Collaboration is a wonderful thing. Meat, cheese, bread and sauce are all great on their own, however I’d rather them together on a pizza. And the same is true in brewing.
Sometimes, the stars align and two existing brands with experience within the industry come together. This was the case with Bayswater brewpub Hard Road Brewing, which came into existence in November 2019 after an opportunity came knocking in the form of neighbours departing.
The brewery was born after Caltoria Brewing’s husband and wife duo Lein Jenkins and Angie McErlain took over the space next to them and joined forces with Brad Merritt, former owner of Oscar's Alehouse in Belgrave and the man behind Yellingbo Brewing & Hop Farm.
Under the new moniker Hard Road Brewing, the trio went to work combining their talents. Speaking with Brad, he believes what Lein has been creating as Hard Roads’ head brewer is some of the best beer on the market, even thought it's quite different to sort of beers he brewed at Yellingbo.
“Everything that I was putting up through Yellingbo had a big influence on the hops that I grew,” he says. “I had always been a big fan of big, hoppy beers, so that was always my focus.
“Lien and Angie skew slightly closer to the malt side of things. They’ve had a lot of success with their Belgian Pale Ale and Chestnut Brown.
“It’s different to what I brewed, but it’s really fantastic... I’m really confident what we’re producing is truly top-of-the-line beer.”
After the pandemic forced the trio to close their doors only months after opening, the business has been bouncing back with growth is the main focus in 2021 and beyond.
“We were just hitting our stride in March when the shutdown happened,” Brad says. “We had had four months of pretty good business... things were starting to get profitable.
"Coming out of COVID, we’re starting to feel more comfortable again. December was the busiest month we’ve ever had. Here’s hoping 2021 can continue that and people continue to support local.”
To find out more about the team, we invited them to be part of our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Hard Road Brewing
Who are you?
Lein Jenkins, wife Angie McErlain, and Brad Merritt.
Lein and Angie started Caltoria Brewery in May of 2017. Lein and Angie come from science backgrounds and moved back to Australia to work with a large environmental consulting firm. Angie holds dual degrees in education and marine biology and crossed over to brewing once returning to Australia.
Brad has been a long-time craft beer fan and supporter of the industry through Oscar’s Alehouse, gypsy brewer and hop grower at Yellingbo Brewing & Hop Garden, and homebrewer since 2006.
Where do you brew?
31 Holloway Drive, Bayswater. Formerly Caltoria Brewery, now Hard Road Brewing.
Why do you brew?
For the love of beer, the people in the industry, and to share our passion with everyone.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Angie and Lein were at a homebrew festival in Ojai, California, and had such a great experience they knew they could make a go in the industry.
For Brad, it was moving to Australia in 2004 and finding a very limited number of craft beers available, and even fewer available locally to him. If you can’t find it, make it!
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
We all took the Hard Road to get here. There is simply no easy road into the brewing industry. We had no idea how hard it was going to be with COVID striking five months after launching Hard Road Brewing.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
I pick two: our Harvest Ale, and our Nut Brown. These two beers represent both Brad, and Angie and Lein's brewing styles and provide some identification of scope in skill.
The Nut Brown was originally brewed for Caltoria Brewery and was an immediate success, while the Harvest Ale was Brad's brainchild and represents Brad's beer style to a T! Fresh hops harvested only hours before going into the boil kettle followed by another blast picked and dried the same day went into the fermenter.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Floyd, GnR, Sublime, Johnny Cash.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
CoConspirators The Pastry Chef, couple of different Sierra Nevada, and our Lazy Day Session Ale.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Currently, it’s the CoConspirator above followed by Tumut River Ginja Ninja.
Where can people find your beers?
The Rose Hotel, The Windsor, Belgian Beer Café, The Rainbow, Mjolner, Cornish Arms, Naked for Satan, The Black Bee, The Fat Goat, Harvest Cellars, Olinda Cellars, Cork, and a heap of other fine establishments.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Lein and Angie have a five- and a three-year-old, and they have literally grown up in the brewery. They would love for them to have a part of it, and like to think that in that time we have expanded to most states in Australia with some beer going offshore as well for the odd sales trip.