With hundreds of brewing companies of all shapes and sizes blanketing most of Australia these days, you might think you’ve heard every possible genesis story – and each of their subtle variations. You could easily think the same with Valhalla too, given it was brought into existence by a homebrewer with a couple of decades’ worth of recipes under his belt.
Yet, we’d wager you haven’t come across one quite like this.
They’ve existed far longer than most operations without a brewery of their own, run a bar rather different in nature to most brewery venues, their brand is inspired by Norse mythology, their flagship beer is a no-holds-barred black IPA, they’ve won major trophies, have crowdfunded successfully not once but twice, once brewed a beer with Wollongong rockers Tumbleweed, and operate a side gig that’s helped dozens of indie brewers get their beers into more parts of the country. And that’s without mentioning the launch of a brewery and venue in one of their adopted hometown’s most iconic locations in 2023…
It’s a lot to take in, so let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Valhalla’s first beers – the aforementioned black IPA Obsidian followed closely by another IPA – debuted in May 2016, complete with striking geometric label designs and the eye-catching, Viking-esque logo (founders Scott Hunt and Ange Tydd previously owned a design and branding studio in Perth). Their arrival came a full 25 years after Scott had started homebrewing, and the chosen styles marked Valhalla down as a brewing company looking to do things a little differently.
After a couple of years steadily building awareness while they continued to run a real estate business, they took over a site in Union Street in Geelong. It was turned into the ten-tap home of Valhalla, with their beers pouring alongside by some of the indie brewers Scott distributes via Lotus Beer Co in a venue with a unique aesthetic inspired by his tastes in both mythology and music.
Flick through the vinyl albums spinning on the bar – the only way you hear music in the bar, by the way; no playlists here – and you’ll quickly understand why the collaboration with Tumbleweed could have come about, even if it started out as a conversation about swapping some band merch for Valhalla beer. You’ll find rock in myriad forms, while iconic photos featuring the likes of Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin hang from walls decorated, in places, with skull-patterned wallpaper.
If it sounds like some laneway dive, it’s not, instead marrying that world with the sleekness of a modern city bar.
While Scott and Ange had secured a venue for the brand by 2018, the search for a brewery was to take rather longer, with the intervening time spent building a local following while their lineup expanded to include session-friendly beers and fruited sours. That said, when they scooped major trophies, it was thanks to the beer that started it all.
At the 2021 Australian International Beer Awards – the largest of their kind in the world – Scott was called to the stage not once but twice. First, Obsidian took out the trophy for Best Stout or Porter, before he returned towards the end of the evening to pick up the Champion Gypsy Brewer Award.
It’s likely he’ll look back at 2022 as a more significant one for Valhalla, however, as that was the year they found what they’d been looking for: a site in which they could build a brewery and venue. And what a site they landed; by the middle of 2023, you’ll be able to visit them at North Geelong’s Federal Woollen Mills precinct.
They’re building a 200-capacity venue in which you’ll be able to drink beers brewed right there on a 15-hectolitre brewery. The CBD bar will live on, but this will become Valhalla’s spiritual home – and give them the chance to put out more beers.
The brewpub is taking shape thanks to the assistance of 307 Valhalla fans. More than half a decade on from using crowdfunding to raise $5,000 to pay for their first commercial brew, some kegs and a bit of merch, they raised more than 80 times that in late 2022.
As if building a brewery while running a bar and a distribution company wasn’t enough, Scott also acquired online craft beer club Hops To Home early in 2023, adding another string to his beery bow. Then again, the Vikings didn’t make it into Valhalla without earning their place first.