The opening weeks of 2019 saw the Yarra Valley brewing community welcome another member to its ranks. Well, sort of...
There's a new brand featuring all new beers and a new taphouse in which to enjoy them. At the same time, there's no new brewery or, indeed, new brewery owners. Confused? Thankfully, there's no need to be.
Detour Beer Co sits where you previously found Napoleone Brewers and brews its beers on the same kit that previously produced Napoleone beers. However, with the Napoleone family focusing its attention once more on cider, they brought in a new team to take over the brewery.
At its heart is Glenn Harrison, whose career in the beer industry since his teenage years covers pretty much every role imaginable, from working in pubs in country New South Wales to repping for Prickly Moses then working his way through the brewing ranks at Hargreaves Hill and Temple before being enticed back to the heart of the Yarra Valley. There, in tandem with fourth generation Napoleone André, he's launched Detour Beer Co – the name a nod to beer representing a change of tack for the owners as well as the brewery's location between the two main highways running through the valley.
As well as infusing Detour with a contemporary look that contrasts with the traditionalist feel of the other elements of the Napoleone operation that surrounds it – the family runs large orchards across the Eastern Seaboard and owns Punt Road Wines and Napoleone Cider – the pair has launched with a quartet of beers very much of their time. The Black Spur Draught, referencing the famous drive into the hills a few kilometres away, is there to offer familiarity to those who've not waded too deep into crafty waters, while the others offer a variety of hop forward experiences, from the mid-strength Trail Ale to an IPA via an XPA.
They're brewed on a setup that once sat atop MONA in Hobart, producing Moo Brew beers before the Tasmanian operation moved to a production site a short drive away, and the intention – at least once the first round of beers is established – is to kick off a barrel-ageing program in earnest. When you've got ready access to used barrels from a winery two doors down, why wouldn't you?
Beyond that, the ambition is to build Detour into a brand that, like Napoleone's ciders, is known well beyond the Yarra Valley. That said, if you head to the source – and you should as the location is nothing short of spectacular – you can still enjoy a brewpub experience.
Within a dairy building dating from the 1860s, you'll find Detour beers pouring in front of the brewery in the same spot where the cows would once have been milked. And, while the original dairy has been expanded significantly over time to include a restaurant and bakery (Meletos) and providore as well as the brewery, the additions have been designed and landscaped in such a way that you’d swear the building had been around for decades.
Expanses of timber and concrete, reclaimed farmhouse gear and repurposed furniture maintain the rustic rural feel, although you’d be excused from not noticing given the towering walls of glass that ensure you can enjoy panoramic views of the distant hills while seated inside.
Add in the luxury accommodation of The Farmhouse next door and you've got a choice of beer, wine, cider and pizza all created on site, often from ingredients grown there too, plus somewhere to rest your head at night if you plan to indulge. Quite the detour, huh?