At Pioneer Brewing, they truly make their beer from the ground up.
It began in 2017 when Pete and Tamara Gerber built a 500 square metre brewery shed in the middle of a paddock on their farm near Orange, NSW. With a background in engineering, Pete designed and managed the build of the brewhouse himself (and also handles ongoing maintenance and repair – a saving grace for a regional brewery).
“Everything’s built from scratch around here,” Pete says.
Right from the start, Pete and Tamara were determined to make beer that showcased the land on which they live. Only a few breweries in Australia can boast that they grow their own malting grain, but almost all of the barley, wheat and rye that goes into Pioneer’s beers is grown on the Gerbers’ property. At harvest time, they send their bounty straight over to Voyager Craft Malt, where it’s malted then promptly returned ready for brewing. The result is beers in which their malts shine through, with most tinnies proudly stating “100% Pioneer Grown Malt” on the label.
(The Gerbers also have plans to grow their own hops – watch this space.)
As well as capturing the taste of the land, Pioneer Brewing to the sky in the crafting of their beer. They brew with clean rainwater harvested on the farm (which is no mean feat in drought-ridden regional NSW), and have a 50kW solar power system that drastically reduces the carbon dioxide emissions of their brewing setup.
“Being farmers,” Pete says, “anything we can do to minimise our waste is obviously what we do.”
Spent grain, often blended with protein-rich waste yeast and spent hops, is used to feed the happy sheep on the property. The crops benefit, too: spent hops are repurposed as fertiliser, and wastewater from the brewery is treated for use in the lucerne paddocks. Sustainability is always at the front of the Gerbers’ minds.
But, while the farm brewery is creeping closer to being self-sufficient, it’s by no means isolated. Pioneer are part of something bigger – the burgeoning food and drink tourism of the Orange region. Between fine dining restaurants, clusters of picturesque wineries with cellar doors, and Pioneer making beer with grain grown onsite, the area is becoming a destination where people can explore the provenance of their food and drink.
For Pete and Tamara, that means getting to showcase their beer at their taproom. It may be at the end of three kilometres of dirt road, but that hasn’t stopped visitors coming from far and wide – some even arriving by horse, helicopter, and hot air balloon – to get a taste of the land at Pioneer.
“People are incredibly interested in where their food and drink is coming from,” Tamara says. “We want to be a destination where people can come back and connect with the country.”
To this end, Pioneer run brewery tours every Saturday complete with a tasting of the ten beers on tap, and sometimes even take punters for walks to look at the crops.
“It’s not solely about the brand; it’s about what it means to be Aussie farmers, how beer’s produced, consumer awareness of independent beer in Australia… not all beers are the same,” she adds.
Of course, a tour and a tasting isn’t the only way to enjoy the taproom experience. It’s perfectly okay to just order an Amber Ale to go with the Orange sunset, or pick from the the newest seasonal releases on tap. Or do what the locals do and enjoy a Stockman’s Lager with a meat pie (made with Pioneer’s own beer) – after all, these are the people who have been drinking at Pioneer since the day it opened with the simple social media announcement: “The roller door is up.”
The only thing you can’t do at Pioneer’s taproom is be ignored.
“You can’t just come and get a tasting paddle here and just go and hide in the corner! We offer an experience, we love engaging and understanding where people have come from, how they heard of us… it’s really an interactive experience."
That interaction extends to between customers as well. There’s usually a healthy mix of people intermingling at Pioneer: visitors who have driven from Sydney for the weekend; food tourists from further afield; farmers knocking off after a long day in the sun. But they’ve all got one thing in common, and that’s an appreciation for beer made from the ground up.
Whether you’re interested in family-owned, locally farmed, sustainably made, or just want some fresh beer to throw back after a hard day’s work… head into Pioneer.
The roller door is up.