Red Top Brewing’s Bedford Brews

June 17, 2024, by Will Ziebell

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Red Top Brewing’s Bedford Brews

In days gone by, Bedford trucks would carry everything from artillery to mobile cinemas. Now, in Victoria, one vintage vehicle’s future is in pouring craft beer. 

Red Top Brewing Co is a mobile bar with a difference thanks not only to how it looks, but also to the beers pouring through its taps. That's because the lineup includes beers created by brewer Emily Allsopp, whose journey from beer lover to brewer to behind-the-wheel Bedford driver follows a familiar path, one that started when her passion for the industry was sparked by early events such as the Victorian Microbreweries Showcase in Fed Square.

“I just loved craft beer, that's probably how a lot of beer stories start,” Emily says. “I just loved trying all manner of beers and getting to meet the brewers and hear their stories.

“It didn’t take too long to get hooked and decide brewing and a career in beer was a path I wanted to go down.”

In 2008, Emily started a short course at Ballarat’s university to bolster her knowledge of beer, although it would be some years before, alongside her sister Meagan Philips, started homebrewing regularly.

“It wasn’t until 2017 that I got organised and started brewing on a regular basis on a small pilot brewery at home,” Emily says.

“I was brewing with my sister, who had the same interest as myself, and we were just trying our hand at lots of different beer styles.”

 

Emily Allsopp: the eponymous red top behind Red Top Brewing Co.

 

Eager to try her hand at professional brewing, Emily applied for a brewery role like few others in Australia at Brownstone Micro Brewery. The tiny brewery is located in the Melbourne suburb of Eumemmerring (if you’ve never heard of it, that’s fine; basically, it’s Dandenong) and for years has been overseen by Steve “Hendo” Henderson. The experienced brewer runs Rockstar Brewer and his involvement in Brownstone is one way in which he shares his passion for brewing education: he hires someone new to brewing to run the brewpub for around a year so they can gain professional brewing experience.

“I got to learn what it takes to brew commercially for paying customers,” Emily says. “But I saw that as a stepping stone to do something that was my own.”

After finishing up at Brownstone, Emily considered her next move and knew she was eager to do something on her own that still let her flex her creative brewing muscles.  

“I wanted that ability to just do what I wanted to do and be creative while having no real restrictions or limits on what I brewed,” Emily says.

“Then, in 2019, I decided that something wouldn’t be a brewery or brewpub as I’d imagined it to be but a beer truck.”

 

 

Although her idea was unique, for Emily, the idea of a beer truck ticked a lot of boxes. For one, she could start something herself with a limited capital outlay. What's more, by bringing her truck to weddings, corporate functions, birthdays or just about any other event you can imagine, Emily could find an audience across the state.

Better yet, she wanted to still work with other breweries by pouring their beers alongside her own.

“It was also a means to get beer I could produce to consumers directly, all over Melbourne and Victoria,” she says.

“It is kind of the best of both worlds and takes me back to what I loved about the industry in the first place, which is getting to try all these great beers, hear all those stories from the brewers, and share those stories.”

And so the search began, ultimately leading Emily to a beauty of a Bedford not too different to one her grandad used to own and upon which their family used to ride as kids. 

To be precise, it's a lovingly restored 1960 Bedford J1 truck, and long before Emily got the keys, the Bedford had spent most of its life working for Toowoomba City Council as a plumbing truck, driven around to fix clogged drains.

In the 1990s, it made its way to Murwillumbah in the Northern Rivers where it could have rusted away as a paddock bomb; instead, it picked up by Russell, for whom restoring the van to a state of glory was a labour of love. He fixed the faded paint and worn seats and made it shine again and, once he reached a point where he couldn’t drive it anymore, Russell searched for an owner who would care for the Bedford as he once had.

“I told him about my plans for it and he approved,” Emily says. “So I got on a one-way flight to Coffs Harbour and he picked me up from the airport and drove me to Grafton.”

 

 

It may have been a quick journey north, but the ride home back down the Hume looked a little different

“I got a lot of honks and waves on the way back to Melbourne,” Emily says. “It was a three-day drive home, driving around 75 kilometres an hour at top speed.

“It’s got no power steering, no ABS braking, and it’s really noisy. It was a bit of an ordeal and it’s a challenge to drive but I made it back with no issues.”

After getting it home, Emily set about turning the plumbing truck into a beer-pumping machine. Today it cools beer from ambient kegs through eight taps, including one that can be fitted for nitro.

After transforming the truck, Emily launched Red Top Brewing Co in March this year at her son’s primary school’s annual Billy Cart Derby.

“They were looking for a volunteer to run the beer tent so I put up my hand and we levelled up the beer tent with a beer truck,” Emily says.

Emily continues to brew on a small scale with her Red Top beers pouring alongside those from others. She also pours wines and had been working on introducing cocktails on taps. The small scale of her pilot brewery and the fact Emily works closely with event hosts, also means she can offer a unique experience for anyone seeking a bar service with a difference. 

“People can participate in designing a beer,” she says. "If they have something special in mind, I don’t really have any limitations; we can come up with something, design a recipe and brew something.

“But people might have a favourite beer from a favourite brewery so we can make that happen as well.”

Although Red Top is in its early days, taking the Bedford out on the road has already brought a whole lot of enjoyment to the brewer. 

“It’s very fun to drive, albeit a little bit stressful," she says. "But you get used to it.”


You can book the Red Top truck and find out more by heading here

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