WA’s expansive South West has long been a hub for craft breweries and innovation. While the region is best known for its wineries, surf and stunning landscapes, these days it boasts more than a dozen breweries, the longest-established of those in existence since the early 90s and outdating many of the famed wine labels.
Geographically, the region covers about 24,000 kilometres and has a population of 170,000, stretching from Harvey to Walpole, although some breweries a little further out – Boston in Denmark and Wilson in Albany, for example – find themselves falling within the Aussie craft beer world’s definition of the South West.
Central to the region are the towns of Busselton, Dunsborough and Margaret River, in and around which you’ll find a good majority of the region’s breweries. It’s here that the South West Brewers Alliance has formed, with the aim being to start central before pushing further out to include and involve all active craft breweries.
Although the Alliance remains in its infancy, it has been born from the strong bond that exists between many of the South West’s brewers, a bond that has been a catalyst for much progress, creativity, and community for some time. Spurred on by a suggestion from the Department of Primary Industries, Keith Warrick (general manager at Eagle Bay Brewery) and Iliya Hastings (director of Margaret River Brewhouse) ran with and developed the idea for the Alliance with the goal of collaborating for the greater good of the craft scene and achieving things as a collective.
“We all have common values and goals,” Iliya told The Crafty Pint. “It’s a vehicle to achieve and work on these together.
“The industry is now also far more mature than it was five years ago when the idea was first muted. We understand our industry and operating environment much better.”
The alliance hasn’t wasted any time since forming, already putting out a collaboration brew that not only received statewide distribution, but also engaged and benefited the South West community by partnering with Line in the Sand, a group that has provided private funding and worked in partnership with local environmental groups on key projects in Margaret River.
In collaboration with the Alliance, Line in the Sand produced The Rising, a new world hazy pale ale, at Rocky Ridge in Jindong at the end of December 2021, with all proceeds going to support the Toby Inlet revegetation project and initiatives to protect the region's coastline against the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.
And although another collab brew is in the works – originally set to be released at the Southwest Craft Beer Festival before COVID restrictions put paid to the event* – the Alliance isn’t only focused on producing beer.
“The Alliance is 11 strong and, as we are still in our infancy, some breweries are more active than others,” Keith explains.
“Initiatives, like our collective involvement in the South West Craft Beer Festival and the establishment of a Cert III in brewing for the South West region, will be seen as runs on the board and, hopefully, solicit greater commitment from those currently on the peripheral.
“The long-term success of the alliance is fundamentally based on an equal commitment for an equal outcome.”
The Alliance will look to expand over the coming months with their second collaboration beer – a saison brewed with Nectaron and Motueka hops – designed to act as their springboard into the public eye. If you’re heading along, look out for their stall pouring a range of local beers as well as allowing punters to learn more about the alliance and its intentions.
And if you’re not, well, watch this space as we’ll be keeping an eye on their progress.
The South West Brewers Alliance is currently made up of: Margaret River Brewhouse, Eagle Bay, Colonial, Wild Hop, Cowaramup, Rocky Ridge, Black Brewing Co, Beerfarm, Shelter, Bootleg and Cheeky Monkey.
* Following the cancellation of the SWCBF, the brewers are looking to launch their collab saison across their venues this Friday instead via a series of karma kegs. Keep an eye on the breweries' socials for details.