Just over three hours south of Perth, the Southern Forests region is a powerhouse of food production. The fertile soil generates a staggering volume and range of produce, including 70 percent of Australia’s avocados between October and February, 90 percent of WA’s potatoes over summer, and 85 percent of the Southern Hemisphere’s black truffles. The list continues with apples, broccoli and cool climate wines, not to mention stunning Karri forests, yet a decent local beer was remained a glaring omission – until recently.
Enter Tall Timbers Brewing. Located in Manjimup, the region’s northerly hub, a group of locals have literally resurrected brewing in a building that’s waited 50 years to pour its first drop.
As new cans from the brewery hit WA retailers, Guy Southern spoke to Adam Burke to find out more for our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Where do you brew?
We brew in Manjimup, Western Australia. Manjimup is WA’s food bowl, with a world class reputation for gourmet produce such as marron, black truffle and excellent cold climate wines.
Manjimup is also on track to surpass the entire of France’s production of black truffle this season, and has a fast-growing reputation as a foodie destination.
What was the inspiration for the brewery name?
Tall Timbers Brewing Co references the region’s iconic forest landscape.
Tall Timbers Manjimup is an established bar and restaurant in Manjimup, well regarded across the state as a centralised cellar door for the region’s premium wines and as a champion of local produce. It’s the heartbeat of the community’s hospitality scene.
Why do you brew?
Tall Timbers Brewing Co was started by passionate locals, motivated by an opportunity to regenerate Manjimup’s town centre, create a hospitality focal point for the region, and allow for the development of a cultural space within the town centre. Tall Timbers Brewing Co will be a brand locals can be proud of.
The Manjimup Hotel was built in 1912 and is one of the largest licensed premises in the state. In 1970, Swan Brewery undertook a $1 million investment to build a brewery adjacent to the hotel. However, due to an untimely change in ownership at Swan, the brewery was never operational. The room the brewery would have occupied was later used as one of the South West’s most iconic live music venues: however, in recent years the hotel was largely vacant.
Fifty years after the failed Swan Brewery, a small group of mates have come together to complete the brewery project and regenerate the Manjimup Hotel.
What has developed has been much more than beer. For example, vacant rooms above the bar have been renovated into 130 high quality accommodation spaces for seasonal workers coming to the region to work with our farming community. With travel restrictions limiting the availability of the usual backpacker workforce, this accommodation has allowed some farmers access to a workforce from the Pacific Islands via a government program.
The hospitality aspect of the brewery has also been developed, with the former band room getting a new slate of shows and performances for the coming months, and regular Friday night DJ sessions giving the locals a place to let their hair down after a long week of work.
Can you tell us a little about yourself
Head brewer Florian Von Guttenberg (pictured above) was born in Germany and and raised in Canada. He returned to his home country of Germany to be educated at the world-renowned Weihenstephan University.
After emigrating to Australia in 2000, he was hired by the Swan Brewery as a member of the brewing team. During his tenure, he installed and commissioned the brewpub at the Old Swan Brewery on Mounts Bay Road. Florian worked in various roles at Swan until it closed in 2014 and moved its operations to Adelaide.
Hopped Up Brewing was Florian’s next venture, a purpose-built brewery he established in Wangara until it was recently purchased by a Japanese group aiming to export a quality WA beer to their home market.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Having spent a year working at a brewpub in Toronto, Florian’s father asked him if he wanted to seriously consider making a career for himself in beer. Not one to do things by half, Florian set off from Canada to his family’s native Germany to attend Weihenstephan University. Years of study and immersion in the ubiquitous Bavarian beer culture were an incredible grounding for Florian, who has firmly established a career in the brewing world.
What beers have you released to date and what's in the pipeline?
To date, we have focused on locking down a solid core range of Lager, Pale Ale, IPA and Session Lager. Our aim for our first 12 months was to bring the local community along with us, and introduce them to a core range that was fresh, technically flawless and sessionable.
We have been delighted to see local demand shift from macro beer to our range. Having a beer the community could embrace and champion was key. It didn’t make sense to alienate people with obscure, novelty beers from day one. As appreciation for and knowledge of locally made ales and lagers increases, we will expand our range accordingly.
One thing we’re really passionate about is supporting our local farming community. We see massive scope for creating a market through beer for unsellable "seconds" fruit and other products, which have been knocked back by the large supermarkets. In the pipeline is a variety of seasonal beers that make use of this produce. Think: strawberries, feijoas and citrus.
Of those, what beer best represents you, and why?
Our lager is brewed with pale malts and balanced with delicate noble hops to make an easy-drinking European style lager. While it’s a simple beer in many ways, the style leaves no room for error. Florian is skilled at brewing nuanced, balanced beers that reflect his knowledge of and appreciation for classic styles.
In saying that, the first beer of Florian’s that grabbed my attention was Hopped Up’s Jaffa Stout, so don’t underestimate his crafty chops.
If anyone drops past the brewery on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Our yardie all-rounder and in-house pale ale connoisseur Damo has a firm grip on the aux cord. He’s got a passion for all things classic rock, with the occasional indie banger.
What's your desert island beer?
We share a love for hefeweizen. For me, growing up in Ireland it was the first readily available interesting style pre-craft. Aldi and Lidl imported the classics. Considering Florian studied at the Weihenstephan University, his love of Bavarian wheat beer is a given.
Florian tossed it up between Brauerei Karg’s Helles Hefe-Weißbier, a little brewery on the edge of the Bavarian Alps, and Ontario’s Side Launch Brewing’s Wheat.
Why is it a great desert island beer? It has enough complexity to keep it interesting over an extended marooning, but is also delightfully sessionable for a one-man beach party. Those large German beer bottles also have great raft building potential.
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
I would have a resurrected Anthony Bourdain join us for a brew day. One, because we could blow his mind with local truffles and gourmet products. Two, because he notoriously hates craft beer.
We have already converted many of the locals onto craft lagers and ales. I bet after a six-hour brew day we could get him drinking Tall Timbers Lager. There’s a great story to tell here and, in my mind, there was no better storyteller out there.
The world of beer moves pretty fast these days, what are your plans for this year, three years and five years?
First and foremost, we want to put our brewery and hospitality venues on the map. Our whole region will benefit from the increase in tourism a sought-after brewery will bring and we are keen to have as many people as possible get down here and see what it’s all about.
We have statewide distribution coming online very soon and have just launched a new packaging range that features our recent rebrand. In three years, we want to be an established WA brewery and a regular fixture on the shelves and taps statewide.
Ultimately, we want a brewery Manjimup can be proud of. We want to establish the kind of beer, brand and brewery experience that will make your out-of-town friends and family jealous that you get to enjoy it regularly from the source.
Five years? Who knows. With enough will and community backing there is no reason we can’t continue to expand and become a major employer for our region.
Besides your own, what beers are in your fridge right now?
We opened up at a similar time to Shelter and have developed a good relationship with the two Jasons over there in Busselton. We are smashing their IPA and Lager. During a particularly cold and wet winter, we’ve had lots of opportunity to indulge in our local stouts.
This year, Seasonal’s Barrel Aged RIS was a highlight for me. It’s also been cool to see some interesting interpretations of classic styles. Beerfarm’s Double IPL pushed the boundary for me in terms of how high you can turn up a lager. Being surrounded by beer all day, a glass of local wine is always a welcome respite.
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
We are really interested in seeing what we can do with the "seconds" fruit of our region. While it’s certainly a hard sell at startup stage, we’d love to explore barrel-aged lambic styles down the track. There is an abundance of fruit and wine barrels down here. We could do something really extraordinary.
Manjimup celebrates the Cherry Harmony Festival each December. It would be great to have our own take on a kriek to share with the festival goers.
Where can people find you on social media?
The best place to find us right now is on Instagram.
We are soon to transition our restaurant Facebook page, Tall Timbers Manjimup, over to be more brewery-orientated and take that following with us as we continue to expand.
You can visit the Tall Timbers crew at 88 Giblett Street, Manjimup, and find it alongside hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues in The Crafty Pint app.
Other Who Brews...? features can be found here.