The Western Ridge of the Barossa Valley is a wondrous place: fertile soil, a friendly community and an assortment of artisan producers. These craftspeople include vintage winemakers, coffee bean roasters, barley maltsters, honey producers and makers. And the Western Ridge Brewing Collective utilises most of these services in the creation of its beers – and, maybe one day, in the distillation of its own spirits.
They contract brew with the support of local breweries, such as Rehn Bier and Barossa Valley Brewing, use grain from family owned Barossa Valley Craft Malts and grow hops in the rich soil of the ridge. The Collective is made up of four lads from a variety of backgrounds but they all have the same set of philosophies when it comes to making beer: malt, water, yeast and hops should be the only ingredients – no adjuncts or preservatives are to be found.
They are a unique bunch in many senses, with a streak of individuality running through their manifesto: each member owns their recipes so, if someone was to leave, they can take their recipes with them and the remaining members can't use them again – no matter how successful.
The brewing company has progressed nicely since early 2016, when the foursome – three of whom still hold down full-time jobs – launched their first beer into the wild. Having started out selling their first 50 litre batch at one venue, they've evolved to bigger batches, released multiple beers and, most recently, canned their "Not another F****** Pale Ale".
Here they are to tell us more in the latest entry to our Who Brews...? series.
WESTERN RIDGE BREWING COLLECTIVE
Who are you?
David Henderson, Olexij Straschko, Alex Marschall and Tim Hardy.
Where do you brew?
Greenock in the Barossa Valley (our pilot brewhouse and distillery) and contracting space at Rehn Bier and Barossa Valley Brewing. Occasional guest appearances at Ministry of Beer for good measure. We have even used the bottler at Greenock Brewers prior to the release of our IPA; so we have “manufactured” beer in every brewery in the Barossa!
Why do you brew?
We don’t like having reliable income and would much rather a job we leap out of bed to do each day than not have our house repossessed. Seriously though, we all love beer, all types of beer.
More importantly we love the process of brewing.
We formed this business so we can go playing with yeast/bacteria, old and new brewing techniques and sharing this passion with others. We will make beer every possible way (except filtered and pastuerised, although we might consider filtering if we came up with a compelling technique or reason) before we are done.
What beers have you released to date?
We've put out 11 beers in our first 11 months; just short of 5,000 litres total production. Those beers are:
- InaugruAle #1 Secret Rehn’s Business – Brown ale – 5.5% ABV, 38 IBU
- VisionFestivale – Hybrid pale ale/amber ale – 5.4% ABV, 36 IBU
- Captain Responsible Trousers – A mid-strength bitter – 3.8% ABV, 50 IBU
- The Friendly Bison – American pale ale – 5.0% ABV, 37 IBU
- Vox Populi – Rye IPA – 6.5% ABV, 60 IBU
- SummeRye – Rye golden ale #endofsummer – 5.7% ABV, 23 IBU
- 20k, The Barossa Ale – a kolsch made from ingredients ENTIRELY grown and processed within a 20km circle in the Barossa Valley (and sold only within that circle) #beerfromhere – 4.7% ABV, 26 IBU
- Galaxy Warrior Mosaic IPA (pictured above) – Yet Another F*****g Pale Ale – 7.0% ABV, 70 IBU (batch 1 was slightly lower at 6.7% ABV because reasons).
- All The Good Names Are Taken – Meme Stout – 6.0% ABV, 50 IBU
- ‘Ard Bitta – Imperial bitter – 6.3% ABV, 60 IBU
- Буряк Beer – Beetroot saison – 7.0% ABV, 32 IBU
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
The Western Ridge of the Barossa is where our founder lives, where the idea for the brewery was born. We are inspired by and deeply rooted to place, with a big focus on maximising locally grown malt and hops in our beer.
We don't (and won't) employ brewers who aren’t owners so where we are from is a genuinely important part of our beer. #beerfromhere is not just a random hashtag but core of our ethos.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Working in England in the early 90s, David stayed at a CAMRA pub with onsite brewery and was unable to forget how good beer actually tasted when it wasn’t assembled from chemicals, filtered to death and then pasteurised to make sure it was really dead.
Tim was likewise inspired by UK real ales, just further north in Scotland, where Cromarty and St Andrews blew him away.
For Alex and Olexij it was the Americans; Olexij slipped into a joy coma the first time he encountered Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Wet Hop Harvest Ale.
Alex can’t forget his discoveries while travelling in the USA for the first time; although it was local drop Moon Dog’s Jumping the Shark that really opened his eyes. No surprise that Alex and Olexij are our principle hop farmers.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Remember there are four of us, so this is beer fridgeS!
- Plenty of assorted homebrew
- Freshly delivered Ukrainian craft beer
- Yeast Coast IPA (Modus/Wheaty)
- Smokin’ Beets (Blackman’s Brewery, who share our passion for beetroot)
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (dont judge me, man!)
- Coopers Stout (still not with the judging me!)
- Victorville Ale (Greenock Brewers)
- Greenock Dark Ale (Greenock Brewers)
- Evil Archie's Red Ale (Mismatch)
- Hopwork Orange (Prancing Pony)
- Moby Dick Ambergris (Robe Town)
- Praline (La Sirène)
- Jumping the Shark (Moon Dog)
- The Manskirt with Wood (Oops! that is a secret prototype beer people aren’t supposed to know about yet...)
What would your desert island beer be?
David: Rehn Bier Stout (drinks well at room temperature and is just bloody awesome; also pretty sure it is several food groups)...
Alex: Moon Dog Black Lung III (aged in rum barrels in case I needed to bribe some pirates for a lift off the island... but they only get half!)
Tim: Cromarty Rogue Wave IPA (probably how I got here in the first place, but at least I’m a happy chappy!)
Olexij: Sierra Nevada Southern Harvest Ale (Boozy enough to help me levitate outta there and I can’t drink pilsners forever…)
If your brewery was a band, who would it be?
A bunch of guys in a shed who think they are a supergroup of Frenzal Rhomb, Bad Religion, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Led Zeppelin.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
We have a growth cap in our business plan, so we aren’t going for world domination. We want to be selling enough beer to be paying the owners enough to quit their day jobs and just focus on brewing.
We will have a loyal following of folks who regularly hang out in the cellar door we haven't built yet as we brew the next batches in the background and share a yarn or three.
Where can people find your beers?
In Adelaide, Nola, Sturt St Cellars/Kings Head and Rob Roy are good bets.
We sit in the rotation at Sweet Amber and hope to always keep some of our stuff in their fridge.
Our cans just made the great wall of beer at Belair Fine Wines.
In the Barossa, we can generally be found at the PA in Gawler and The Greenock. Sometimes at Stein's Taphouse too.
Over the coming months, expect to see our cans and bottles in independent bottleshops and eateries around Adelaide. #independent! (Any readers with recommendations for good, local, indie bottlo’s around Australia please let us know!)
There are even whispers we might be headed to Melbourne in summer for a beergustation/tap takeover at an unnamed cafe; but who listens to rumours?
Never, ever, ever, ever, ever will you find us in large chain bottleshops.
You can find out more on the brewing company here.
About the author: You can follow Matt King on multiple social media platforms, including via his blog The Craft Beer King, or by following the CraftyPintSA Twitter account.