If you’re into good beer and you’ve spent any time around the Surf Coast of Victoria in recent years, there’s a good chance you’ll have called into the Odyssey Tavern and Brewery. It opened in 2012 as one of very few venues offering craft beer in any serious way in the region, helping light the way for others that are starting to follow.
When it opened, a small space behind the bar was earmarked for a brewery that would have needed to be nano more than micro in scale. But, before they got around to installing a system a beer bearing the Odyssey name appeared. It was the Calypso Pale Ale, a tropical fruit bomb brewed under license for Odyssey founder Grant Byrne and designed in cahoots with Matt Cuthbert, who has since gone on to join Rocks in Sydney.
The beer instantly proved a hit, winning People’s Choice at the first Great Australian Beer Festival in Geelong at which it was showcased and landing in the Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll three years running. The proposed brewery, on the other hand, didn’t come to fruition – no bad thing as however much steel they tried to jam into the venue, it wasn’t going to be enough to meet demand locally for the Calypso.
Thus, plans for the beer side of the Odyssey business were reworked and focus instead turned towards building a successful brand with beer brewed offsite. And, having brewed beer at a few places in the first couple of years, today that means just the one site: the one belonging to Barabool Brewing Company, the brewer behind Cockies Beers, winner of the Australian International Beer Awards Best New Exhibitor in 2016.
Barabool was launched by Jamie Roydhouse, a homebrewer of nearly five decades, in his 60s as a means, as he puts it, of having some fun before it was too late. He had spare capacity, all of which is now taken up by Odyssey.
Like their host, the ethos behind Odyssey’s beers is to create a range that is full of character yet with sessionability in mind; most of the range sits between mid 4 and mid 5 percent ABV and looks to squeeze as much into these pocket rockets as possible, be that the fruity hops that dominate the Calypso and Beach Ale, the layers of malt in the ESR (Extra Special Red ale) or the rich Coffee Stout. Like Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, Grant is the conductor when it comes to beer concepts but brings in others, mainly homebrewing mate Heath Bourke, to turn those concepts into reality; as Grant puts it, Heath has "embraced every challenge thrown at him and has nailed beer after beer through numerous trial batches until its exactly how it should be."
Completing the picture is brother-in-law Callum Nicholls, who joined the team to help take the brewing company to a bigger audience and has taken on multiple roles – coordinating brews, distribution, marketing and events – and graphic designer Andrew Ferrie of Gruff Design. He took original drawings by Gavin Mouldrey of Dittybox Design and the space odyssey idea behind the brand to create a story shot through with humour that demands you spend time peering closely at the labels on Odyssey’s bottles. With equally eye-catching tap handles from Rain Gidley completing the picture, one assumes the lack of a brewery onsite in Mt Duneed isn’t something that’s troubling the crew as they continue on their craft beer odyssey.