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.