The Gage Roads brewing team is made up of self confessed "Fussy Bastards" who form part of an Australian brewery with a story unlike any other. Since first hitting the market in 2005 with a team led by well known WA brewer Bill Hoedemaker - formerly found at the now-defunct Sail & Anchor brewery - they've gone from brewing startup to something approaching a household name.
In part, this is thanks to Woolworths, who took a 25 per cent share in what was a struggling brewery in 2009, with their investment ultimately enabling an 18-month upgrade project that began in 2012. The original, cobbled together brewery, a hotspot of salvaged and second-hand equipment fitted inside a former margarine factory - was replaced with a state-of-the-art Krones CombiCube B brewhouse: a German designed and built brewhouse for the serious craft brewer that pushed Gage Roads into new territory. The computerised set up allows a greater degree of control over each step of the brewing process and enabled the brewers to increase their daily brewing capacity from 3,000 to 10,000 hectolitres a day.
Today, it allows Gage Roads to run a two-pronged operation. Under the Gage Roads banner - the name taken from the strip of ocean that runs between Fremantle and Rottnest Island - they release a core range of ales and lagers designed with sessionability in mind. These include the Sleeping Giant English IPA and a mid-strength Czech-style pilsner that have both won trophies at the Perth Royal Beer Show. The range is embellished by occasional, often more experimental and always colourfully presented, limited releases such as The Convict, their seasonal pumpkin ale and the 2014 collaboration Rapid Fire IPA? with WA amateur brewing champion (and occasional Crafty Pint contributor) Jeremy Sambrooks.
The other side of the operation sees them brew beers under contract for a number of other well-known Australian beer brands, including Two Birds, Matso's and McLaren Vale. Responsibility for brewing beers bearing the Sail & Anchor name has also returned to the man who used to brew them back at the Fremantle brewpub. After a short period during which Sail & Anchor branded beers were brewed at Feral in the Swan Valley, they were moved to Gage Roads by brand owner Pinnacle Drinks.
The result is that, since the closure of the Swan Brewery, this combination of brewing their own beer and contract brands makes the Palmyra brewery the largest by volume in WA.