The very nature of craft beer ensures that the industry is awash with personalities and quirky characters. Sure, there are very sensible people working in it too, people who spotted a business opportunity in beer and bring a suitably businesslike approach to their operations.
Then there are those who might break into a (mighty impressive) rendition of songs from Les Miserables at the most unexpected of moments, compose dark poetry for their beer labels, think nothing of treating the ingredient list for a single beer as if it were a small novella, or engage people in deeply tangential and mind-boggling conversations about everything and nothing.
Actually, that’s a lie. There aren’t “those” who would fit such a description. There is only one. And that one is Dan Dainton, the man who – in advance of building his own brewery and thus expanding output – advertised not for a sales rep or brand ambassador but instead for an “Intergalactic Fun & Beer Legend” – the title that adorns the winning applicant’s business cards to this day.
He’s the man who, with his dad as his main business partner, launched Dainton Family Brewery in the middle of 2013 following stints as a brewer at the James Squire Brewhouse in Melbourne’s CBD and at Holgate Brewhouse. He launched with Red Eye Rye, a superb hoppy, spicy red ale that months later took top spot in one of our Blind Tasting Panels, and has followed up with a series of equally creative (and usually rye-tinged) beers.
From 2013 to the middle of 2016, Dainton operated as a gypsy brewery, brewing batches at breweries all over Victoria and usually, according to Dan, spending much of the time encouraging his hosts to put more hops into a brew than they’d tried before. From the middle of 2016, however, Dan and family will be owners of their very own brewery – albeit rather later than they'd hoped.
Following a search for premises that stretched from Milawa in the north to Castlemaine and Warburton, they found an 2,000 square metre site in Carrum Downs, two minutes off the Monash Freeway. It is now home to a 30 hectolitre brewery capable of 1.5 million litres per year from the off, as well as a 60 seat tasting room that may have a kitchen added at a future date. Once behind the wheels of his shiny new toy, the intention is to make even more hoppy beers as, says Dan: “There isn’t a system in Australia that can handle some of the hop-crazed beers I want to make…”
The core range now features the hoppy as anything Insane Uncle IPA, super-sessionable, Kiwi-hopped Impale Ale, Samurye Lager and the aforementioned Red Eye Rye with other beers, such as Grand Pappy’s Whip imperial red and Sneaky Son Smoking Stout, appearing seasonally. Barrel ageing began in 2014 with the "Manhattan Ale" collaboration initially carried out with top Melbourne cocktail bar, The Everleigh, and now an annual release, and the barrel-aged Skeletor's Stout following late in 2015. It's all part of Dan’s plan to create beers that are “incredibly approachable” but also a little off the wall and "hitting the flavour extremes" within styles.
“A little bit like myself,” he says. “As you delve deeper there’s all kinds of shit going on!”
The beers should stand out from the crowd before they hit your palate too. Their "cooler-than-a-hipster" graphic designer God Awful has, in close collaboration with Dan, come up with a new raft of labels and the results are among the very best in Australia.
As for the "Family" of the brewery name (and frequently the beer's titles), the influence stretches beyond his dad as business partner. It was a combination of being fired from a job by his uncle and receiving a home brew kit from his mum – "The only decent Christmas present she ever got me" – that started him on the road to brewing. More recently, his honeymoon, following marriage to a woman who doesn't drink beer, took them along the West Coast of the USA visiting breweries, including a candlelit dinner at Stone, while dad Kev, we're assured, is a mad scientist.
The brewery they've helped inspire promises to be a treat for beer lovers across Australia and residents of the Melbourne's southeast alike. The former can look forward to more of Dan’s delicious beers, brewed on the same system every time. The latter will have yet another local brewery to check out, one where they may even find themselves serenaded with show tunes from the brewhouse…