As if launching the first genuine brewery in decades in the popular riverside town of Echuca wasn't enough to catch people's attention, the couple behind Bandicoot Brewing had a unique trick up their sleeves. At a time when Australian craft breweries were starting to look tentatively at cans, Tracey and Bruce Green were also considering aluminium. The difference here was that they launched their beers in aluminium bottles.
It helped get people talking, although the fact that one of their two launch beers, the Rusty Pale Ale, was a beer that didn't hold back on the hop or malt fronts certainly helped too.
In the end, the aluminium took a back seat, however, as former homebrewer Tracey couldn't be restricted to just two beers. The couple wanted to get back to the grass roots reasons behind them starting the brewery, and that was to produce a beer for everyone and look to excite each individual’s palate. They saw drinkers taking a shine to beers such as Tracey’s rich After Dark and the fulsome Belgian Bombshell and, realising they needed to be packaged as well as available on tap, switched to glass to give themselves greater flexibility. And it's flexibility they've made full use of, adding beers such as a summer ale, black IPA, barrel aged imperial stout and English-inspired mild to the lineup since.
As for their home, you'll find them in a warehouse on the Northern Highway as you enter the old port town. It's an unassuming spot for an unassuming couple in which Bruce put his talents to work building the brewery upon which his wife could scale up the recipes that had brought her success in the homebrewing world.
Utilising Bruce’s engineering knowledge, combined with Tracey’s food technology, food production and brewing knowhow, they built the brewery themselves, sourcing equipment from all over globe. With beer quality paramount, the brewery was built using the most sanitary fittings along with pumps designed to be gentle on the beer. They also wanted the brewery to be environmentally friendly so incorporated various energy efficiency and water saving initiatives into the design.
As for the fun stuff, visit their shed and, alongside the brewery, rows of tanks and bottling lines, you'll find a bar that's grown from a tiny tasting operation to an 11-tap setup, including a guest tap. That said, when in Echuca you can sample Bandicoot at a growing number of venues that keep their beers on tap, such as the craft beer friendly Mill or The American Hotel. They’ve loyal supporters elsewhere too, including The Cambrian Hotel, The Square Hotel and Mr Bebe's in Bendigo and The Cherry Tree Hotel in Cremorne.
Considering how populous breweries are in many other regional parts of Victoria – the High Country, Surf Coast, Mornington Peninsula, for example – Tracey and Bruce were their region's lone warriors when they opened, rocking up to festivals and knocking on hotel and bar doors in an attempt to encourage both drinkers and venue operators to try something different – and support local. It's been a slow process but, as the expanding range suggests, they're finding more people starting to explore new flavours – and are popping up on Melbourne taps with increasing regularity too.
As for that broadening range, 2016 saw Tracey, whose nickname gave Bandicoot its name, invest in barrels. A Scotch ale was poured into St Anne's Shiraz barrels, while a Russian Imperial Stout found a home inside oak from Tasmania's Lark Distillery. For a town that hadn't been home to an operational brewery for generations, it's quite an evolution.
If you'd like to chat to Tracey and Bruce about the beers (and we suggest asking Bruce for his thoughts on the Belgian Bombshell), then you can head to the brewery bar any Thursday or Friday and one Saturday a month too when they usually host special events – or pop in for takeaway sales any time they're around.