Old Wives Ales

In an industry where spinning yarns and sharing tales over ales are par for the course, it seems strange that nobody had used such stories in the naming of their beers before.

But, thanks to one particularly ambitious home brewer and his cohorts at the Merri Mashers homebrew club, you can now quite literally drink the Hair of the Dog, albeit in XPA form.

Throughout 2015, Nathan Keatch had been working on a plan to take his brewing commercial but, as time wore on, it became apparent the work was best shared. As a member of perhaps Melbourne’s most active homebrew club, he decided the best way forward was to see if any of his fellow Mashers would be willing to team up to start a beer label.

Roping in Justin Spicer, Shannon Brooks and Mattias Isaksson proved to be an easy sell as they had all been keen to get a formal beer project underway themselves. Between Mattias’ knowledge of recipe development, Shannon’s love of brewing techniques and science, Justin’s business background and Nathan’s design experience, the quartet had many of the necessary skills to get a fledgling brewery off the ground.

Following some vigorous discussions during August 2015, an agreement was reached on what their collective identity would involve. In finding a name, they turned to their mutual appreciation of the community nature of homebrewing – all four of them had always found the most enjoyment in sharing their beery creations at Mashers meetings or socially, and trading stories while they do it.

As is often the way when a story is told over an ale or three, the anecdote will evolve with each retelling, much like an old wives’ tale. So, with a name settled on, it was time to figure out what an Old Wives Ale would taste like. While all four brought in their own preferences on beer styles and techniques, the consensus for what their beers should embody came down to one simple thing: flavour.

After a couple of months trialling some of their favourite recipes, their first beer was settled on, and late in 2015, they mashed in for the first time on professional equipment, putting down a 1600 litre brew of Hair of the Dog XPA.

That first brew, they say, was a nerve-wracking experience, as they scaled up the recipe previously only made in small batches in a backyard. But, with the oversight of professional brewers and plenty of encouragement, Hair of the Dog came to life.

While deciding on a first recipe had taken time, choosing the name for Hair of the Dog came easily. In fact, they found it hard to believe the beer name hadn’t been used already. Their second brew to be bottled, the New Tricks ESB, follows the canine tale, with the "old dog" of a beer style given a new lease on life.

But, just as a tale changes as it is passed from one person to another, the Old Wives Ales team allows the beers themselves to evolve over time, with the bottled XPA you’ll now find on shelves a bolder beast than what was first poured at Carwyn Cellars in November 2015.

Between broken mirrors, stepping on cracks, ladders and black cats, it’s hard to predict what tale might be told next, but it’s safe to say they’ll be happy to spin you a yarn about it over a beer or two.

Kerry McBride

Name
Old Wives Ales
Address

PO Box 1155 (Office)
Thornbury
VIC 3071

Phone
0438 553 835
Website

Old Wives Ales Regulars

Old Wives Ales New Tricks ESB

Tapped December 14th, 2016
For the second Old Wives Ales beer to make it into bottles, the foursome opted to go with their take on the classic English ESB (Extra Special Bitter). It offers a nice literal link with their other bottled beer, Hair of the Dog, as the name refers to teaching an old dog new tricks. In this case, they're referring to the use of New World hops in what otherwise appears to be a pretty faithful recreation of what you'd find in the UK (albeit with higher carbonation than you'd get from a cask pulled… Read more
Style
ESB
Strength
5.0%

Old Wives Ales Full Moon

Tapped March 10th, 2016
The Full Moon comes with a tale of apricot beards, snatched moments of passion, trembling in blankets and a wolfman. Which, according to the Old Wives Ales crew, translates in beer form to a black IPA, in other words a beer that looks to all intents and purposes like a stout or porter but drinks like hopped up pale beer. In the case of Full Moon, the subterfuge on the eyes is caused by the use of Midnight Wheat, which lends a beer blackness with little in the way of chocolate or roasted characters… Read more
Style
Black Rye IPA
Strength
6.5%
Bitterness
70 IBU

Old Wives Ales Hair of the Dog XPA

The first release from Old Wives Ales was this XPA: Hair of the Dog. For the uninitiated, XPA is short for Extra Pale Ale. For some brewers, this can mean putting the "extra" emphasis on hops, for some it's booze, for some it's pale. In the case of the Old Wives Ales team, it appears to pretty much be all of the above. Tweaked and tightened since first appearing in 2015, it's a full-flavoured flagship beer with highly aromatic and fruity hops to the fore. You don't even need to get the… Read more
Style
XPA
Strength
5.8%

Old Wives Ales Specials

Old Wives Ales Lupulonimbus & Lactohop

Tapped October 17th, 2017
With more and more Australian breweries making New England style IPAs, it should come as little surprise that the words “Imperial” or "Double" should start making their presence felt alongside the letters NE and IPA. Such is the case with Old Wives Ales’ take on the style, with the Melbourne brewery brewing an 8 percent ABV NEIIPA in collaboration with the Terminus. Lupulonimbus pours a cloudy orange with a big, aromatic hit of citrus coming from the combo of Ella, Vic Secret and… Read more
Style
NEIIPA & Hoppy Sour
Strength
8.0% & 5.0%
Stockists

The Dan O'Connell

And select other Victorian bars

Old Wives Ales Van Damn! Belgian IPA

Tapped September 8th, 2017
Old Wives Ales' Shed Series of one-off releases kicked off in June with Horn Swatter, the hoppy American stout brewed in honour of brewer Shannon Brooks' old man. The second in the series – draught only this time – comes with a nod to another old man, albeit not one with any familial ties to the Melbourne foursome. This time, it's the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme that is both inspiration and decoration – the decals feature his bloodied face. Why? Because it's a Belgian IPA they… Read more
Style
Belgian IPA
Strength
7.0%
Bitterness
60 IBU
Stockists

And on tap at a handful of other venues in Melbourne and Bendigo

Old Wives Ales Horn Swatter

Tapped June 25th, 2017
Almost by stealth, it seems, the gypsy foursome that is Old Wives Ales has five beers out in bottles. The most recent is the first in what they're tagging the Shed Series, with Horn Swatter an American stout in which they've ratcheted everything up like the temperature controls in the brew shed. The description kicks off with the claim: "Blacker than Norwegian metal..." and it's one they waste little time living up to. Not only is it black as night but the dark malts have been layered in… Read more
Style
American Stout
Strength
6.0%
Stockists

Other stockists TBC

Old Wives Ales Pop's Passion Tart

Tapped January 28th, 2017
As one of Melbourne's more prominent gypsy operations, the Old Wives Ales crew is used to collaborating – how else would they get their beers brewed, after all? This time around, however, they brought an extra collaborator into the mix. One of the key characteristics of a gose, the German style that's risen to prominence in the craft beer scene with astonishing speed, is a level of saltiness. So it's hello to Smalt, producer of cold smoked salt and supplier of some apple wood smoked salt for Pop's… Read more
Style
Passionfruit Gose
Strength
4.3%
Bitterness
5 IBU
Stockists

And select craft beer outlets in Victoria

Old Wives Ales Double Dog IIPA

Tapped December 8th, 2016
When the team behind Old Wives Ales was looking for a beer to celebrate its first birthday, the foursome quickly decided to take inspiration from the first beer they ever brewed together as a professional outfit: Hair of the Dog, a fairly lean XPA that features a prominently Australian hop profile, with some Chinook thrown in as well. Its big brother, Double Dog, is a double IPA that is something of a Hair of the Dog on steroids, taking inspiration from its hop forward aromas and flavours while keeping… Read more
Style
Double IPA
Strength
8.3%
Stockists

The Public Brewery

And select beer venues in Victoria

Old Wives Ales Blood Moon

Tapped July 1st, 2016
Brewers' notes: Jam packed with American hops, this beer is dank, piney and resinous up front, with fruity and floral aromas lingering in the background. Balancing the hops, the malt bill is bready with light toffee and just a suggestion of roast. The bitterness is smooth and long, checked by just the right amount of sweetness. This big and juicy Red IPA goes well with salty, sticky barbeque and will leave you feeling warmer in the cooler months.… Read more
Style
Red IPA
Strength
7.0%
Bitterness
80 IBU

Old Wives Ales Red Sky At Night

Tapped February 1st, 2016
One of the earliest releases from the Old Wives and, if memory serves correctly, the first to eschew hops as the primary force for good. Here, the brewers opted for a saison then piled on raspberries, specifically "a whole lotta" them. The base beer was kept simple and lean, so there's not too much in the way of the funk, spice or pepper you can find in many saison style beers. Instead, it's light in body and as much there to carry the raspberry character. They lend the beer a soft pink… Read more
Style
Raspberry Saison
Strength
5.2%
Bitterness
27 IBU
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