Some people said it would never work. You can’t have a successful brewery in Australia without a core range†, they said. A core range is how you build a following of loyal customers, they said.
But the team at Range Brewing have never had a problem finding people to drink their beer.
Since day one, founders Matt McIver and Gerard Martin have said they weren’t interested in making the same beer week in, week out.
“We prefer to drink new beers all the time, and try something fresh,” is how Matt puts it. “Why would we not do that in our own brewery?”
With a company motto of “Forever exploring. Forever evolving.”, Range’s modus operandi from the beginning has been to change up recipes with every brew. It’s not that they would never repeat a beer; but, in the same vein as some of the Scandinavian and UK brewers that inspired them, they wanted to continuously produce fresh flavours.
“We wanted to give ourselves freedom to improve all the time.”
After five years of this constant improvement and discovery, Range did eventually develop a range of beers they were pleased to showcase year round - The Forever Range. But it's done nothing to stem the steady flow of limited releases week in, week out.
With head brewer Mitch Pickford at the wheel, Range's perpetually fresh-faced beer list is a picture of vitality. They self-proclaim a focus on hoppy, dark and sour beers, though anyone looking on (including themselves) can see that there’s a special love for approachable and hazy hop-driven styles. Both on tap and in tinnies, it’s not uncommon for more than half the beers available at their Newstead HQ to be hazies, ranging from easy-drinking juicy mid-strengths through to smooth oat cream double IPAs bursting with tropical fruit. Winning the inaugural trophy for Champion Juicy-Hazy beer at the 2022 Indies was just confirmation that Range know how to make hazies.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t also variety: you’ll usually find a fruited sour or two and a crisp lager to scrape the palate clean, as well as a style from elsewhere on the flavour spectrum whether that’s a comfortably bitter DIPA, a spicy Belgian ale, or a rich stout.
While Range’s founders are Australian, they’ve all spent time overseas and have woven elements of European beer culture into Range’s DNA. The brewery taproom in Newstead has a Scandinavian industrial feel to it: clean white walls, a sand-blasted steel bar top, splashes of greenery.
The long communal tables bring to mind beer halls where friends and strangers drink together and share stories. Slow rise sourdough pizzas are hand-thrown in the kitchen, and share the menu with traditional Italian nibbles that pair equally well with classic European style beers and the most recent evolution of IPA.
And then there’s the label design. Influenced by breweries like To Øl and Cloudwater, the Range team see their cans as an opportunity to bring an extra layer of beauty into the world.
“Beer is an art form,” they explain. “So why shouldn’t the packaging that it comes in also be as aesthetically pleasing as what’s inside?”
Their in-house graphic designer pulls together all the eye-catching labels as a reflection of who they are as a brewery. Some are geometric and colourful; some are minimalistic designs that focus on the typeface; some are bordering on psychedelic. But somehow they all manage to share a fresh simplicity that lets them exhibit the art while keeping the style name and information in clear sight.
As they’ve grown in popularity, Range have streamlined their processes and expanded their brewing capacity multiple times, and still the crowds cry for more. It’s not unusual for Range’s new beer releases – every Friday at midday – to sell out in a matter of days, if not minutes. And, in 2020, the brewery opened a second taproom in the Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford, which is also a southern distribution hub for the brewery’s beers.
“It all comes down to consistency in quality, and trust. If we made average beer all the time, then people wouldn’t want to come back for it.”
That’s a standard the Range crew have held themselves to as time goes on, investing in technology and improving quality control as a way to consistently produce good beer.
But, while beer quality is obviously paramount, they also have an appealing sense of whimsy that invites people in, from absurd beer names to a delivery van with the numberplate DDH LVR. It’s fun being a part of Range.
Some people said it would never work. But with two taprooms full of happy punters, beer releases that sell out in minutes, and an epic trophy haul at the 2020 Indies showing that Range know what they’re doing…
“I would say that the jury is no longer out on whether or not it can work,” says a smirking Matt. “It definitely can work.”
NB The beers below are all Specials and released in small volumes. However, Range do tend to brew variations on similar styles so even if we're unable to write about every new release, the below gives you an idea of what to expect within those key styles.
† On October 28, 2022, they relented and introduced their first core range – or "Forever" beer – DISCO. Took five years and 600 beers, mind you!