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Crafty Pint

Your Guide to Australian Craft Beer / Wednesday 16 April 2014

Frankenstein of Bickley

Jeremy Sambrooks / 14.03.14

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Bottleshops with growler filling stations are wonderful things, and not just because they allow us to drink fresh, draught beer in the comfort of our own homes. They also offer an extra point of sale for small, independent breweries that don’t bottle their beer – something that is particularly commonplace in Western Australia. One of the fresher names on the WA scene is Bickley Valley Brewery, whose beers having been pouring from the Pegas at Cellarbrations at Carlisle since late last year. Few would have heard of the relatively new microbrewery, yet already Bickley Valley beers are finding their way into the fridges of happy drinkers.

Situated in the Perth Hills, 30 minutes from the CBD, Bickley Valley Brewery is a production brewery and the long-time project of its brewer and owner, Brad Harris. We caught up with Brad for a chat about how he came to be in the position of running his own craft brewery.

“I started brewing 15 years ago with a trusty Coopers home brew kit, a complete lack of knowledge, and a thirst for real beer,” he says. “After not liking my first introduction to beer, it wasn’t until a mountain biking friend offered me a Coopers Pale that I realised not all beer is the same. One sip and I was hooked, but with the high price and a lack of stockists, I decided I should have a go at making my own.

“I started with pots and can kits in my kitchen, then moved onto my homemade 50 litre gravity fed nanobrewery for full mash brewing, which I still use for pilot brews and experiments.”

What started as a money-saving hobby quickly became a passion and, within a few years, Brad found himself learning firsthand from one of WA’s most experienced craft brewers.

“My first taste of professional brewing was ten years ago with Jan Bruckner (of Last Drop Brewery), a Czech master brewer in Perth,” says Brad. “It was by pure luck – right time, right place – and it got me even more interested in large scale brewing and the mechanical engineering side of things. Jan is my idol and my mentor.”

After his stint at Last Drop with Jan, an opportunity arose for a head brewer at Elmar’s in the Valley, a microbrewery in the Swan Valley. Brad jumped at the opportunity and held the position of head brewer at Elmar’s for six years. Being a German-themed brewery, all the beers at Elmar’s are brewed to the Reinheitsgebot – the Bavarian purity law of 1516 which states that the only ingredients permitted to be used in the production of beer are water, barley and hops (yeast having yet to be discovered). Happily, this was a good fit with Brad’s own brewing philosophy.

“My philosophy toward brewing is to keep it all natural,” says Brad. “I am a big believer in the Reinheitsgebot purity law and Bickley Valley Brewery strictly abides by this natural process. I’ve tinkered with the odd experimental home brew with orange peel, coriander etc, but I always go back to the real thing.”

It was during his time at Elmar’s that Brad first began working on opening his own brewery.

“The concept of starting a wholesale microbrewery was dreamed up in 2007 when a friend of mine offered 50 square metres of a shed on his property in the Bickley Valley,” says Brad. “I came across some heat exchanger plates for a bargain price and bought them, and next thing I knew I was sourcing equipment to construct a brewery piece by piece.

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The brewery’s home

“I registered the business name Bickley Valley Brewery in 2007 and the welding courses I did after high school finally had some real use. I designed, constructed and welded the whole project myself with the odd bit of advice or lend of equipment from friends and a lot of help from my parents – thanks guys! From the original hand drawn design to the finished brewery has been a long hard road, but the final product is very close to the sketch of many years before.”

The 20-hectolitre ‘Frankenstein’ brewery now produces two beers under the Bickley Valley name. The first is a German-style Kolsch, which won a bronze medal at the 2013 Perth Royal Beer Show (no higher awards were given for Kolsch). The second is an American-style Pale Ale brewed with a generous amount of Cascade hops. Space permitting, Brad has plans to add an English Bitter and a German Hefeweizen to his lineup in the future.

Bickley Valley Brewery’s beers are available for growler sales at Cellarbrations Carlisle as well as on tap at Clancy’s Canning Bridge, the Kalamunda Hotel, Lesmurdie Club, and the High Wycombe Tavern with more venues in the pipeline. There are no plans to bottle the beers, though Brad is looking into the possibility of 5 litre party kegs.

You can contact Brad on (08) 9258 5552 or by email – bickleyvalleybrewery@iinet.net.au.

Follow the author of this article, an award-winning home brewer himself, on Twitter here.


Good Beer Week '14 Is Go!

Crafty Pint / 12.03.14

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Tickets are now on sale for Australia’s leading celebration of the best of the local and international beer world. The official program for Good Beer Week 2014 went live this morning. The fourth running of the annual festival sees 200 events taking place at 160 venues across Melbourne and Victoria. It runs from May 17 to 25, with the exception of the official Opening Party, which is being held on the evening of May 16.

Print programs are now available at all participating venues and will be appearing elsewhere across Melbourne and Victoria too. The official program launch takes place this evening and tomorrow at Ormond Hall, part of Village Melbourne, in St Kilda Road, Melbourne. This Good Beer Week Gala Showcase features 25 Australian brewers, free Masterclasses (including some run by The Crafty Pint) and casual beer and food pairings. There will also be a stand for the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS), which this year runs on the final weekend of Good Beer Week as part of the official program.

As in 2013, the program has been split into five streams, although these have been tweaked slightly for 2014. They are Beer 101 – presented in conjunction with Little Creatures, Beer Lover – presented in conjunction with BWS, Beer Geek – presented in conjunction with Bintani, Good Times – presented in conjunction with Time Out Melbourne, and Foodie. For more on what each of those streams represents, we have reproduced the festival’s guide to them below. There are more than 60 events with free entry this year too.

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The Pint of Origin returns, presented once again by The Crafty Pint. As ever, there are venues are dedicated to each Australian state. And, for the first time, we have responded to the popularity of the Pint of Origin concept by welcoming the rest of the world into the fold. As such, there are now four international venues.

Closer to the event, you will be able to check what is pouring at each venue via the festival’s website as they will be out of update their tap lists online live. For more, head here.

Limited tickets are still available for the Good Beer Week Gala Showcase. They can be purchased here and there may be some available on the door both this evening and tomorrow. They cost $30 plus booking fee per person for which you receive 20 tasting tokens for beer samples and a voucher to try four different food pairings prepared by the chefs at Village Melbourne.

Tickets for Good Beer Week itself are also on sale via the festival website. Dive in, take a look around and get excited. We are!

The Good Beer Week 2014 Streams

Beer 101

The place to go if you are new to good beer, keen to learn the basics or just want to have some simple educational fun with top notch tipples in your hands. Beer 101 is presented in conjunction with Little Creatures, who are turning their Dining Hall in Brunswick Street into Good Beer College for the week. This is your chance to turn yourself from a beginner to a pro. Heck, there’s even going to be a Graduation Ceremony at Good Beer College for star students.

Beer Lover

If you’ve already embraced good beer and know what you’re looking for, then Beer Lover has heaps of events to satisfy your every beery whim. There are unique cask ale showcases, copious chances to meet brewers from home and abroad, delectable beer and cheese and beer and tea evenings and much more. The headline Beer Lover event could even be the festival’s most spectacular yet: Brooklyn Brewery’s brewmaster Garrett Oliver going head to head with Martin Spedding, owner of five star Mornington Peninsula winery Ten Minutes By Tractor, in a beer versus wine battle at Melbourne’s iconic Vue de Monde.

Beer Geek

Where would Good Beer Week be without the beer geeks? They’re the faithful who are always on the hunt for something new, never shy with their opinions and allow us to be daring with our programming, pushing the boundaries of where beer events can go. Alongside the third Good Beer Week live collaboration brew, this time the Masterclass of Madness featuring Moon Dog and Rogue, there are chances to get involved in brewing, sour beers, spirits and a banquet based around Russian Imperial Stouts.

Foodie

At the first Good Beer Week, there was a running joke that every beer dinner had to feature pork belly. It makes the evolution of the pairing of good beer and fine food within the festival quite remarkable. In 2014, the Foodie stream is the biggest, crammed with events that elevate the concept of beer and food pairing to new heights and prove that good beer, presented in the right manner, is the match for any beverage in any establishment. The Mega Dega returns too, this time with Matt Wilkinson of Pope Joan heading up an all star team of beer-lovin' Melbourne chefs alongside six Australian and international brewers.

Good Times

The popularity of events at the 2013 festival at which entertainment came first, such as a Secret Cinema, Rockstar Brews at Cherry Bar and a boat trip of the harbour, led to the creation of the the Good Times stream, presented with Time Out Melbourne. The festival kicks off with a spectacular opening night party featuring live music, awesome beers and star guests and takes in shows at the Coopers Malthouse, beer cocktails, the Blues Train, Puffing Billy, barbecues, live music, comedy, board games – even a workout in Flagstaff Gardens (followed by beers, of course).GBW-2013-montage-small


Fill Yer Boots

Nick O / 11.03.14

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It takes little more than a cursory glance around the room at an industry event – or perhaps a quick game of ‘count the beards’ – to realise the beer world is rather dominated by males. But, ever so slowly, that balance is being redressed. Nowadays, you’ll find an increasing number of women working both in front of and behind the scenes to get some of your favourite local beers from brewery to bottle to bar and beyond. Whether that means doing the physical brewing, having ownership in a company, hitting the road as brewery representatives, hosting educational events, organising festivals, running beer bars and everything else in between, there’s a notable and welcome hint of the woman’s touch.

Helping lead the charge in ensuring this trend continues Down Under, Australia has an all-female brewing collective known, rather aptly, as the Women of Beer. It consists of a cast of characters from across the wider beer spectrum whose raison d'etre is to get together annually, brew a collaborative beer and use the occasion as an opportunity to raise the profile of women in the beer industry.

On Saturday just gone, the collective assembled for their fourth brew, one that saw a few changes to the usual order of business. The first was that the venture went interstate; where all previous Women of Beer brews had been done in Victoria, this new version was brewed at Young Henrys in Sydney (where WoB stalwart Sam Füss recently signed on as a head brewer). The second is that the brew was scheduled to be a part of the International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day (IWCBD). And there was a smattering of fresh faces too, with Allison MacDonald from Matilda Bay and Charlotte Grant and recent Good Beer Week / Temple Brewing Scholarship winner Carrie McLachlan, both of Little Creatures Brewing, along for the ride.

“The brew day was great,” says WoB founding member and Beer Diva Kirrily Waldhorn. “We had a few newbies to the Women of Beer Collective, which was fantastic. It’s always great to be extending the circle and meeting other inspirational women in our industry.

“We were super organised with a schedule mash-in at 10am, and by quarter past we had mashed in and were set to go. There were no issues along the way thanks to the incredibly efficient brewhouse at Young Henrys which Sam has well and truly become one with.

“It all went like clockwork really and by 2pm, we were into fermentation. Another great brew day with the gals.”

The IWCBD is a global initiative that involved assembling teams of women from the beer industry in various countries and doing much as our own Women of Beer have been doing: brewing a beer and helping make a bit of noise about the growing role of women in the industry. The idea was that each collective would follow the same recipe guideline to produce the same beer, albeit with slight changes allowing for a few local tweaks. That brief was to brew a 4 percent pale ale using Cascade hops.

With the Women of Beer not being afraid to dabble in different and somewhat bolder styles (previous releases include a spiced Belgian Tripel called Ninkasi’s Angel, Hildegarde’s Chardonnay barrel-aged Bière de Garde and 2013’s Heilala Vanilla Milk Stout), a lightish pale ale wasn’t necessarily the next logical choice – notwithstanding the fact that they’d already been plotting the new recipe prior to getting involved with the IWCBD. So, having contacted the organisers to get the OK, it was agreed that the Women of Beer wouldn’t brew a pale ale but they would still follow the general guidelines, such as using Cascade hops. It was, in effect, the same cause but a slightly different beer. Well, perhaps a little more than slightly because what they’ve brewed is a Salted Caramel Ale.

“We always want to brew something that’s a little outside of the box and given the timing of the brew day and the release of the beer being some time in Autumn, we thought a brown ale would be great for the cooling climate,” says Kirrily Waldhorn, the Beer Diva. “I had just made a dessert using salted caramel and thought, ‘Why not!’

“We chatted about how we could create the flavours starting at potentially brewing a gose [a salty, sour beer of German origin] but then decided a rich, malty brew with the addition of Murrays Pink Salt (a nod to females!) should work. The wort was tasting incredible on the day so we are all really excited for this beer.”

Some of the profits from the sale of the beer – as with the rest of the IWCBD brews – will go towards the Pink Boots Society which encourages females to follow and advance careers in the brewing industry and helps with things such as scholarships. As for when and where the beer will be released, that’s yet to be confirmed but stay tuned for details, including those of the Women of Beer showcase taking place as part of Good Beer Week 2014, for which the program goes live on March 12.

The lineup for the 2014 Women of Beer brew pictured above featured (left to right) Kirrily, Sam, Michelle Payne, Allison, Charlotte, Tiffany Waldron (Beer Girl Bites), Agi, Chloe Lovatt (Matilda Bay), Carrie, Csilla Swain (Spiegelau Glassware).


The Circle Of Hops

Crafty Pint / 05.03.14

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The sense of community within the craft beer world, both in Australia and elsewhere, is one of its most remarkable aspects. There is a willingness among businesses within the industry to share knowledge not always found in other industries as well as an eagerness to promote better beer as a whole rather than individual breweries or venues.

On top of that, there are frequently projects or ventures that seek to bring beer lovers and brewers together. And now, in the shape of the Community Hop Ale, we have another. It is one conceived by fledgeling Melbourne nanobrewery Make Beer and one in which The Crafty Pint is delighted to be a partner. What’s more, it’s all about hops. In particular, your hops, which are due for harvest any time now.

One half of Make Beer is beer rep Steven Germain (above right with We Make Beer partner in crime Dan). At his home, he has 12 hop plants that he will be harvesting this weekend. His intention was always to create a fresh hop beer with them and, in part inspired by the fact he may not have enough flowers to do a 100 litre batch justice and also by a desire to launch a community project, he decided it would be even more fun if said beer featured hops grown by other people in their respective backyards.

“Last year I had five plants growing at home and brewed a pilsner with them,” says Steven.“I took a bunch of cuttings and doubled the plantings, ended up with all these hops and figured we should do a fresh ale.

“I have friends that grow their own hops too so we came up with the idea of making it a bigger and more interactive project. The idea is that anyone who is growing hops at home and has some to spare can email me with what they have and how much they can donate – even if it’s just a handful or a small baggy – and we will then use all of them to create two kegs of a fresh hop beer called the Community Hop Ale. This never to be repeated beer will then be launched at an event at which everyone who has contributed some hops can come along in the knowledge that part of this commercial beer is theirs.”

Make Beer is one of the latest and most unique additions to the Australian craft beer scene. They brew just two 50 litre kegs of beer in each batch and have created some rather unusual beers in their short life. Ingredients used to date include chamomile, kaffir lime, lemongrass, chestnuts, raisins – even crispy bacon…

The plan is that this project will have rather greater longevity than some of these deliberately one-off beers. Once costs are covered, the intention is to donate proceeds from the sale of the two kegs to Melbourne venues to sponsoring a site through the not-for-profit group 3000 Acres. They do work around Melbourne converting unused plots of land into community gardens; the idea for the money raised by the Community Hop Ale – hopefully embellished by a contribution from the two venues from the sale of the beer – is to create a community hop garden. In other words, bring together the people involved in creating the beer to plant rhizomes on a plot and grow hops to be used in future Community Hop Ales.

The first step is the “call for hops”.

“I imagine that there are a few people around growing hops,” says Steven, “and also salivating over what to do with them. We wouldn’t want to take away from their prized whole cone homebrew so we we’re just asking for a handful or two from willing participants.

“Essentially, we don’t care what type of hops they are, it’s all good stuff. Everyone who throws in will be recognised and invited to participate in a beer event related to the creation they’ve helped shape.”

If you have hops and would like to get involved, all you have to do is email Steven via the address linked here with the title Community Hop Ale and include your name, address, contact number, the type of hops, quantity available and anticipated harvest date. Being on the road as a rep, he is happy to do some traipsing around the city making collections.

At this point, the beer style is yet to be decided; much will depend on what hops and how many are collected. And, while we have an idea of how and when the two kegs will be launched, this is still to be nailed down. However, time is of the essence with hop harvest season upon us. So, if you are about to pluck the cones from your lovingly tended bines, get in touch with Steven pronto.


Going Public

Crafty Pint / 03.03.14

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Almost a year ago to the day, we were sent a tweet from someone who had spotted a sign on the wall of a warehouse in Croydon. The sign read “The Public Brewery” and led to a few responses hoping that this meant craft brewing was about to stretch its tentacles of little further into Melbourne’s outer reaches.

These hopes were not in vain, with The Public Brewery’s opening as imminent as imminent can be. And not only is it almost here, but it’s also rather unique.

As well as operating its own microbrewery setup, it will have eight 50 litre kettles offering “brew on premise” for people wanting to come in and make their own beer, making it something of a kindred spirit of Brisbane’s Bacchus Brewing. And, on top of that, there is a bar with dining hall, a bottleshop, which opened a month ago stocked with beers from independent micros all over the country, and a selection of Victorian wines from the Yarra Valley.

The owners are on the hunt for a head brewer to head up their own production and offer guidance to anyone that wants to come in to brew their own beer (see advert here). And they took time out to tell us a little about their plans.

The brewery and venue is located in a converted seed and grain warehouse. They plan to run the first batch of beer through the system this week and estimate that their kitchen, which will focus on share plates and pizzas, will be ready in three weeks time, with the small batch kettles following soon afterwards; currently they are en route from Italy.

So why did they choose Croydon?

“One of the owners, Dale, has been based in Croydon running a cafe for the last nine years,” says Michael, “and has seen it grow and develop into an area where people are looking for something a bit different.

“Since we opened the bottleshop, there has been some great feedback from the public who are looking to try something new. We’ve been selling a range of products including Two Birds, Holgate, 3 Ravens, Hawthorn and Hargreaves Hill.”

For now, Dale will run The Public Brewery alongside his cafe, while Michael has left Dan Murphy’s after 13 years to handle buying and operations. Their plan for the bottleshop is to focus on independently owned breweries and change stock regularly. And the plan for the bar reflects that approach: once they have their own beers, they will share the taps with beer from fellow Australian brewers.

Not so long ago, criticism could be levelled fairly that Australian craft beer tended to be centred around the inner suburbs of the major centres or within popular wine/tourist regions and with little to be found elsewhere. Look around the country over the past year or so and it’s a situation that is changing rapidly. In fact, it’s becoming almost impossible to predict where the next microbrewery or craft beer bar will rise.

It’s a fantastic situation to witness as for better beer to become truly established it needs to be available to all and not seen as the preserve of inner cities or something you do while on holiday. So the best of luck to Dale, Michael and their team out at The Public Brewery. And don’t forget, if you’d like to be part of that team, they’re after a head brewer.

The Public Brewery is at 13 Lacey Street, Croydon.

Dale and Michael and beer

Dale, the owner & director described himself as an “interested beer consumer”.
Michael, the manager professes an “interest in small batch boutique beer”.

As for their favourite Aussie beers (before theirs are ready, of course…)

Dale – Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, Two Birds Golden Ale
Michael – Two Birds Golden Ale, Hargreaves Hill Hefeweizen


The 17

Crafty Pint / 27.02.14

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The addition of Barossa Valley Brewing, Cromer Cellars and Embassy Craft Beer Bar to The Crafty Pint’s directories of craft beer awesomeness in the past few days suggest it’s time we did another one of our regular roundups of the brewery, bar and bottleshop listings added to the site in the past few months.

It turns out we’ve added a further 17 to the site since we last posted one of these, and we have many more to come. Apologies to those waiting patiently for their listings in Victoria, touch wood your local rep’s spine will start responding to one of the many forms of medication that’s been prescribed relatively soon so he can get behind the wheel of a car again. And, to those in New South Wales, there may be a slight delay as we’ve granted paternity leave to Crafty Pint NSW, who has just welcomed a Crafty Pot into the world. Congrats, Nick O!

Anyway, without further ado, if you missed their arrival on the site first time around, here are The 17

Matso’s – Western Australia’s home of fruity, spicy beers that make stars of the local, topical flora and fauna around the brewery’s Broome home.

Thirsty Crow – This Wagga brewery, home of cult craft beer classic, the Vanilla Milk Stout, just turned three and is eyeing up major expansion.

Morrison Brewery – This Launceston microbrewery peddles a fine line in traditional, predominantly British and Irish inspired ales.

Barossa Valley Brewing – One of many Australian micros to call a wine region home, Barossa Valley has even been experimenting with wine in its beer.

Cromer Cellars – A crafty haven in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, run by a beer evangelist converting locals one quality drop at a time.

The Oak Barrel – A Sydney CBD bottleshop with an epic range and a nice line in beer events too.

Barny’s – In less than a year since new owners took over, this New South Wales bottleshop has developed a list of close to 1,000 craft beers.

TRU BRU – Australia’s first dedicated growler store has an aesthetic as unique as its approach, not to mention 20 fresh kegs of craft beer and cider on offer at all times.

McCoppins Abbotsford – Following a significant rebuild and renovation, the sister store to McCoppins Fitzroy has gone from being a good to a great crafty bottleshop.

Archive Beer Boutique – One of the first quality craft beer bars in Brisbane with an impressive tap and bottle list augmented by its adjoining, heavily stocked bottle shop, Next Door Cellars.

Embassy Craft Beer Bar – A major refurb, a fresh dedication to quality beer and a hatted chef in the kitchen has given Brisbane’s CBD a quality beer bar at last.

The Winston – With none of their locals serving good beer, Kris and Caroline Miles took over the pub nearest their home in North Hobart and swiftly made it awesome.

Dove & Olive – The transformation of Sydney’s bar scene in the past couple of years has been a joyous sight to behold, with Dove & Olive among those bringing craft beer to a new and eager crowd.

Prince Alfred Hotel Carlton – This former student pub in the heart of Melbourne’s University precinct has been reinvented as an old school locals' pub pouring beers from its local micros.

Markov – The rear half of this unique two-venues-in-one bar just off Lygon Street in Carlton is possibly Melbourne’s most refined beer bar, complete with 10 taps of craft and schmicko takes on pub classics on the menu.

The Catfish – What happens when a pair of beer, blues and bourbon-lovin' mates take over Melbourne bar. Comes with added Philly cheese steaks…

Belgian Beer Cafe Melbourne – You’ll still find plenty of taps pouring traditional Belgian drops, but in recent times this venue in the base of the Eureka Tower has added heaps of fantastic Australian and international crafties too.

There you go. That should be enough to keep you going a little while…


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