination of exposed red brick, neon signage and industrial additions.
The impressive two-storey brewpub
Being a part of the community is literally built into the two-storey venue, complete with rooftop Skydeck, with parts of the bar taken from historic Perth buildings such as the old Ford factory and Perry Lakes stadium. It’s clear the NBC team hopes to become a part of the greater Northbridge community and is proud to be supporting other local businesses like Torres Butchers.
It’s a brewpub for the beer curious and newcomer as much as the beer geek. The initial Beerland range provides accessible craft beer while the bottle menu includes offerings from the likes of Sierra Nevada, Two Birds and 4 Pines to broaden the drinking experience.
In creating the core range, Ken brewed up to 30 prototypes before launching with a wheat, pale ale, lager and mild.
“Given our location we wanted a core range that was easily accessible,” he explains.
The Beerland Wheat is a Bavarian style beer, with unmistakable banana and spice on the nose and a soft, fruity and lightly spiced palate. The Beerland Pale Ale is fresh and crisp, using Galaxy hops and then dry hopped with Cascade. For anyone who likes a clean lager, the Beerland Lager carries a good dose of spice from the use of Saaz hops and a solid all German malt body.
The final core beer in the Beerland range is the Mild, not available at the time of writing but set to run through the brewhouse soon. Ken is promising a darker beer with more malt character and plenty of complexity. He also has plenty planned for one-off special brews, the first of which will make its way into production in the coming few months.
Glistening stainless steel
Visitors can line up a few of his wares to sample with a tasting tray, sign up for a Brew Master tasting package or dive in deep with what’s described as “a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a Brewer for a Day with Ken”.
“We’ve long recognised Western Australia as the home of the craft beer revolution in Australia and we were thrilled when Ken agreed to head up our brewery,“ says Beerland brewing director Michael Rasheed. "NBC aims to deliver a relaxed hospitality experience where exceptionally well-made beer is the focus.”
Since starting out as an assistant chemist at The Swan Brewery, Ken reflects positively on his career to date: “It has been filled with constant challenge and change,” he says.
But as much as the beer industry has evolved since our palates were introduced to Redback, he says it is still all about the beer.
“Make a good beer,“ he says. "Sell it to people who enjoy it.”
And who can argue with that?
NBC is adjacent to the Northbridge Piazza, on the corner of James and Lake Street in Northbridge. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, offering a full menu with various dining options throughout the day and night.
“So what?” you may ask, with good reason. “They must brew heaps of the stuff every week.”
And you’d be right. Except this pale ale wasn’t the familiar green-labeled Coopers Pale and the batch wasn’t their usual 85,000 litres, but a mere 1200 litres. What’s more, instead of using just Pride of Ringwood, the rather old school hop used in Coopers Pale, it featured that variety plus Cascade (for bittering) as well as Galaxy and French variety Triskel for flavour and aroma. Perhaps most crucially of all, it was brewed with a unique crop of barley. And, last but not least, it was the first time in its 152 year history that the largest Australian-owned brewery has ever collaborated with another brewer.
Their partner in this experimental brew was Alistair Turnbull (above right admiring the malt in the mash tun on brew day) from Lobethal Bierhaus, who had first met Tim Cooper (above left) at a beer industry conference before he’d even open the doors to his venue in the Adelaide Hills. And he wasn’t the only partner in the venture, as the original instigators of this unique brew were the people at the Botanic Gardens of South Australia.
They had grown some Navigator barley as part of an ongoing mission to highlight the connection between nature, agriculture and what we consume, and had approached Coopers to sponsor the project. Given the amount of barley being produced, it “wouldn’t touch the sides” of Coopers' brewery, according to brewery operations manager Nick Sterenberg, so they approached their friend in the Hills and the first collaboration in 152 years of unbroken brewing was born.
“We grew this barley in the Botanic Garden to bring home to people the connection between agriculture and what we all eat and drink,” explains Nick.
“Last year, the Botanic Garden grew wheat and used that to make some artisanal pasta. This year, they grew barley and asked us to sponsor it and we said we should try to turn it into beer.
“The quantity was so small that it wouldn’t touch the sides of our brewery. We know and love Alistair and we thought, ‘Coopers has never done a collaboration brew with anybody in 152 years, if we are going to work with another brewer, let it be Alistair and let’s have a bit of fun.’'
The barley – a variety developed by the University of Adelaide – was malted by Joe White before being transported to Lobethal, where Al and a couple of brewers from Coopers used it to create a pale ale more in the New World tradition of the one Lobethal brews year round.
Dr Tim Cooper said: “The amount of barley available was too small for us to process through our brewery, so we looked for alternatives and our friends at the Lobethal Bierhaus had the right equipment for the job.
“We approached them about collaborating with us on the project and Alistair Turnbull, the owner
and brewer of the Lobethal Bierhaus, was happy to help."
He certainly was, describing the people he has come to know at Coopers over the past eight years as part of a business that “really does behave like a family”.
“They’ve done things for me in the past – water samples and so on – and are lovely blokes,” says Al. “I met Tim Cooper at an IBD conference in 2006 before I opened Lobethal. We had registered as Adelaide Hills Craft Brewing and that must have caught Tim’s eye as he came up and introduced himself to us. We didn’t even have the brewery yet, but he was a total gentleman.”
As for this week’s venture, he says: “In the process [of the barley growing project] Nick Sterenberg rang me and said they wanted to do a brew with this barley but the amount was too small. I thought, ‘#$%^ing hell! Collaborate with Coopers!’
“I’d always had this false illusion that one day I’d brew a 100,000 litre batch of my double-hopped IPA at Coopers and spread it all over Australia…”
While that may remain a pipe dream, being chosen as Coopers' first brewing partner is no mean feat and follows his multiple collaborations with the Yeastie Boys and The Wheaty – not bad for someone whose father warned him off becoming “a drunk’s labourer” and who spent 20 years in the world of banking before following his brewing dream.
The beer, called Botanic Ale, will be available in keg and bottle from October 29 at Lobethal Bierhaus and the bar at the Adelaide Botanic Garden, with proceeds going to the Botanic Gardens, whose director Stephen Forbes (above centre), said: “Our visitors watched the barley crop grow, experiencing agriculture in the heart of the city, and through the production of Botanic Ale are able to make the link between cultivating a crop and creating a great product."
But will it lead to further collaborations by Coopers?
“There’s no plans to do any more collaborations,” says Nick. “We’ve always been a friend to the craft brewers and microbreweries – those who are the more genuine ones. We are all fellow brewers and we all want to help them prosper.
“[As we said to Alistair] he only has to keep it up for another 145 years to be as big as us.”
The organisers of the Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA) have announced a new format for next year’s competition as well as confirming the identity of the Head Judge for 2015 and 2016. Judging will take place in the three days immediately leading up to Good Beer Week allowing the judges, many of whom travel to Melbourne from overseas, to stay on for the festival and attend the Gala Dinner. Previously, judging took place several weeks before the festival.
And, having stepped into the Head Judge role in an interim manner in 2014, Little Creatures head brewer Warren Pawsey has been confirmed in the role for the next two years.
“It was a great privilege to lead a team of talented judges with a diverse mix of backgrounds and a wealth of experience for the first time this year,“ he says. "When the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria approached me to continue my role as Head Judge I was thrilled to accept. The awards are incredibly important to the global brewing industry and a wonderful opportunity for brewers of all sizes to mix with the best in the business.”
Warren has more than 27 years of experience in the beer and brewing industry and has been a judge at the World Beer Cup, the Great American Beer Festival and the New Zealand Beer Awards.
“Warren’s extensive experience and global knowledge has made him a valuable part of our dedicated team and we are thrilled that he has agreed to stay on as Head Judge,” says
RASV CEO Mark O’Sullivan. “Many thanks also go to our previous Head Judge, Brad Rogers. It’s been a privilege to have such a passionate and prolific judge in our midst.”
In response to industry feedback, the AIBA will hold its judging period from May 13 to 15, in the lead up to the 2015 Good Beer Week, which runs from May 16 to 24. The awards are conducted by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV) in partnership with Federation University Australia.
The key dates for anyone wishing to enter their beer for the awards are:
Entries Open: January 27
Entries Close: March 6
Judging: May 13 to 15
Awards Presentation: May 21
Registrations for venues wishing to take part in Good Beer Week 2015 open on October 1.
Like a sculptor chipping away at a giant block of granite (albeit a block that keeps growing at a rate of knots), we’re steadily making progress through the list of venues and breweries keen to be featured in our various directories. It’s been a while since we last did a roundup of the latest to join the fold so figured it was about time we did another in case you missed any when we announced their arrival via social media. What’s more, there have been nine new additions since we last did this and that’s a perfect number for creating one of our postcard montage photos as above.
Anyway, without further ado, and in no particular order…
Low Buy Liquor
A goldmine of great beer on the edge of the Yarra Valley. Ever since deciding to embrace the world of craft beer wholeheartedly, the staff have gone nuts, filling ever more of this bottleshop in a Lilydale mall with the best beers from Australia and overseas. They hold regular, sold out beer dinners at nearby Lilydale General too.
Like a new government in its early days in power, the hotel group that owns the four-storey Sweeney’s in Sydney’s CBD has been indulging in a spot of top down reorganisation. The rooftop has become a city centre haven for beer lovers amid the Sydney skyline, hosting regular tap takeovers and meet the brewer sessions.
New owners took over the Welcome in Rozelle and gave it such an amazing new lease on life that this year it was named Time Out Sydney’s Pub of the Year. It’s a turnaround centred on great craft beer, delicious food and creating an old school community vibe, just how pubs should be.
Based in a small industrial unit in Mount Kuring-gai in the north of Sydney that it shares with Habby Goblin, Ekim is a brewery with a love of hops, especially big, punchy American ones. They’re a feature of pretty much every release, with the beers winning over drinkers all along the East Coast.
Clifton Hill Brewpub
This former live music venue and haunt for Melbourne’s Irish community has been reinvented (not for the first time) by its owners. Today, it’s a smart pub, bar and restaurant, with a busy and craftily stocked drive thru bottleshop attached and, most crucially, its own 600 litre microbrewery smack bang in the middle pumping out beers you can enjoy just metres from where they’re brewed.
One of the driving forces behind the craft beer boom in Brisbane, Green Beacon opened its doors in early 2013, turning a warehouse in Teneriffe into a brewery and bar. A colourful core range is embellished with a series of regular limited releases, with a number set to be released locally in cans soon.
The original Beer DeLuxe in Fed Square is much changed since originally featured on the site. Significant investment has gone into developing its two urban beer gardens and the beer selection covers a broader spectrum than at the most pointy-headed times in its past. CUB has installed copper tanks and takes up residence on a few taps with the remainder free to feature an evolving array of craft beers, from the approachable to the outlandish, with the fridges offering further choice.
Another big pub chain entered the world of craft beer and did it with all guns blazing at the Quarryman’s. They took a faded venue, injected much-needed love and began pouring 20 taps of craft beer and hosting a regular lineup of popular beer events.
King St Brewhouse
This former James Squire Brewhouse changed owners last year, with the new ones bringing in a new brewer to create a range of beers under the Red Tap Brewing Co banner. They tap regular seasonals, play around with nitro and filling a “Randall” with hops, fruit, spices and more – and all in the heart of Darling Harbour.
We’ve got heaps more in the pipeline that we’ve already visited and then a bunch more after that so look out for more great venues to visit and breweries whose beer you can hunt down over the coming weeks and months. If only there were more hours in the day…
In less than three weeks, what’s becoming an ever larger annual trans-Tasman migration of Aussies to Wellington will be well underway. The goal is Beervana, New Zealand’s biggest craft beer festival, as well as the lure of checking out one of the craftiest cities in the beer world. The festival itself takes place over two days and four sessions at the city’s Westpac Stadium and, both inside and outside the stadium, visitors can look forward to plenty of awesome beery action, drawn not just from New Zealand but across the globe too.
Around 12,000 people are expected to attend sessions, sampling hundreds of beers, eating great food, meeting marvellous people and soaking in the atmosphere of a city where Yeastie Boys Stu McKinlay reckons 50 percent of the draught beer poured is craft.
“It’s an exciting time to be part of the craft brewing industry in New Zealand, with Beervana showcasing some of the best in the country as well as profiling beers from some of the newer breweries to hit the scene,” says Beervana director David Cryer.
“With the additional element of our ‘Beervana Exchange’, where three award winning brewers will be here from Portland, as well as other events within Beervana such as specialist beer seminars, home brew and media brew competitions and the launch of the New Zealand chapter of the Pink Boots Society, which supports women in the brewing industry, there will be something for everyone.”
With so much going on, here’s a snapshot of some of the highlights for those lucky enough to be making the trip.
More than 250 beers from 60-plus breweries will be showcased over the four sessions. With the Kiwi beer industry a few steps ahead of that in Australia, if it’s your first visit you can expect to be dazzled, as you’ll find some incredible beers on offer from breweries whose beers never make it to Australia – as well as from those whose do.
More Aussie breweries are sending beer across than before too, while The Crafty Pint’s founder might even pop up at the Australian bar at some point for a Kiwi launch of this. You can check out the brewers (both Aussie and otherwise) on display here; NB there will be a few more Aussies than listed after we prompted a handful to get on board with a keg or two after this list was published.
We returned from our first visit to Beervana in 2012 having been as impressed by the food as the beer; who wouldn’t be when breakfast on day two was black pudding, scallops and chorizo next to the Tuatara stand, with freshly shucked oysters to follow later in the day?
Once again, the culinary side of the event is being curated by one of the city’s most respected chefs, Martin Bosley, who says: “I’ve brought together some of Wellington’s best restaurants, ensuring that each provides a sensational variety of food, all different, yet all complementing or contrasting the craft beers available. “As the quality of craft beers has improved, so has our understanding of just how important it is to match the food to them. Frankly, this year’s lineup shows just how much craft beer has been embraced by the capital’s restaurants.”
The eateries include: Boulcott St Bistro, Big Bad Wolf, Epicure, Grill Meats Beer, House of Dumplings, Monsoon Poon, The Fire Truck, The Goose Shack, The General Practitioner and Tommy Millions.
David Cryer says: “Through the seminars attendees can experience Beervana at different levels, whether it’s about extending their knowledge of brewing, or how to pair beer with food, or having the opportunity to taste award winning craft beers from other parts of the world.”
The inaugural Taste of Portland seminars offer a chance for attendees to meet the brewers and try the beers of the World Beer Cup Medal Winners from Portland: Gigantic Brewing Company; Commons Brewing; and Widmer Brothers. Portland-inspired culinary delights will be presented by specialist beer chef Paul Kasten, also from Portland.
Look out for Home Brewing Masterclasses led by brewers from Panhead Custom Ales, Fork Brewing, Liberty and Epic, as well as Beer and Cheese seminars run by local cheese expert Wendy Adams. All seminar spots are booked in advance when buying your festival tickets – and some are already sold out – so jump online quick here.
Media Brew Beers
Also on offer will be the largest collection of Media Brews yet. Each year, Beervana organisers invite media to pair up with a brewer to create a new beer (this time with the theme “Spring”) to be judged by industry professionals. There will be a Media Brew bar this time around too.
In the past, the experiments have led to commercial beers such as Epic’s Epicurean Coffee & Fig beer, while we seem to recall Yeastie Boys experimenting with the sort of technique in 2012 that they’ve used in their recent Spoonbender Defender collaborations with Some Young Punks.
Sadly, our plans to enter following the win for the Auld Bulgin' Boysterous Bicep with Murray’s in 2012 have been scuppered by some dastardly unforeseen circumstances at both Crafty Towers and for head brewer Shawn Sherlock. There will be other Aussie entries from Brews News and The Shout as well as one from the US to check out though.
The City of Wellington
You could head to Wellington in any of the other 51 weeks of the year and still have an amazing, beer-themed trip. The city is awash with amazing venues and has a growing number of breweries too, such as Garage Project, Panhead Custom Ales and ParrotDog.
The city is also home to a forward-thinking city council that has helped fund Craft Beer Capital. It’s a resource and promotional tool for all things craft in Wellington and also one of the best places to start when planning a spot of self-guided beer touring while over for Beervana. Here’s hoping more Australian councils take a leaf out of Wellington’s book and start backing some of the great festivals and events taking place here too.
The Beervana Trade Show is being held on the afternoon before Beervana opens to the public (August 21) and is for the brewing industry, retailers, restaurants, bars, caterers, media and others wanting to develop their business with the brewing industry.
It is being held from 2pm to 4pm in the new Mezzanine Lounge at the stadium, with craft beer tastings will be on offer during the afternoon. Anyone wishing to attend can register here.
Photo of Westpac Stadium at the top by Jed Soanes.