In the increasingly competitive beer marketplace that exists today, brewers generally have to try harder to stand out from the crowd. Packaging is one way to do this, whether with eye-catching labels or cans instead of bottles, for example. But until late last year, we hadn't seen a local brewer opt for aluminium bottles.
That's the route Echuca micro Bandicoot Brewing has gone for, releasing an approachable, gently estery and malt led Blonde and a Pale Ale that nudges at the upper ends of the boundaries for the style in such packaging. So before we get to the part of Who Brews...? where they respond to our standard Q&A request, co-owner and head brewer Tracey Green tells us why metal over glass.
"There were many reasons why we chose to place our beer in aluminium bottles. The main reason is that it better for the beer," she says. "Like cans we are fully protected from UV light, which is important when most venues we visited store their beer in fluorescent lit fridges.
"Although cans offer better protection than glass, many people still preferred the bottle, whether it was for its styling, drinkability or existing perceptions."
She says there are environmental and logistical benefits too, with a slab around 4kg lighter.
"Echuca is situated on the Murray River and like most locals we really enjoy camping and spending time with friends along the river," she says. "We take pride in our environment and are saddened to see the increasing amount of broken glass that is accumulating along the banks. It's great knowing we are not contributing to this issue or any other broken glass problems people have. We are also able to have our beer in no glass venues or functions.
"With a different and eye catching bottle we are of course are hopeful it will stand out in the market and entice more people to try craft beer, especially ours. The brewery also has no problems of broken glass.
"[It's] personal preference, I guess, but we think they look pretty cool; we did a lot of searching to find an aluminium bottle that still had the classic beer bottle shape and not one with a short stumpy neck."
Any down sides?
"They are more expensive."
Thanks. Now on with the Q&A!
Who are you?
Bruce and Tracey Green. Tracey is the brewer. She had been home brewing for many years and really enjoys brewing and creating her own beers. She has always been interested in and studied food science. Before catching the brewing bug she was making her own cheese.
Bruce says: "Beer's better, there really is only so much Camembert you can eat."
Bruce did an apprenticeship in fitting and machining and has always been great at building or fixing. Although he always jokes he's only there to lift heavy things he's responsible for building most of the brewery.
We imported basically two tanks: a DME Mash/Kettle and a Lauter Tun from the UK, and have built the whole brewery around it, sourcing bits and pieces from anywhere we could find. Although we didn't built it alone and have had the most amazing support along the way, especially from our local plumber Steve Oliver and electrician Gordon Watson.
Where do you brew?
Our factory is behind Echuca Windscreens, which is on the main road into Echuca from Melbourne.
What beers have you released to date?
Barbed Wire Blonde and Rusty Pale Ale. The Barbed Wire Blonde is smooth and really approachable, and a great summer time beer.
I have been brewing this beer for years at home. It was the perfect entertainer beer that everyone enjoyed, whether they mainly drank craft beer or mainstream.
The Rusty Pale Ale was always one of my favourites and gets its name from the rusty colour of the beer. It has a strong malty back bone which is then balanced out with a generous blend of American hops to really bring out some citrus and resinous hop character.
We are planning on brewing our Belgian Bombshell and our After Dark Ale shortly which did really well at the Bendigo Beer Festival, though it may be a while before being released as we want to age them first to really to really bring out their best.
Where can people find your beers?
Direct from the brewery. In Echuca it's on tap in The Mill and The American Hotel. It's also in bottles in Radcliffes, The Caledonian, The Workers and Services Club.
In Moama, bottles are available in the Border Inn, Morrison's winery, and in Bendigo, bottles are in Bazurk. We are in the process of organising more venues, and should see it stocked in many more places very soon.
What's the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Bandicoot was a nickname that Tracey was given many years ago.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Bandicoot beer of course. The fridge is normally stocked with two to three home brewed beers on tap but lately we have been so busy with the brewery that the poor fridge is looking very anaemic.
We still do have some bottles collected over the years, such as an ANHC Commemorative Barley Wine brewed for the first Australian homebrew conference, a signed bottle of Holgate's Temptress after brewing that beer in a brew day prize, Mountain Goat's 15 year anniversary beer plus a few others that I have kept, some I'm not even sure why.
And which beers are found most frequently in your fridge?
No regulars in our fridge. We're always chasing something new.
Thanks guys. Good luck getting more beer into more people's hands! You can visit Bandicoot's website here.
And if you are part of or know a new (or newish) micro in Australia that we haven't yet featured on The Crafty Pint, please drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.