Crafty Pint /
With the popularity of their Pacific Ale showing no signs of slowing, it seemed for some time that all the Stone & Wood team had time for was brewing more of the beer and installing more and larger tanks in which to keep it. Yet in between taking delivery of big, shiny stainless steel tanks the Byron Bay brewers have been concocting other plans too, revealed this week in the form of a new beer to join their permanent range and the launch of a side project that will focus on bringing together people from throughout the community to create one-off brews.
First up will be the Jasper Ale, a deep red ale that “reflects the red volcanic soil of our hinterland”. Inspiration, say the brewers, “comes from German Alt, American Amber Ale and an English Brown Ale styles. We love the spicy bitterness that a German hop such as Hersbrucker brings to a beer to balance that rich malt character.”
Over the past couple of years, Stone & Wood has released a Red Relief Ale as a fundraiser and entry for last year’s Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular – which you can see them talking about here – as well as the annual Stone Beer – both enabled the brewery to trial elements found in Jasper.
Then next up is the launch of The Mash Collective: “An opportunity for people from all walks of life to come together to share their seperate obsessions and collectively create a brew from a common ground … their love of beer.”
According to Stone & Wood’s Jamie Cook: “We have experienced it ourselves when we first established Stone & Wood. Then as the team has come together to help build the business we’ve seen a collective form, which is a broader group of people with even wider interests come together and everyday share a common goal … making good beer.
“We all work pretty hard at Stone & Wood, but we also like to make sure we also enjoy the community that has formed around it. So The Mash Collective is a vehicle for the team and that community to work together on a series of projects that help us all celebrate our love of beer.
“We have an open approach to how we run the business and although we have often talked about the idea of doing collaborative brews with other brewers and other brewing companies we always felt that approach was a little too industry focussed and introspective.
“The Mash Collective won’t just be about the people here at Stone & Wood. For each project we are going to reach out and select a group of people from our broader community to work as a group to create a beer. We’ve met some great people over years … there are musicians, writers, surfers, artists, chefs, and all sorts of artisans and people who are specialists in their chosen fields.
“So for each of the beers from The Mash Collective we will have a diverse group of people, each with their own personal obsession, that come together to collaborate on brewing a beer. To share their beliefs, their perspectives and their ideas about beer. From selecting a style to formulating a recipe to designing the label and of course coming together on the brew day to bring it all to life.
“For them, they get to share in the creation of something special to them as a group, and to experience that satisfaction of seeing other people enjoy their creation, and for us, and everyone else, we get to witness that collaborative process and of course we get to taste the fruits of their collective creativity … and really to us, that’s what brewing beer is all about.”
The first beer from The Mash Collective will make it’s debut at the Great Australian Beer Spectapular (GABS) in May at the start of Good Beer Week.
That said, amid the new beers and side projects, there’s still plenty more shiny steel on its way. As part of the brewery upgrade, they have relocated their filling line, moved storage offsite and installed more refrigeration equipment to keep the extra tanks cool. Next up, they’ll be shuffling tanks to make way for two new 100,000 fermenters – the first six on order. And they thought they were heading to Byron Bay for a quieter life!
Crafty Pint /
It’s collaboration time in Australia this week with no fewer than four cross border brews taking place. On Wednesday, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the man behind Mikkeller, and Dave Bonighton went to work on their Pepperberry Black IPA Cross Breed at Mountain Goat on the same day that Christian Skovdal Andersen from Beer Here was brewing at Red Duck in Ballarat. And today, the Danish pair have been hard at work again. Christian has been at Moon Dog in Abbotsford working on a “Danish farmhouse ale”, while Mikkel flew up to Beechworth to create the “Dark Harvest” with Ben Kraus at Bridge Road.
As Ben explains: “We’ll be using freshly picked hops from the nearby Rostrevor Hop Garden, located in the Ovens valley, in the brew.”
Ben has been working closely with Rostrevor Hop Garden over the past four years, using experimental hop varieties yet to be released commercially during harvest each year.
“The theme for this beer has been inspired by the timing of Mikkel’s visit coinciding with the hop harvest at Rostrevor Hop Garden in March,” says Ben. “And as Mikkel’s visit will be after midday the brew will be pushed well into the evening, which inspired the dark theme. The Dark Harvest will be an imperial dark ale/porter brewed with freshly picked ‘wet’ hops, used in copious amounts, weighing in at around 7.5% alcohol.”
As things stand, the Dark Harvest will only appear in kegs at the brewery and beer bars around the country from early April. If that changes, we’ll let you know. The Cross Breed will be released in kegs and bottles. We’ll update you on plans for the Beer Here collabs as soon as the release dates are confirmed.
Mikkel, Ben, Dave and Josh Uljans from Moon Dog are among the guests at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival Liquid Lounge Masterclasses being moderated by The Crafty Pint this weekend so if you’re coming along, we’ll be sure to ask them more about these beers. If you’re not, we’ll report back next week anyway.
Crafty Pint /
Brewers from all over the world will be gathering in Melbourne at the end of March for the Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s Asia Pacific Conference. Over six days, the event will combine an educational program with trade exhibitions and industry showcases. Of particular interest to the craft beer world is the Craft Brewers Forum taking place on the opening Sunday. Put together by Brad Rogers, of Stone & Wood, it is a day of presentations, talks and panel discussions aimed specifically at anyone involved in the craft side of the industry.
“With the growing number of craft breweries in Australia, it’s very important to ensure that learning specific to craft brewing continues,” says Brad (pictured above). “"There’s a huge amount of information out there and sometimes it takes a conference to bring everyone together, to focus the minds of craft brewers, and get them talking about quality craft brewing.”
He says the aim is to create an event that is both educational and social. Throughout the day, information relevant to craft brewers will be presented by fellow craft brewers and people directly related to craft brewing. Speakers include representatives from ingredient suppliers Cryer Malt, Bintani and Hop Products Australia, breweries including Murray’s, Feral and Little Creatures, and specialists such as Hugh Dunn from Edith Cowan University in WA, Warren Pawsey from Lion, Peter Aldred from the University of Ballarat, and packaging expert Angelo Pepe.
“It’s very important to pitch the content at a level that craft brewers can relate to and get value out of,” says Brad. “This is a beginning point that I really hope we can expand on in future years with the assistance of the IBD.
“The day will be broad enough to cover many topics relevant to today’s craft brewer, from raw materials, to processes specific to craft brewers, to engineering, to commercial and media aspects. Everyone in the craft brewing industry should get something out of it, as well as the chance to chance to chat with others in the craft brewing industry. What’s more, it’s great value for money at $50 for the whole day.”
It takes place on March 25 from 8.30am to 4.30pm at the Crown Promenade. A full rundown of the Conference program is available here, while details on registering are here. Apparently some guy from a website called The Crafty Pint will be taking part in a panel discussion in the afternoon so it must be worth attending…
Crafty Pint /
It was a mix of old and new at the recent Sydney Royal Fine Food Show’s beer competition. The old: Matilda Bay picked up its usual trophy for the Alpha Pale Ale (but will it mean they start pushing their best beer more widely?) and picked up another for the Redback Original. The new: Illawarra Brewing Company picked up a couple of golds of their own – two of only five awarded in what is generally regarded as the toughest judging of any beer comp in Australia.
You could be forgiven for asking: “Who?‘, given it’s not a name that’s bandied about a great deal, but the brewery formerly known as 5 Islands is on a mission to establish a reputation for its own beers, having previously focused more on brewing beers under contract for others.
“After changing the name last year we really ramped up our efforts to push the beer to other bars in Sydney and locally in Wollongong,” says brewer Shaun Blisset (right above). “This was driven by the new owner / operations manager Dave and by us basically wanting to develop our beer and brew more of it than the contract stuff. Anyone trying to sell craft beer in NSW knows it’s a tough gig getting tap space, but we have persisted and become available regularly at some good venues in Sydney and Wollongong. As a result of our wish to expand and make more beer, we soon realised that a move from our old site to a bigger location was needed if we were to become more efficient and productive.”
The Illawarra beers that collected golds were the Nelson Pale and Koelsch, two of 15 beers produced at the brewery either under their own label or for others.
“We’re extremely happy with the results,” says Shaun. “It’s definitely a confidence boost and means that we are doing something right. We brew a lot of beer at Illawarra Brewing Company, more than ever before. We brew six beers plus a seasonal that we always have on tap at the brewery bar in Wollongong but contract brewing still takes up a lot of our time while we build the
Illawarra brand. In all, we brew 15 different beers giving us a fair repertoire of styles that we
regularly make so we get to work with a wide variety of malts, hops and yeasts. This helps
Ashur [Hall] and I develop our brewing skills and methods while we learn more about beer styles
and other people’s ideas that we may not have otherwise had access to.
“Another great thing about these awards is to see progression of our beers. We were left in
July 2010 with the keys to a growing microbrewery with a pretty impressive legacy of beers
designed by AG [now head brewer at Mornington Peninsula Brewery] who turned the former Five Islands Brewery around, but we needed to make them our own. We have made changes to all the recipes we were left with, some more than others, mostly to suit personal taste and have had good results and feedback.
“The two beers that we received the gold medals for were in the same category and they couldn’t have been more different from each other. The Koelsch is one of our regular beers and the Nelson Pale was a seasonal that we had brewed for the first time. We have developed the Koelsch over the past 15 months to a point that we are very pleased with and since the results we have been given the green light on brewing the pale on a regular basis.”
Matilda Bay head brewer Scott Vincent
While Illawarra’s gold medallists are relatively wet behind the ears, it was a pair of old hands that did the business for Matilda Bay. The brewery recently moved to a new facility in Port Melbourne from the Garage brewery in Dandenong, its latest move since uprooting from its original home in WA after being taken over by CUB. The Redback Original, a wheat beer that took out the best draught trophy, was the first beer ever produced by the brewery almost 25 years ago.
“Redback was the first beer that we brewed and to see it still taking out champion titles all these years later in a craft beer industry that is going from strength to strength is immensely satisfying as a brewer,” says head brewer Scott Vincent. “As for Alpha, it is definitively the beer lover’s beer. I am incredibly proud to brew a beer like Alpha Pale Ale. It’s beers like Alpha that are the reason we love brewing beer so much in the first place.”
The fifth gold medal awarded went to Sydney’s Redoak Brewery for its Honey Ale. You can view the full set of results here. As for the brewing team at Illawarra, they’ve got big plans for the coming months.
“We’re always excited about designing and brewing new beer and have about half a dozen styles we will do as our seasonal beers this year with an amber heff, Belgian dubbel and saison first on the list with others still to come,” says Shaun. “We are now operating in our new purpose built brewery with a bar/cellar door being built that will serve tours and open weekday afternoons and weekends for sales by the glass and growler filling. We have been discussing the idea of an Illawarra beer festival weekend at some stage this year that we will host at the new location and invite other breweries to join in, as well as an Octoberfest style event.”
Illawarra Brewing Company is based at 4/83-85 Montague Street, North Wollongong. Their website is currently under construction, but you can follow them on Twitter.
Crafty Pint /
Over the course of the past few months, The Crafty Pint has spent a lot of time on the road, making its way around dozens of craft breweries and the best bottleshops and beer bars in the land. And, slowly but surely, we’re finding the time to compile listings for those venues. Today, we add a handful of those we visited in Tasmania in November plus a stalwart of the Aussie brewing scene and a first listing compiled by the new Crafty Sydney envoy Nick O.
They should be the first of a pretty steady stream of new listings over the coming weeks as we work our way through the remaining Tassie breweries, add a few from SA, bring the fruits of January’s tour of WA to to bear and continue to complete the picture in the fast-changing Victorian scene. As you may have noticed, these trips have brought other benefits, with the aforementioned Nick O providing us with eyes and taste buds on the ground in NSW and Jeremy Sambrooks and, as of today, Anthony Williams, doing the same in WA.
Look out for more from them in the future and, in the meantime, check out these half dozen listings, all of which are worthy of craft beer lovers' support:
Van Dieman An English-inspired brewery on rolling farmland south of Launceston.
Seven Sheds Beer writer Willie Simpson’s brewery and meadery in northwest Tasmania.
IronHouse You’ll leave wondering if every brewery would be improved by its own perfect white sand beach.
Weldborough Hotel An inspiration to country pubs across Australia, where new owners took a picturesque but tired old hotel and gave it a fresh lease on life. How? By becoming a showcase for all of Tassie’s craft brewers and cider makers.
Murray’s At Manly The NSW brewery’s Sydney venture, now reopened, revamped and pouring around 20 Murray’s beers at any one time.
Grain & Grape A home brew shop at heart, but also one of few places in Melbourne’s west with a wide – and ever-changing – selection of quality craft beer.
Jeremy Sambrooks /
A couple of years ago, The Crafty Pint made a first visit to Freo’s Sail & Anchor. The onsite brewery was no longer pumping out beers and the place felt a little tired, as if it was the end of an era and this pub with a preeminent position in Australia’s craft beer history was on its way out. A few weeks ago, we were back there and the place was alive. Sure, the brewery is still out of action, but there is a huge variety of beer pouring from its myriad taps and the banners proclaiming it the country’s Best Beer Venue hang proudly from the walls.
Much of the turnaround is down to former manager Matt Marinich, as passionate a beer lover as you’ll find, who last year moved on to pastures new at The Quarie. Unsurprisingly, he set to work on the beer list there with gusto, launching a new one earlier this month and giving the people of WA a new option in what remains a bar scene that’s yet to really catch on to craft beer.
Beer writer Jeremy Sambrooks popped in for a jar or two to find out for himself…
Most beer lovers follow a similar routine when going to a new pub for the first time. First our eyes pass over the tap handles, searching for anything remotely crafty, before turning to the bottled beers in the refrigerator. All too often this is followed by disappointment, thanks to a bottled selection that mostly consists of bland, big brewery lagers and perhaps, if we are lucky, a Coopers or Little Creatures Pale Ale.
Fortunately, a number of new venues have been popping up that strive to offer beer drinkers a real choice. Not all pubs can be the Sail & Anchor or The Local Taphouse and have craft beer pouring from all of their taps. For some fledgling venues, economics dictate that tap contracts are a necessary evil, leaving their bottled beer selection as the best way to get craft beer into the hands of drinkers.
Such is the case for The Quarie Bar & Brasserie, a new pub in the suburb of Hammond Park, 20km south of Fremantle. Venue manager is Matt Marinich, formerly of Sail & Anchor and the Belgian Beer Cafe and runner-up Beertender of the Year in 2011. As a self-confessed beer geek, Matt strives to show punters the wide variety of styles, colours and flavours that beer has to offer. With most of The Quarie’s 32 taps under contract, Matt has chosen some of the more interesting beers from the Lion and Foster’s portfolios, including internationals such as Belle-Vue Kriek and Leffe Blond. The latest addition on tap is a local microbrew, Nail Ale, which Matt says is selling extremely well. Also a big seller is Quarie Dry, a dry golden ale that is contract brewed and sold exclusively at The Quarie.
When The Quarie first opened, its bottled beer list was better than most, but evidently Matt was not satisfied with being merely above average. Last week, The Quarie launched its new beer menu, which you can see here . If the old list was good (and it was) then the new one is nothing short of sensational.
Matt has added 42 beers to the list, with a further eight on back order, all of which are available at The Quarie’s adjoining bottleshop. Beer geeks will be excited to see titles from breweries such as Feral, 8 Wired, Yeastie Boys, Green Flash and Cantillon, although the crowning glory of the new menu must surely be “Black Tokyo Horizon”, a 17.2% stout brewed collaboratively by BrewDog, Mikkeller and Nøgne Ø.
“We changed the beer menu to help educate both our staff and the public,” says Matt. “It’s rewarding to host beer training sessions, to show patrons that craft beer is the way forward and that we care about the product we are promoting.”
Matt says the menu will be an ever-growing offering that changes with seasonal availability from breweries and suppliers.
As for what else we can expect to see from The Quarie in the future, he says: “We are looking at getting our brand out to the public. Quarie Dry has shown us that craft beer can be accepted in our community and we plan to explore all our options for expressing our passion for craft beer in future.”
The Quarie is at 2 Macquarie Boulevard,
Hammond Park, WA 6164. Phone: (08) 9414 3500.
Jeremy, who will be helping The Crafty Pint cover the WA craft beer scene, is a freelance writer, teacher and award-winning home brewer who has been writing about beer since 2009. In recent years, he has travelled through some of the world’s most renowned beer regions in the UK, Belgium, Germany and Czech Republic. Jeremy now teaches part time, writes for two magazines and works as a barman for Mash Brewing. You can follow his adventures on Twitter.