There’s something uniquely appealing about a brewery that brings together the traditions of the Czech Republic with contemporary Melbourne. Historically speaking, the former is the birthplace of pilsners and considered one of the most important beer cultures in the world.
While Melbourne doesn’t share the same long-established prominence, in more recent times it has become known as something of a leader in Australia’s craft beer industry.
Brunswick’s Foreigner Brewing Co, which first opened its doors late in 2016, manages to combine those two disparate brewing cultures. It’s the work of Mira Koman and Peter Denison, who originally hail from the Czech Republic and met through Melbourne’s expat Czech community.
Brought together by their love of beer as much as their shared heritage, the pair soon started homebrewing. Like many Australian craft brewers, Peter and Mira quickly developed plans to go professional and looked to upsize their production scale. Unlike most breweries, however, Foreigner was largely built by one of its brewers.
Mira’s professional background as a boilermaker brings with it a handy set of skills for someone looking to build their own brewery. Aside from the fermenters, he built the rest of the six-hectolitre brewery, often in spare moments fitted around his day job.
While it may be a small brewery by commercial standards, for Mira and Peter the plan was always to start small. It means most of their beer is sold a few metres from where it is made, and also gives the two of them the opportunity to talk about their story and their beer to whoever walks in. And, given the fact they are located a ten minute stroll from Sydney Road and Brunswick Station, it’s the type of brewery that Melbourne’s northern beer drinking community should be walking into.
The proximity of the brewery to all manner of public transport, as well as Brunswick’s young population, makes Foreigner’s location one likely to have some Melbourne breweries casting an envious glance. It’s located in an industrial block featuring row after row of concrete units and roller doors, behind one of which you’ll find a few tables, barstools and beer. During opening hours, expect to find those doors wide open, with vintage records being spun and bar snacks shared around.
Speaking of the beers, unsurprisingly Foreigner has a keen focus on Czech lagers, brewed using traditional methods and recipes. Both their mid-strength and full-strength lagers are packed with Saaz hops and they refer to them as “10 degree” and “12 degree” beers respectively, in reference to the way Czech brewers measure beer on the plato gravity scale.
Peter and Mira also have a level of authority to claim their lagers are as traditional as they come, particularly since the recipes were designed with their friend Petr Petruzalek, who spent more than two decades brewing at Pilsner Urquell.
Yet, keeping true to their current home of Melbourne, Foreigner also brew styles better associated with the modern beer movement. This includes the likes of American-hopped IPAs, Galaxy-packed summer ales and dark ales.
Indeed the beers – much like the rest of the brewery – show that Peter and Mira know how to pair the old world of brewing with the contemporary beer scene. And, for Australian beer drinkers, it’s a cross-cultural beer experience that adds diversity to an increasingly fascinating local landscape.