When they take stock, the family behind Vale Brewing will look back upon 2015 as one of the more momentous in their careers in beer. Not only did the Collin brothers take full control of the former McLaren Vale Beer Company and rename it Vale Brewing, they also unveiled an enticing second label as Fox Hat became the new decal in their hometown of Adelaide before starting to appear atop hotel and bar taps all over Australia.
Designed as an experimental, “unleashed” label where head brewer Jeff Wright can have a little fun “off the chain” with which he operates with Vale’s more mass market appeal core beers, it’s a place to trial something a bit different. Indeed, the aim with Fox Hat’s beers is to keep drinkers guessing, with Jeff stating that every new beer will be “big, bold and balanced”.
The playful nature of the brand’s punny name was matched by the first two beers with which they announced themselves, the quirk-of-history referencing, hopped-to-the-eyeballs Metric IPA and equally hoppy, yet smooth and approachable-for-its-size Phat Mongrel oatmeal stout. They were equally quick off the mark with their first collaboration too, scurrying up to the Adelaide Hills to collaborate with Prancing Pony for an unusual limited edition American red ale/stout mash up that saw the latter’s India Red Ale mixed with the former’s stout.
Having found favour with drinkers and beer judges alike within a short timescale – their first two beers won gold and silver at the Royal Adelaide Beer & Cider Awards within weeks of release – Fox Hat beers have been packaged into 375ml cans and released into the wild in May 2016, not long after Jeff and co welcomed a strong lager into the permanent range. Since then beers including a powerful imperial stout and big red ale have followed, while in October 2017, the brand was bought by South Australian company Bickford's, along with Vale.
“Fox Hat will be a range that will reflect our personality as brewers,” says Jeff. "It’s a way to keep our interest in using new hops and working with new styles.”
Certainly, with the Collin brothers backing him to lay this hat wherever he likes, this is one cunning old fox who's enjoying the freedom to play around with new recipes, concepts and flavours that the ethos behind Vale doesn’t always allow. Now, where’s the Fox Hat?