Normally these things are supposed to start over a beer. Not while out walking the dog. Yet thus it was that the idea for Cavalier Brewing was first conceived. Homebrewer Steve Martin bumped into Heath Shirtcliffe in a dog park in Brunswick, got talking beer and one thing led to another. Soon the former was bringing the beers he was creating with fellow brewer Andrew Cronin to share while they walked, the latter was inspired and plans were hatched.
Those plans led to the forming of one of Australia's tiniest microbreweries: when Cavalier launched, they did so with a 100 litre brewery set up in the shed at the rear of Heath's home. They took their bow at a Fed Square Microbreweries Showcase in early 2011 with three beers - a Pale Ale, Brown and Wheat Beer - and within months found there was such demand it was time to start planning again.
Stage two saw them take their ingredients and recipes to different breweries around Victoria (although mostly to Prickly Moses in the Otway Ranges) so they could brew bigger batches while they designed and purchased a larger brewery. Heath, who "can sell ice to eskimos", continued to boost demand, finding homes in many top Melbourne restaurants as well as beer bars, the brewers kept designing new beers, such as a Pilsner, Imperial Stout and Imperial IPA, and all three looked for a new home for their brewery.
Late in 2012 they found it - in an industrial unit in Sunshine in Melbourne's West - and soon afterwards the all-important stainless steel arrived from China. Just over two years on from hand-labelling, hand-bottling and hand-capping their first beer in a Pascoe Vale shed, stage three of Cavalier was go, one that was kickstarted with a beer designed to represent Melbourne (the Black Coffee IPA brewed with Melbourne roaster Proud Mary for Good Beer Week 2013) and which has seen their home become a hub for other brewers too, with the likes of BrewCult, Killer Sprocket, Exit and Wolf of the Willows helping them fill their home by installing tanks of their own before, in many cases, these brewing companies have struck out on their own.
These days, while Heath has moved on, the brewery operates a bar in the unit across from the brewery. It's open from lunch Wednesday to Friday and pours the widest range of Cavalier beers you'll find in one place in Melbourne.