When the history of Australian craft beer comes to be written, there will be a part dedicated to a spot on the edge of a lake in Victoria. It was there, in a venue overlooking the sprawling lawns against which Lake Eildon lapped (at least when it was full), that Jamieson Brewery launched in 2000, going on to release beers such as The Beast, one of the country's first IPAs.
While Jamieson is no more, a new chapter in the site's brewing history opened in late 2016. That was when Paul and Deb Hann, expat Brits who had moved to this corner of the Victorian High Country from Queensland with their four kids and dogs in tow, opened the doors to Wrong Side Brewing.
Five years after arriving in Victoria, and with railway engineer Paul in the mood for a career change, they decided to embark on a new adventure and put Paul's brewing talents – and the two years he'd spent studying brewing technology – to good use. They pulled up in their fleet of vehicles – camouflaged truck, 4X4 and vintage motorbike – and set about producing beer on site for the first time in almost two years.
That wasn't all they did, however. The venue was given an overhaul: the bar and kitchen were gutted and rebuilt; kegs were repurposed as sinks; hop cone lampshades were fitted throughout; a kids play area and jumping pillow were installed; and they built a new deck upon which guests can soak up views of the tree-covered hills that surround the brewery.
As important as the physical changes was the new ethos the Hanns brought with them. The kitchen offering was streamlined to pizzas, nachos and soups and the focus turned keenly onto the beers. There's now 18 taps to fill with regulars, seasonals and single keg trial batches, with customers invited to offer feedback to see which will get longer runs.
The name Wrong Side is a reference to Paul's time in the rail industry, with wrong side a term used to describe a dangerous situation that could cause trains to crash, as well as to the brewery's location on the wrong side of the river.
"I spent 20 years engineering out wrong side situations," he says, "so I thought it would be good to tie the new business to my past."
But, equally, it applies to his approach to brewing and recipe development. In a marketplace in which hops dominate and, on the fringes, there much buzz around barrels and bugs, Paul instead brings a passion for malt and traditional European beer styles to bear at Wrong Side, a throwback to the beers he grew up with in the UK. Sure, there's a pale ale and the odd IPA, but he prefers to start with malt and build from there, creating a core range of black lager, raspberry pale ale ("Our only legacy beer") and a pilsner.
And then there's the regular flow of seasonals and one-off releases: a series of saisons, all manner of Bavarian inspired wheat beers, dark ales, English ales and Belgian influenced beers – not to mention a rauchbier for which the smoked malt was created with a local farmer or the Black Imperial Double Hopped Smoked Rye IPA brewed for Beer InCider in 2017 and which disappeared fast.
While the brewery's end-of-the-road, Wrong Side location and Paul's determination to follow his own path could be seen as hurdles – "It’s sometimes challenging to push a black lager into a world of NEIPAs," he admits – they've quickly established fan bases in Melbourne and Brisbane, with cold storage and reps in both cities.
And, as with many of their High Country brewery peers, they've designed their home to be family as well as beer tourist friendly. In doing so, they've breathed fresh life into this copper clad slice of Australian craft beer history – a brewery that's helped launch Temple and La Sirène along the way – as it closes in on two decades of beers.