Crafty Pint /
With its second birthday fast approaching (and a Bolivian band lined up to mark the occasion…), what was one of Australia’s tiniest breweries has started cranking beers out of a shiny new Italian brewery. Black Dog Brewery was launched in November 2011 by fourth generation winemaker James Booth at his family’s winery, Taminick Cellars, just outside Glenrowan in northeast Victoria. Back then, he was operating on a 70 litre kit; the beers making their way into the world now are the first produced on a setup that’s approximately 15 times bigger.
“It only took a few months to realise that I needed a new brewery,” says James, taking a break from the bottling line he operates with his dad. “Different bars and bottleshops were on the phone trying to suss out when they could get hold of beers and I didn’t want to send stuff only for them to find out there was no more beer [when they reordered].
“Having the venue already [the winery], the whole idea was to diversify and then go from there. We didn’t expect to get such great feedback and such hype from the off. It’s been amazing how someone tries the beer and then drops me a line to say they’ve got mates with a bar and would love to put it on. You just can’t beat word of mouth.”
With the winery enjoying a bumper vintage this year, Black Dog took a back seat for a while earlier in the year, which meant the commissioning of the Lainox brewery in a new building on the side of the old winery took a little longer than planned. But, having first used the Italian company’s tanks in the winery, he says it took no time – and only a little bit of tweaking of hop additions – to get it up and running once the switches were flicked.
First off, James is looking to restock the select bars and bottleshops he has an existing relationship with around Melbourne, as well as the restaurants and cafes around his local region in north-east Victoria. But, with the ability to fill tanks with up to 30 times the amount of beer he used to produce in a day, there will be much more Black Dog to go around.
Among those beers will be a new release, the Hellhound India Black Ale. Guests at the winery had the opportunity to sample a trial batch earlier in the year; now the first full batch is in tank, due to be bottled and kegged in the next week or two then launched at Black Dog’s second birthday party on November 30 – the one with the Bolivian band.
“I wanted to do something a bit different,” he says. “I have a mate who is Bolivian and he’s bringing his brother-in-law and a couple of mates along to place some music. We thought it would be a bit different from the Oktoberfest’s people tend to do.
“We’ve got a farm here so couple of the lambs are going into the pizza oven and we’ll be doing an authentic asado BBQ. If the weather is good, it will be outside, otherwise it will hold it in the cellar door. I’ve got a Vienna Lager that was brewed on the pilot system that will be pouring that day too.”
With the first full run of Pale Ale off the new brewery selling out in less than a couple of weeks and a long list of potential customers he was unable to service with the former brewery to work through, it looks like James will have his work cut out before the next wine vintage rolls around.
Info on the new brewery
James' Italian kit was installed by FB PROPAK and is one of the first of its size and kind (if not the first) to be commissioned in Australia. We asked them for a little info that may be of relevance to brewers or prospective brewers looking at new gear.
“This Italian Il Mastro Birraio (‘The Master Brewer’ in Italian) gear was imported, customised and installed by Deo Lule at FB PROPAK. Specifically created for Black Dog, it allows for flexibility in beer styles and is particularly robust. This was important for James’ desire to expand with styles and output, as well as have some certainty with reliability over the longer term.
“FB PROPAK invests significant time with European brewhouse manufacturers, like this Lainox kit, to become ‘problem solvers’ in the brewing industry … and comes with specialised support in Australia from the likes of our own Master Brewer, Deo Lule, and Technician Jamey Algie.”
Crafty Pint /
A Sydney brewery has been taken by surprise by international “upset” inadvertently caused by one of its labels. The label for 4 Pines offshoot Brookvale Union’s Ginger Beer, which was only released in recent weeks, has drawn a rebuke from a US based Hindu statesman who says its juxtaposition of images of the deities Ganesh and Lakshmi is “highly inappropriate”. Rajan Zed’s statement has been picked up by media in India as well as Australia, leading its producers to take a fresh look at its packaging.
In a statement, 4 Pines said the aim of the Ginger Beer, which features a host of other images associated with Hindu mythology on its packaging, was “to create a great tasting drink representing the flair, feel and colours from the Asian continent, a primary source for ginger, it was not intended to cause any offence.”
Thus, when the reaction was brought to their attention, it was totally unexpected. The Brookvale Union project carries the tagline “Quality Nonsense” and has a website featuring popup images of a Will Ferrell character and Patrick Swayze; at the Australian Hotel Beer Festival, the brand’s stand was kept under cover all weekend and staffed by Batman, Elvis and Where’s Wally (see above), among other characters, suggesting that fun, not malice, was the intention.
“Those who have made complaints have the ears of the team heading this up and who developed it,” says the team behind Brookvale Union. “As it turns out the centrepiece of the label is very Ganesh in its look – we have now been alerted to this and what Ganesh represents.”
They added that “with over 4,200 religions in the world, it is an impossibility for us to be cognisant of every single inference, reference and innuendo we may have unintentionally made during a design process like this.”
It’s not the first time 4 Pines has drawn mainstream media attention. The Vostok Space Beer program earned plenty of column inches the world over, while earlier this year they created the World’s Best Beer Trip competition to send one winner around the world to work and play at six breweries. But this is the first time they’ve drawn negative coverage – and indeed the attention of a global religion.
The label in question
Zed, who is president of the Universal Society of Hinduism – an association he formed in part to enhance understanding of Hinduism, said in a statement that “inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or concepts or symbols for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees.”
Another Hindu website has called on “all Hindus to protest lawfully against ‘Brookvale Union’ so that they should withdraw the picture of Shri Ganesh And Shri Lakshmi Mata from their products and also they should tender unconditional apology to Hindus for hurting their religious sentiments.”
As a result, 4 Pines has stated that: “With recent feedback brought to our attention, we will be looking at design options for our bottles and packaging.”
Photo at the top taken from the Australian Heritage Hotel’s Beer Festival coverage.
Matt Carty /
It started more than a decade ago with the ultimate man’s cave. But, finally, after years of hard work, the brewing dream shared by Jason Harris and Craig Basford is set to become a reality.
“We began brewing in Jason’s shed in a rented property in the Barossa back in 2002,“ says Craig. "The shed was huge, a farmer’s shed with easily enough room for the brewing equipment, cars, the Scalextric track, hardware, tools everything. It also had a mechanics pit which was perfect for keeping our brews at a constant fermenting temperature.
“It was here we began our love affair with making beer and while brewing that we would talk about making this a business as most home brewers do. We got ourselves an ABN and a business name, but it was a while before we did anything with it beyond getting a cheaper price on materials.”
But, as Paul Kelly once sang, from little things big things grow. Or in this case, from a big shed, an even bigger shed grows, as very soon South Australia will gain a new brewery in the form of Big Shed Brewing. The site is ready to go in Royal Park, Adelaide, and the mates have recently taken delivery of their brewhouse kit.
“The big day came when our first container filled with stainless was delivered and we could barely contain ourselves,“ says Craig. "We were at the brewery at 5.30am for the celebratory breakfast and when the truck came it took all our will power not to hug the truckie.
“The fact he could crack stones by staring at them made the task of avoiding physical contact easier. Despite that, on our opening night, the truckies will be invited.“
The Big Shed kit is a decent size for a startup microbrewery (consisting of a 10 hectolitre four vessel brewhouse with 20 hectolitre hot and cold liquor tanks and four 20 hectolitre uni-tank fermenters for those interested in the specifics). And, sensibly given the rapid growth of the Aussie craft beer scene, they’re already planning ahead, with with a setup that will allow them to double their capacity without any major redevelopment required.
This might be just as well given the mishaps when it came to installation.
“Unloading was fairly fun and easy. Getting the equipment upright was not,“ he says. "It started off well enough but our first hurdle was the kettle. With its short stubby size we’d though we’d have no worries. Of course we hadn’t taken into account the additional weight of the ‘blast chamber’.
“It wasn’t until we nearly tipped our walky stacker a couple of times (just to prove it wasn’t a fluke) that we decided we needed a more robust solution. We borrowed the forklift off our dear friends and neighbours at Grand Kitchens and made short work of it.
“The second container housed the fermenters which did not have the same weight concerns but instead we found other issues. They were our tallest vessels coming in at around 3.2 metres. In itself this is no problem: our warehouse is taller than that. The problem is once you take into account the boom attached to the forklift and the slack in the shackle to attach the fermenter to the boom and the forklift itself it was going to be tight. How tight? We were literally scraping the roof with the forklift as we inched it forward. We now have a new found appreciation for the poor bastards who built Stonehenge!”
Story continues below the photo
The new brewery
As with much of the craft beer world, getting to where they are now has been a real community effort.
“Aside from friends and relatives who have gone above and beyond with working bees and the like – concrete cutting and removal to add drainage was a particular delight – we have also had great support from local businesses to help get our dreams off the ground*.”
As well as brewing their own beers, Jason and Craig made it clear from early on that they intended to open the doors to Big Shed to other brewers looking for somewhere to brew their beers. It’s an offer that’s made a lot of people in Adelaide very happy. With contract brewed beer brands such as Birbeck’s and Mismatch starting up in South Australia, there has been a great deal of interest from many brewers keen to turn pro but not in the position to invest in and establish a brewery of their own.
In the past the options have been slim to none for contract brewing in SA, which has required those wishing to brew under contract to travel interstate, brew their product, and then transport it all the way back to Adelaide. Having a facility in SA that is an affordable way of entering the industry will be an amazing opportunity for those wanting to follow their craft beer dream.
“Aside from brewing our own beer we will be open to contracting as well,“ says Craig. "This helps our cash flow – we are a business after all – but we also want to help lower the barriers for entry in the craft beer market for those with a passion for it.
“Speaking to those who are contracting at different facilities now, the large volumes required really limits their ability to produce a variety of interesting beers. The Adelaide craft beer industry seems small compared to other states and if we can help increase that then we believe it helps all of us.
“We will use a model that basically assigns a fermenter to a contract so space constraints aren’t a problem. This initially limits the number of contracts we can take on but with available space and glycol capacity we can add additional capacity should it be required. This doesn’t mean we won’t be available for one off batches but that will need to fit in to the brew schedule before it will be agreed to.
“We are keen to use the relationships we make with our contract brewers to try some different things within the industry. They’re just ideas at this stage, but stay tuned as we move along.”
Most importantly Jason and Craig wish to support a community of beer lovers and brewers: creating a venue that invites people with the right motives and ethos. They are hoping that by building a business that nurtures small batch brewing and a community of like minded people, Adelaide will see a greater range of beer labels and a flourishing industry within SA.
“We are currently in the final stages of excise and liquor license approval. All going well, we will have a beer to market in early to mid December. We would prefer to keep our initial offering a surprise at this stage but can tell you the Big Shed philosophy on beer is that we always want to bring something different to the market wherever possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean using weird ingredients all the time, but we want to make sure our beers continue to offer something new rather than shoehorning another beer into the same crowded space.”
It’s all really exciting – and just one of many exciting things currently brewing in South Australia – even if there’s no Scalextric track at the new site.
*The Big Shed guys wanted to thank Adam at Primary Plumbing, John Kobzeff of JJTak Electrical, Alex from Exel Electrics, Stephen Nelsen from Nelsen Brewing Services (Brewery Planning), Thomas Hamann from Winequip (Glycol, Pumps and Bottling), Scott Eaton from Dixon (Brew house and Glycol Hoses) and Michael Stegemeier from Haymans for their help in getting Big Shed up and running.
Matt Carty is a press photographer currently turning his passion for brewing into a career. You can follow his adventures in beer via his blog, The Self Obsessed Beer Snob.
Crafty Pint /
This year’s Perth Royal Beer Show has thrown up some eye-catching winners alongside the usual familiar faces. There will have been a heavily-laden plane heading back to Sydney too after New South Wales brewers came, saw and conquered, taking home five trophies. But while serial winners Redoak, of Sydney, will have been cheered by another three gongs to add to their incredible haul this year, perhaps the biggest smile will have been on the face of the head brewer at Indian Ocean Brewing.
Dave Brough headed to the brewpub on the very northern tip of Perth last year, having previously been at 3 Ravens in Melbourne, and set about revitalising a brewery that had, in his words, “lost some focus”. He got rid of all but one beer from the lineup and replaced them with new ones. Since then, the beers have picked up medals at the Australian International Beer Awards and now have seen Indian Ocean named Best WA Brewery – quite some feat given the competition.
To date, such is the excitement surrounding the trophy that all we’ve managed to get out of the well-travelled Brit is: “Feels like am on a blind date with Winona Ryder, only for her to tell me we are going shopping!” But either way, this may lead to a few more people making the trek north to Mindarie Marina – and Dave getting a few more orders for his beers from outside his seaside surrounds.
Other eye-catching winners included NSW brewing company Wayward Brewing, who took out the Best Packaged Lager for a 13 per cent Eisbock (a wonderful dessert beer if you ever find a bottle), and Bush Shack from Margaret River, with the longstanding little brewery collecting Best Stout Packaged.
Other trophies went to more familiar names. Feral took home The Premier’s Trophy for the Best West Australian Beer of the Show, The Beer and Brewer Magazine Trophy for Best Ale Packaged and The Beer and Beef Club of Perth trophy for Best Ale Draught for Hop Hog. Redoak’s trophies included Best Commercial Brewery, Best Commercial Beer (Weizendoppelbock) and Reduced Alcohol Draught (Bitter). Fellow New South Welshmen, the Australian Brewery, collected an award for their Dark Lager, while Matilda Bay – born in WA but now based in Victoria – collected Best Wheat Packaged for its Redback Original.
Peter Phillip of Wayward after collecting trophies at last month’s Australian Hotel Beer Festival
The remaining trophies stayed in WA with Gage Roads collecting Best Reduced Alcohol Packaged for its 3.5 Pils and Nail Brewing adding yet another trophy to its cabinet for Nail Stout – the sixth time the beer has won Best Stout in Perth (see above).
Sean Symons, chief judge and former brewer at WA Swan Brewery, said: “The Perth Royal Beer Show has always been very strong comp and it is great to see that we are getting interest and entries from across the country. It is a well renowned competition and the fact people are trying to enter it from all over the country is only a tribute to its strength.
“The local competition for WA beers also has always been strong. There were great local beers across all the categories and that is a tribute to the maturity of the local brewers and breweries.
“They continue to be of a high standard, and across the board there were some outstanding representations of individual styles.”
In the Amateur section, there was further success for Crafty Pint contributor Jeremy Sambrooks, who won Best Amateur Beer of the Show and Best Amateur Wheat Beer, although was pipped to the Best Amateur brewer by Brian Fitzgerald of Denmark, who also won Best Amateur Ale.
You can find the full results here or read a Brew & A with the new Best WA Brewery’s head brewer here.
Crafty Pint /
It’s all change at one of Australia’s champion breweries as Feral undergoes a facelift. After the start of their occasional Brewpub series of limited bottled releases comes a new permanent beer, Sly Fox, followed now by a complete and radical overhaul of the Swan Valley company’s look. Out goes the existing branding and in comes something vaguely reminiscent of Ralph Steadman’s work for Hunter S Thompson – or maybe the scribblings of a pig-obsessed madman on Death Row.
According to the brewery, it’s a look that takes inspiration “mainly from the mixed media punk artwork of the 1970s and 80s” when there was “no Photoshop or Illustrator, posters were hand crafted using what you had laying around, often a pencil case with some mixed colours, scissors, a glue stick and a bunch of magazines”. And it’s an approach that they hope reflects their approach to brewing: a simple, natural, uncomplicated process that produces beers that can become “more complex and thought provoking” as they go down.
The new look replaces one created 11 years ago by a school friend of head brewer Brendan Varis (pictured above) for $200 and has been driven by a desire to appeal to a far wider audience since they moved into a large production facility with Nail Brewing last year. And it is, according to Block, the WA design agency behind the redesign, the “antithesis of the minimalist or ‘ye olde’ beer brands that are cluttering the market.”
What hasn’t and won’t be changing is the beers. The core range will remain at four – Hop Hog, White, Smoked Porter and Sly Fox – and they will aim for four Brewpub releases a year. We say “aim for” as, despite upgrading from their original brewpub setup to the 5,000 litre BrewCorp facility, they’re still flat out.
“The brewery is getting busier by the day and is quickly being filled with more tanks, kegs and other bits of brewing gear,” says Feral’s Steve Finney. “We’re sniffing around for more storage space as the place is just about full up.
“Beer quality is better than ever with brighter worts and better boils coming from the bigger brewery. John [Stallwood of Nail] and Brendan are incredibly tight but could not tackle the same tasks more differently. They’re like an old couple that’s been married for 50 years who never start off agreeing on anything but somehow reach consensus and get an amazing amount of stuff done together.”
What this has meant is that the old brewery isn’t getting used as much as hoped, but still cranks out specialties for the Swan Valley brewpub and loyal craft beer venues around Australia. That said, new gear has been purchased with the intention of ramping up the sour beer program.
As we wrote in a Guardian article last week, it seems remarkable that it’s only three years since the first kegs of Feral beer made it to the eastern states. In 2014, expect to see much more of it nationwide, although not overseas. While a number of Australian micros have begun exploring export markets, Steve says: “We aim on getting the freshest, best tasting beer we possibly can into Australian hands. We have a tight distribution chain that sees us transporting and warehousing all of our beer cold until the time that it is sold to the customer.
“There is a flood of imported beers into Australia at the moment that are transported ‘cold’ and ‘fresh’. However, as the craft beer market matures in Australia, people are going to wise up to unwanted flavours and hopefully fall back to local examples of these beers. We don’t want to be in the same situation in overseas markets and lose control of the quality of our beer.
“I think there is a revolution brewing in Australia towards the little guy, seeking provenance, experience, consistency and trust. Australia is producing some of the best beer in the world and with such diversity. The local breweries are part of the community, they create jobs, infrastructure, support for local arts, music, groups and offer people an experience they are unlikely find anywhere else. We are all real people making and selling beer that we love to drink.”
Makes you come over all warm and gooey inside, doesn’t it? Although if it doesn’t, this promise from Feral might…
“This year has been pretty full on but watch this space next year for some new gems to come out of the Swan Valley.”
Crafty Pint /
A couple of months ago, we caught up with Scott Meager, owner of the Steam Packet Inn in Williamstown. He’d just been given the green light to go ahead with a new beer festival in the Melbourne suburb to commemorate 150 years of his venue and 175 years of its license. At that time, details were still being ironed out but, barring a couple of minor details, the inaugural Williamstown Heritage Beer & Cider Festival, or the Willy Beer Fest as it’s more commonly referred to, is ready to roll.
That means two sessions on November 23 at Robertson Reserve, just a couple of hundred metres from the Steam Packet, featuring more than 20 beer, wine and cider stalls, live entertainment and Williamstown’s very own beer.
“It’s all been going well,” says Scott. “We have had some nice press, making the front page of the local papers. Everything seems to be under control and [we’ve] pretty much confirmed everything for the event.”
The festival beer was brewed with Jayne Lewis of Two Birds Brewing earlier this month. The aim was to create a beer similar to those that would have poured in Williamstown’s pubs around 150 years ago.
“The beer is tasting great,” he says. “It went into kegs this week, which I was lucky enough to get go along to help with. It is a take on what a beer in the 1860s at the Steam Packet would have looked like – slightly opaque with a nice deep golden, not quite amber, colour.
“It’s an easy style pale ale brewed with Willamette and Citra hops. Jayne also use local sheoak and river mint plants in the process to give it complexity and a unique character. The name is under wraps at the moment, but we have a few working titles based around local historical events, local landmarks, ships and fauna.”
The beer will be available at the Festival as well as at the Steam Packet throughout the entire month of November, and at Bettenay’s Prince Albert in Williamstown and selected other beer venues in the west. Keep an eye on the Two Birds and Willy Beer Fest Twitter feeds to find out where it is due to land.
The list of exhibitors for the Willy Beer Fest confirmed to date is:
- 2 Brothers
- Mountain Goat
- Two Birds Brewing
- Trumer Pils
- Golden Axe Cider
- Buckleys Beer
- Stone & Wood
- Tooborac Hotel & Brewery
- Three Troupers
- Napoleone Cider
- Matilda Bay
- Little Creatures
- Sitting Duck Cider
- Watershed Wines
- Galli Estate
- Holgate Brewhouse
- Cavailer Beer
- Lucky Duck Cider
- James Squire
- Prickly Moses
Musical headliner Nick Barker (from Nick Barker and the Reptiles) is joined by other local artists onstage – check the lineup for who is playing at each session here. The two sessions run from 11.30am to 3pm and 3.30pm to 7pm. Entry costs $40 for which attendees get a commemorative glass, official program and 10 drink sampling tokens worth $20. More tokens can be purchased in advance or on the day. Get yours here.
Willy Beer Fest takes place at Robertson Reserve, corner of Cole and Hanmer Streets, Williamstown.