The very nature of craft beer ensures the industry is awash with personalities, quirky characters and unusual ideas. 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.
But even among the colourful breweries that make up Australia’s beer industry, Dainton Beer manages to stand out. Launched in the middle of 2013 by Dan Dainton and his old man Kev, after the former spent time brewing at the James Squire Brewhouse in Melbourne’s CBD (now The Crafty Squire) and at Holgate Brewhouse, their first beer was Red Eye Rye, a hoppy, spicy red ale of eye-catching quality that proved a good sighter for the sort of creativity was to follow.
For the first few years, theirs was a roving operation, with Dan making beer out of breweries all over Victoria, but the father and son duo were constantly on the lookout for a place they could call home. That came along in the middle of 2016, when they became 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 a 2,000 square metre site in Carrum Downs, two minutes off the Monash Freeway. With a brewery in place, the crew around Dan and Kev quickly started to grow and so too did the number and range of beers released.
The Dainton core range includes basically every hop-forward style you could consider, while a separate, Imperial Range is dedicated to the boozier side of beer. To many beer drinkers, however, they might be best known for the speed with which they fire out limited releases. It’s a roster that regular includes dessert beers, big Belgians, hazies galore, sours, whopping IPAs and, well … it’s probably almost quicker to list the styles of beers the Dainton brewers haven’t brewed rather than try to list them all.
It’s not just limited release beers that are a focus for the brewery, but ensuring they brew them well too. That consistency-focused approach has seen them pick up many medals at the nation’s beer awards and an impressive haul of trophies at The Indies, including the Champion Australian Beer in both 2017 and 2019 and Champion Large Independent Brewery in 2020. That awards success has led to substantial growth for the brewery: a 50-hectolitre, fully-automated brewhouse was installed in 2021 with the aim of getting Dainton beers further across Australia and into export markets, while also allowing them to offer contract brewing to others.
It’s not just award-winning beer that features in Carrum Downs, however. The Dainton Taphouse is open four days a week and as well as 18 taps of beer you can pick from an American-inspired food menu almost as varied as the beers and including pizza, loaded fries, fried chicken and hoagies. Live music has also become an important part of the taproom, while support for local music doesn’t just occur within the venue: the Dainton name has become a regular sight at Americana and country gigs across Victoria.
It means the brewery has fans in many places, from the residents of Melbourne’s southeast who call the taproom their local to those across the country who beat down the doors of their local bottleshop to try the latest honeycomb and toffee stout or finely-tuned IPA. As with the original Red Eye Rye, which has spawned a number of spin-offs, often the beers their fans are chasing impress, sometimes they surprise or shock, and, on occasion, they do both at once.