When someone asks the Brisbane beer scene at large: “I’m visiting Brisbane. What good beer places should I check out?” you can guarantee: “Go to Bacchus. You won’t regret it.” will be among the responses.
Named after the Roman god of strong drink (he’s often referred to as the god of wine, but we all know he’d love a good barrel aged stout if he could get his divine hands on one), Bacchus Brewing is a family-owned brewery and cellar door in Capalaba, 30 to 40 minutes’ drive from Brisbane CBD. But any Brisbane beer lover with a fondness for the weird and wonderful will tell you it’s worth the trip.
Bought by the Kenricks in 2010, the brewery’s previous life as a brew-your-own-beer business is the origin of the small but distinctive brewing setup. Six small steam-jacketed brewhouses (five single-keg capacity and one bigger system) give the brewers an agility and flexibility second to none. They’re able to brew up to 12 different beers a day, and they often do, punching out new beers, experimental beers, several variants on the same beer, tweaked recipes, super limited obscure beers and high-risk-high-reward beers.
On average, Bacchus brews four brand new beers a week. New style becomes trendy in the US? Bacchus is on it before anyone else… and then, in all likelihood, making many variants of the style. New Star Wars film comes out? Bacchus doesn’t make one themed beer, but six. A festival wants beers based on authentic medieval recipes? Bacchus doth provide ye olde goods.
A beer lover at Bacchus can’t help but feel like a kid in a candy store, if that candy store offered a range of candies varying wildly in style, strength of alcohol and levels of craziness and creativity. (OK, you wouldn’t have to be a kid to love that candy store.) At any given time, the 21 taps at the cellar door cover a number of styles; a general spread would include three easy-drinking beers, three pale ales, three IPAs, three dark beers on nitro, three beers on handpump, a farmhouse cider, a super low alcohol beer, and four "You did what?"s.
There’s also an expansive bottle list for takeaway (or to drink in at takeaway prices), with IPAs, sours and dessert beers galore. Among the last of these, the Peanut Brittle Gose is always a crowd-pleaser, as is the infamous Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road, both past GABS beers, a festival at which Bacchus has fared particularly well over the years.
While the bottle list and 13 rotating taps give Bacchus its reputation for indulging customers with more new beers than you can poke a stick at, the remaining eight taps are fixed; regular customers who want the simple pleasure of their standard beer at a local pub can find it at Bacchus. Because although Bacchus occasionally sells kegs and bottles wholesale, the real focus is the onsite cellar door.
“The venue is absolutely paramount,” says owner Ross Kenrick. “We have a lot of fun just running this place. Being the small brewery in people’s local area.”
Ross is an expat Brit, and shows his love of his homeland with English pub style touches in the cellar door: the handpumps, the pool table and dartboard (found upstairs in the mezzanine area), the bowling pin lamps. Even the bar itself is an old bowling alley lane. And, of course, the big screen shows football (that’s soccer to us convicts) games at every opportunity.
The wooden wall of barrels up the back amplifies the pub aesthetic beautifully. Bacchus began its barrel program in 2011.
“I think we were the first doing barrel beers in Brisbane,” says Ross. “And we’re always looking at new barrels. They were dirt cheap for a while. I got some for free. And all the rum ones were $50. But every man and his dog wants them now, so they’re harder to get.”
Nevertheless, Bacchus has 36 barrels in circulation, each of which once housed bourbon, Scotch, rum, shiraz or chardonnay. Stacked five high on towering racks, they work their magic on the precious liquid within – some are fermenting ciders, Flanders reds and browns and lambics, while others are ageing imperial stouts, barley wines and black IPAs. Many of the dark beers are released together at the annual winter solstice event, Brumalia. And, since 2015, adventurous punters have looked forward to each vintage of Islay Reserve, a 16 percent ABV barley wine made with 100 percent heavy peated distilling malt and matured in Octomore single malt Scotch whisky barrels.
There’s plenty more to be said about Bacchus: independent and family owned; homebrew supplies store attached; cellar door for Ballandean Estate Wines; food trucks aplenty; special events on a regular basis; growler fills available; deliver Australia wide for just $10 P&P for a mixed carton from their online store…
…but how are you still reading this? Go to Bacchus already!