The year 2015 was a significant one for the Vale Brewing operation. Not only was it the year the Collin brothers took full control of the former McLaren Vale Beer Company and renamed it Vale Brewing, they also unveiled an enticing second label, with Fox Hat starting to appear on decals in their hometown of Adelaide before heading interstate.
Designed as an experimental, “unleashed” label where head brewer Jeff Wright could have a little fun “off the chain” compared to Vale’s more mass market appeal beers, it became a place to push the boundaries a bit more. 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, punchy lager and big red ale have followed, as has a change of ownership. Along with Vale, Fox Hat was acquired by SA family business Bickford's and has continued on its path as the feistier younger sibling, with an XPA at the upper reaches of where the style typically sits joining the ranks in early 2019.
When the brand launched, Jeff told The Crafty Pint: “Fox Hat will be a range that will reflect our personality as brewers. It’s a way to keep our interest in using new hops and working with new styles.” And so it remains.