There are few plots of land anywhere in Australia so steeped in modern beer folklore as that found at 152 Haddrill Road in the Swan Valley. And it’s a location where new chapters are being added to a story that’s already delivered many twists and turns over the years.
Pull off the road into the carpark these days and you’ll find yourself at the home of Slumdog Brewing. It’s a classic brewpub setup: a 12-hectolitre brewhouse tucked into the corner of a large timber, brick and tin shed surrounded by enough lawns for an army of kids to run wild without annoying fellow patrons.
Slumdog’s beers could equally be described as a classic lineup of modern craft beers too: from easygoing mid-strength with broad appeal through quaffable fruit sour to pales both clear and hazy and an IPA for which you most definitely need a designated driver. You’ll find them taking up a good proportion of the taps at the boozer in which the brewery sits: the Baskerville Tavern.
All of which is well and good, but what does a brewing company that first hit the market in 2022 have to do with “modern beer folklore”? To borrow from The Full Monty: a very lot.
Prior to becoming the Baskerville Tavern and home to Slumdog, 152 Haddrill Road was the spiritual home of Feral Brewing, the WA operation acquired by Coca-Cola Amatil in 2017 that, from its inception in 2002, helped change the face of beer in Australia via icons such as Hop Hog, Razorback and Boris, collecting several trophy cabinets-worth of awards along the way.
The connection runs deeper still, however: the founder of Slumdog Brewing is Al Carragher. He was a founder of Feral Brewing, along with his parents, Gillian and Neil, who then owned the land and built the brewpub-turned-tavern in the early 2000s. It doesn’t end there either: prior to heading south to focus on the FOUND. project (with other Feral alumni) the Slumdog beers were designed and brewed by former Feral head brewer Will Irving. And, at time of writing, the reins of the brewery had been passed to Adam Lesk, a safe pair of hands who learned his trade at Otherside and (of course) Feral.
Enough of the past, however. What of the present?
After taking back control of the venue in early 2022, Al (whose dreads are echoed in the brewery logo) and Will set about getting the old girl back into shape. The brewery had been left idle for years, so needed to be pulled apart, rebuilt and improved with the addition of a keg washer and new mill. The venue was in need of TLC too, with new furniture, a new deck, more lighting and improved audio installed along the way.
Once the brewpub license had been switched to that of a tavern, additional taps were put in place, taking the total to 27. And, now that they're no longer limited to pouring only beers brewed on-site, Al introduced the approach that’s worked wonders at his Melbourne pub, the Great Northern Hotel.
That means you’ll find Slumdog beers rubbing shoulders on tap with fellow WA indies, major brewery craft brands like Balter, and WA icon Swanny D. The approach stretches beyond the beers, with local wines and spirits available, and big screens in place for those eager to watch sport. They include a 3.5m by 4.5m screen in the beer garden as Al looks to replicate the success he’s had in turning the Great Northern into one of Melbourne’s best places to watch sport – without the downsides that can sometimes come with such things.
As for the name, that also has a tale to tell. Over the years, the Great Northern team has used hops grown in the pub’s beer garden in an annual collaboration brew with Stone & Wood. The beer has always been called Slumdog and, after brainstorming other ideas for the brewing company, they realised they already had the best name in their hands. Their venues are as welcoming for dogs as they are for humans too, so…
There were plenty who feared a place where so many people had enjoyed memorable experiences – sometimes genuine beer epiphanies – would be lost once Feral moved out. But not only does brewing live on, it does so within a venue to which you can bring your non-beer-obsessed family and friends safe in the knowledge there’s plenty more on offer as well, and in which every sip of beer is infused with a little bit of modern beer history.
And if you fancy one more twist in the tale – or should that be Slumdog's tail? – Al enticed his mum and stepdad out of retirement to work alongside him at the Baskerville Tavern too. Cheers to that!