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, Dan declared his intention was 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…”
However, that's ended up being just part of it, with a core range (as such there is one) typically involving the simple Draught and the likes of a pale and IPA merely the launch pad for flights of fancy, from barrel-aged beers to fruit sours to all manner of NEIPAs, notably the Blood Orange New England Rye IPA that's become something of a flagship. There's dessert beers, big Belgians, whopping IPAs and more – with trophies from The Indies collected along the way too, including the Champion Australian Beer in both 2017 and 2019 and Champion Large Independent Brewery in 2020.
“A little bit like myself,” Dan says. “As you delve deeper there’s all kinds of shit going on!”
As for the "Family" of the brewery name (and frequently the beer's titles), the influence stretches beyond his dad – who we're assured is a mad scientist – 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.
The brewery they've helped inspire has become 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 have yet another local brewery to check out, one where they may even find themselves serenaded with show tunes from the brewhouse…