For The Love Of Beer: Bringing The World's Kegs To Pint of Origin

May 9, 2024, by Will Ziebell

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For The Love Of Beer: Bringing The World's Kegs To Pint of Origin

Pint of Origin takes place over just ten days in May but securing the right beers to make the festival what it is takes a whole lot of planning, preparation, and praying for timely arrivals. Indeed, for some, it's a a year-round endeavour.

According to Jack Roebuck, who has curated the 2024 program at Mr West in Footscray: “We’ve been thinking about it in some capacity since Pint of Origin finished last year.”

After bringing in beers from Canada for several Pint of Origins, this year they switched their attention to the UK’s beer scene. They've been working closely with Maverick Imports since December, eager to make sure they create an exciting tap list.

“As much as possible, we try and get a really diverse offering because there are breweries that specialise in dark beers, IPAs or other styles,” Jack says. “Vault City are from Edinburgh and they make really cool modern sour beers, which we're showcasing next Thursday.”

Having spent four years working in the UK's beer industry, Jack has plenty of inside knowledge and has ensured one of his former employers is pouring. Bristol-based Left Handed Giant put Jack through Certified Cicerone training while he was with them so, for Pint of Origin, he asked his old colleagues to brew an Australian spin on their honeycomb stout, Woodland Creatures.

The result is Bushland Creatures, a Violet Crumble-inspired milk stout brewed especially for the festival, one of a number of collaborations they'll be tapping over the next ten days. Others include one between Manchester-based Cloudwater and locals Banks. Mind The Gap hazy IPA launches on Friday, with both brewers joining guests in the bar on Saturday afternoon.

Despite starting the planning process in 2023, Mr West's shipment has still gone down to the wire: packaged stock arrived yesterday; their kegs today.

“We were hoping to get these beers in the middle of last month,” Jack says.

 

Jack Roebuck (left to right): unloading their UK packaged stock; sampling his Left Handed Giant collab; and a selection of the UK kegs ready to roll.

 

That said, the order that’s had them sweating the most this year isn't beer, but chips (or should that be crisps?). Their regular flight night returns on Wednesday and will feature a special pickled onion-flavoured chip created in partnership with local producer Chappy’s Chips. Also on the lineup is a selection of British offerings.

“I’m really excited just because of the amount of work going into sourcing these chips," Jack says. "And I love prawn cocktail chips!”

For David Allen at Forward Hops, securing rare beers from the US is never an easy task. They specialise in importing beers as fresh as they can and ensuring they're kept cold throughout the entire journey.

“It’s built on stress and coffee,” he says.

Any order for them involves a minimum three-month turnaround; for Pint of Origin USA at Carwyn Cellars, they’ve secured Australian launches and a numbers of exclusives, including beers that have never before poured outside their home brewery.

“We beg, borrow and plead,” is how Dave describes the acquisition of such rare gems.

“Really, it’s about having good relationships; breweries can be very unwilling to part ways with their beers, particularly when they’re extremely limited.”

In the case of Bottle Logic, also part of this year's festival, it took Dave and fellow Forward Hops founder Peter Krieg years to get them over the line.

“I hassled the hell out of them for four years and they finally gave,” he says.

“But a lot of it is timing. If you hear of a good brewery that’s expanding, traditionally you can get the beer, but multiple importers might be reaching out at the one time. So it’s all about having the email arrive to the right person at the right time.”

 

Tired Hands beers featuring for a first time in Australia at Carwyn Cellars on May 11.

 

Many of these rarities will debut next Friday (May 17) at Forward Hops Friday. Dave's also looking forward to the Tired Hands Australian launch on the opening Saturday; the Pennsylvanian brewers are highly acclaimed for their milkshake and oat IPAs and when Forward Hops told the team at Carwyn they’d finally secured Tired Hand beers, there was an explosion of collective joy.

“We’ve only heard fantastic things about them,” Dave says. “They are huge.”

As with Mr West's UK beers, the US kegs have just landed too.

“So the beer is extremely fresh, as fresh as possible,” Dave says. “People laughed at a bit about the short run time but we told everyone to trust the system.”

The Northern Territory isn't as far-flung as the UK or USA, yet shipping beer from Darwin and Alice Springs has still been quite the endeavour for the team at CoConspirators, where they're pouring beers from the Territories as they make their festival debut.

Co-owner Jacqui Sacco says they worked with two Top End breweries and Alice Springs Brewing Co to consolidate their beers into one shipment but, even then, it’s arrived at the final hour.

“It is so far away and Purple Mango’s beers don’t even really leave the brewery,” Jacqui says of the tiny operation located on a bush property midway between Darwin and Kakadu.

 

Many of the CoCon crew (although not Jacqui) brewing with BentSpoke's Richard Watkins (third from left).

 

Beyond the novelty of tapping beers never seen before outside the NT, there's an added reason to make the effort: $1 from every Purple Mango beer they sell will be donated to a GoFundMe campaign supporting Purple Mango co-owner Kylie Asanovski in her fight against cancer, which you can read more about here

It's just one of many close connections CoConspirators have made for the festival: they've also created collabs with BentSpoke (a double West Coast IPA called The Spokesperson), Capital, Cypher and Ale Mary (a hazy double IPA called The Pyrotechnician featuring CBR hops: Cascade, Bru-1 and Riwaka), and the NT brewers (a macadamia nut brown ale called The Croc Hunter).

“Being a brewery, it was something we could do and it would be a bit different,” Jacqui says. “Once we knew we were doing Pint of Origin, it was always, 'Let’s do a few collabs.' So we started chatting to the breweries whose beers we were getting.

“We wanted to make beers that matched well with the breweries or the area. BentSpoke are pretty well known for their IPAs and so are we so, naturally, we decided to do a double IPA.

“The beers were really easy to pick thanks to everyone’s unique styles but the collaborations take a lot to organise."

Participating breweries and venues also go to great lengths to ensure beers land in attendees' glasses in prime condition. That might be dealing with brewing companies direct and air-freighting kegs to Australia, which has been the case with all Scandinavian beers now in the Beermash cool-room, or using a tracking device on kegs to monitor not only their progress from brewery to bar but also their temperature.

Festival partner Konvoy Kegs fitted trackers to kegs coming from New Zealand to highlight the sort of data brewers are now able to access. Their events, digital and marketing guru Claire Donovan even turned the journey of one of Liberty's beers into a video (see below), showcasing just how granular that detail is, from the exact location of the beer at every stop along the way to the temperature as it travels via refrigerated transport. (For any uber nerds out there, the keg travelled 3,151km, spent 4.7 days with Liberty, 4.9 days at their distributor, 23.4 days in the warehouse, and another 16.2 days in transit or at an unknown location, with the total time from brewery to The Catfish 49.3 days – more on the process here.)

 

 

Marg Eggins, from Konvoy Tech, said: "With the release of our latest tracking device, we were excited to showcase the capabilities of the Konvoy Cloud by highlighting for beer drinkers the keg journey from brewery to tap, especially for Pint of Origin. It's a testament to the lengths breweries go to showcase their beer.” 

Of the 700-plus beers from 225-plus breweries on four continents that make up the festival tap list, the furthest distance covered as the crow (or kombi van) flies is almost 17,000km (from Brasserie Dunham in Quebec to Heartbreaker in Melbourne's CBD), the shortest the distance between CoConspirators' tanks and their bar.

For all involved, it's been a long journey, involving countless hours over many months to bring the unique event to life. But now it's here, Dave has a succinct explanation of why so many people are willing to go to such lengths.

“It’s all for the love of beer.”


Pint of Origin runs from May 10 to 19 at 21 Melbourne venues. You can check out the full lineup and grab a free #PoO24 Passport, which gives you access to bonus beers and prize draws, be heading to the festival website.

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