It's not easy to bring something new to the Australian beer landscape now it's populated by hundreds of breweries and you can find quality venues with rotating tap lineups in country towns. But it's fair to say Dollar Bill Brewing have managed to stand out from the crowd from the moment they first appeared.
For one, the first ripple they sent through the industry came in the shape of a funky, barrel-aged, hopped cider. Then, when they were ready to bring their first beers to market, they started out with the sort of styles most drinkers advance to after years of exploring: barrel-aged blends inspired by the lambics of Belgium. Better still, the beers were brilliant, knocking drinkers sideways and, despite their very limited release, flying into the upper echelons of our Best New Victorian Beers list.
The family-run venture launched by Fiona and Ed Nolle from their home in Ballarat hasn't put a foot wrong since. The barrel-aged blends and fruited farmhouse ales have continued to impress palates wherever they've landed; their first "core range" beer, Learning To Breathe collected a trophy at the 2019 Indies just weeks after release. And they've stamped their distinctive personalities onto a local beer world that's been eager to welcome them.
Add in a background that takes in one of the country's leading winemakers going by the nom de plume "Attorney at Large" Miguel Sanchez, a label designer who's also responsible for an entire country's currency, regular runs from Melbourne to Ballarat with freshly-filled barrels, plus a portable Quarter Bar (25 cents in a dollar; 25 taps on the bar) and this isn't your typical brewing company.
Indeed, while the Nolles might have brought Ed's beers to market late in his brewing career – he and Miguel had been homebrewing together for almost two decades before the first bottles hit retailers – they've arrived in a space many would regard as the cutting edge of brewing today.
Before 2020 is out, they'll have opened a cellar door at their off-grid property a few kilometres outside Ballarat. Not only will it be a place to showcase their diverse range of innovative beverages, but it's a place where the location will become ever more part of said beverages, not just via spontaneously-fermented beers but via the creation of what Fiona calls a "garden of beer".
And what is a garden of beer? In the case of Dollar Bill, it's land filled with "fruit trees, a market garden and animals, including fish-stocked dams, all focused on creating wild beer with a particular terroir while applying the concepts of permaculture, sustainability and minimal impact."
As for the brewing company name, it tips a wink to Andy Warhol, Smokey And The Bandit and Wu-Tang Clan (you're as likely to talk Pharcyde as fermentation with Ed and there are listening suggestions on the labels). It also comes laced with a hearty dose of irony; no one who started out making 300 bottle batches of beers four years in the making has "getting rich" top of their list of life goals.
Taken together, it's a potent package for anyone interested in the history and the future of beer, or who enjoys seeing good people having a good time doing something they truly love. Roll on the days of sipping sours in that garden of beer...