Origin – Melbourne. Victoria
Size- 330mL bottle
With over 500 craft breweries in Australia, let alone the rest of the world, I figured there would be plenty of brothers who founded a craft brewing operation together. Yet with my (limited) research I only managed to track down a few. One, the still independently owned Illinois- based microbrewery Two Brothers founded by brothers Jim and Jason Ebel in 1996, and another, these lads, Andrew and Dave Ong, who established their craft brewery in Moorabbin in 2007, well before Melbourne’s southeast had become a thriving hub for microbreweries. Interestingly enough both went to great lengths to source the equipment to get them started on a shoestring budget. Jim and Jason converted milk tanks that were donated to them by their grandfather, a retired dairy farmer, into fermenters, while Andrew and Dave managed to convince a New Jersey trucking company to disregard Manhattan’s traffic laws in the dark of the night to help them salvage tanks that were about to be sold off as scrap from the defunct Times Square Brewery. It’s those copper glad tanks from the Big Apple that today still form the backbone of the 2 Brothers Brewery and bar. Given the many accolades awarded to these brothers, it’s clear that the get-your-hands-dirty creativity flows over into their beers. And there’s been no looking back for this former bullet-dodging physio from the Bronx (Andy), or the number-crunching aeronautical engineer from Seattle (Dave) since they threw in the towel on their day jobs and returned home from the US. Andrew tells me it was this Taxi Pilsner, named after his first car that set the wheels in motion, pardon the pun! More closely representing a Munich Helles (Blonde) style lager with its cold temperature fermentation and generous use of German hops, she serves up a golden coloured, slightly malty, mildly bitter and extremely approachable drop. Not only is Taxi the perfect beer to get your dad to move from draught to craft, it’s also an ideal post-meal cleanser. Unlike the Taxi industry, even after many years, this Taxi Pilsner remains a well-respected pour at many Melbourne venues. And better still it doesn’t come with the complimentary body odour!
Origin – NSW. Bathurst
Size- 375mL can
Style- Indian Pale Ale
It was 1823 when James McBrien first discovered gold in the region. Concerned the convicts would up stumps and make a break for Bathurst, the authorities kept it on the down low. It was assumedly when young Jimmy rocked into old Sydney town almost 30 years later with a wheelbarrow full of gold, following a sizable head start, that all hell broke loose and the great Australian gold rush began. Fortunately, news of the exploits of Campbell and Greg Hedley, the two heads behind Two Heads which brew out of the original Crago Mill in the town, reached the big smoke far quicker than a few decades. And whilst there hasn’t been a mass exodus by Sydney’s craft connoisseurs, those that have made the trip west have come back with some liquid amber arguably worth more than gold. It was in 2015 that the former lawyer (Campbell) and quantity surveyor (Greg) decided to leave Sydney behind and head west over the Great Dividing Range and put their home brewing to test. Before long what started out as little more than a half-baked idea tossed around over a couple of cold ones between beer loving brothers, resulted in the launch of the first new (and now only) brewery in Bathurst in 70 years. And it seems the Chinese miners may have left some of their Feng Shui behind, because as luck would have it, Ian Carman who join the brothers to become the head brewer, also just happened to be in town working as a forestry engineer at the time. Together, the threesome has put out a broad range of beers, many named after famous characters from the region, this Papa IPA a tribute to the lads’ Grandfather who was Chief Flying Instructor at Bathurst Airport in the 1950’s. Pouring a dark amber with a thin white head, Ian tells me it’s the British style malt base combined with a late dry hopping using US hops that gives the Papa it’s distinctive floral, fruity and citrus notes. As lively in the mouth, as George landing in a cross-wind the palate is filled with mild tropical flavours on a biscuity malt base. You can be confident that when heading back home after a visit to the country with a few cases of this IPA in the back, none would dare accuse you of carrying a boot full of fools gold!
Origin – New South Wales. Sydney
Size- 330mL can
Alchemy is the four millennia old study and philosophy of how to change ordinary substances into extraordinary ones. Think something along the lines of the ancient Egyptians working up an elixir of immortality, or perhaps more recently (and successfully!) modern scientists creating remarkable medicines able to cure awful diseases. And at LAB they try to do just that by combining sustainable, fresh, and local ingredients to produce beautifully balanced beers that can be shared with friends and family …which is what makes them truly extraordinary. Though after talking with founders Richard Ridge and Riaz Shalla who started their little venture in 2014 in a small garage outside of Sydney, I’d suggest their name and story more accurately reflects that of the modern classic fable, Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s the story of a boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found, and along the way discovers the essential wisdom of listening to his heart, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following his dreams…and I think the novel goes something like that too! Still little and with day jobs in IT and the television industry to fund their (ad)venture and future dreams, the lads may no longer brew in Rich’s garage, but they do concoct recipes on a small pilot system in Sydney before up-scaling the recipe and producing commercial volumes in Hopes Estate’s Hunter Valley brewery. The core range includes an XPA, a Belgian Wit-Beir, a Midnight Ale and this limited release IPA which started it all. Riaz tells me they based it on the sessional style XPA and almost tripled everything (including the enjoyment!) to produce a bold but balanced 6%er. And despite her relatively light appearance, on the nose the heavy-handed use of Galaxy and Vic Secret hops is obvious. Though unlike your big-dry hopped giants with their even bigger ABV percentages, take a swig and you notice that this IPA is surprisingly fresh, with that signature piney flavour up front followed by a palate bursting with tropical fruit, citrus and toffee caramel sweetness. One tinny may not be the tonic of eternal life that so many are in search of, but there’s no harm in yourself and a mate trying a second or third just in case!
Origin – Melbourne. Victoria
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- American Pale Ale
No Hawkers Welcome. It’s a sign that is displayed on the front doors of offices and factories all around Australia. Well, we’re lucky that Mazen Hajjar didn’t read them, or at least didn’t care. The former airline founder, investment banker and war photographer began his first foray into the craft scene by starting a brewery in the Middle East in 2006, right in the middle of the July war between Lebanon and Israel. As the Israelis bombed Hezbollah he started 961 Beer amid the destruction of war-torn Beirut. I’m told he opened one of the first craft breweries in the Middle East because he was “pissed off” at his country, which he says knew much of crafting weapons but nothing of crafting beer. And with true grit and entrepreneurial spirit, he didn’t let a few bombs or fact that he had never been to a brewery in his life let alone have any idea about making beer, stop him from making it a huge success. By 2012 they were exporting to 26 different countries, one of which was Australia, in which Maz and his then business partner literally built a Sydney and Melbourne distribution network by hawking crates full of 961 bottles door to door. It was during the course of those promotional trips down under that Maz not only fell in love with our amazing shorelines but also recognised the growth potential of our craft beer market. And not one to do things by halves, by 2015 Hawkers was founded in Australia, being produced in their shiny new +$3 million brewhouse in Melbourne’s Reservoir. And just to prove everything he touches turns to gold, two days after pulling open the door, their first beer, this Pale Ale, won the People’s Choice at the Geelong beer festival. They have since gone on to win twelve AIBA medals, six CBA’s, four IBC’s, two NZBA’s, and, was named the Supreme Champion Brewer at the prestigious International Beer Challenge in London. As the gold rains down, the amber flows, with this American style pale ale perhaps at the intersection of both. The golden colour naturally points toward a malty aroma which is layered with hints of tropical fruit, peach, citrus, and pine. The mouth follows the nose however the magical touch comes from the three hop mix (Amarillo, Citra and Centennial) which provides balance and delivers a perfect bitterness to both the front and back of the palate. Given the quality of this PA and their success so far, it’s not likely that Maz and the now 40 folk at Hawkers are going to need to return to hawking door to door, but should they, there’ll certainly be selling second-hand beer medals!
Origin – Queensland. Brisbane
Size- 330mL can
Do you remember the Bathurst Tooheys 1000? What about the Fosters Melbourne F1GP? Ever catch a game of XXXX beach cricket? Following the void left by Windfield, Rothmans and Peter Jackson, it seemed that having a beer and watching the game or race went hand in hand. That was until the billionaire betting agencies decided it was time to convince us that having a punt with the lads was more meaningful than a beer with the boys. Well, I’m pleased to see recently that there’s a number of brewers that are putting the sauce back into squaring off. Surprisingly, however, it’s an about-face not lead by the biggest brewing corporations in the world. In an extraordinary coup for Australia’s craft beer movement, it was Brick Road Brewing who kicked it off (pun intended!) with the announcement of their sponsorship of the Melbourne Storm and pouring rights at the MCG. Perth based Gage Roads then slayed international brewing giants, winning the lucrative contract to supply beer at the new Perth Stadium. And just this month the Queensland Rugby Union has announced Brisbane’s Newstead Brewing Co as its official craft beer partner for the 2018 Rugby season, including exclusive pouring rights at Ballymore Stadium. Given the other sessional offerings available from the lads at Newstead, it’s not likely that you’ll see this porter pouring from the stadium taps on game day, but it doesn’t mean you can’t kick back at home with the lads in front of the box and wash down your Four’n Twenty with one or two. And despite your best guess, the 21 feet 7 inches doesn’t refer the distance of a famous Quade Cooper field goal, rather the devastating flood that hit Brisbane back in 1974 with its 21’ 7” high tide. And it’s certainly a porter that floods your palate with a bold array of dark malt characters right at the outset. Yet notwithstanding the appearance, she is anything but dark. Beyond the aroma of burnt nuts, chocolate and roasted coffee lays a smooth medium to light bodied, more bitter than sweet, ale. And as stated on the label, ‘the malted and rolled oats seem to add buoyancy with the hops just sitting in the background’. I’m not very good on the tote, but I’ll give you this tip- odds are that sharing a beer such as this with a mate is more likely to lead to a great conversation than any bet on the game!
Origin – NSW. Sydney
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- Indian Pale Ale
Aside from an amazing Sydney restaurant (you’ve got to try the Smoked Brisket Empanada ….wow!) the other Nomad that calls Sydney home is a brewery located on the Northern Beaches. And like all nomads, these guys also have travel in their DNA. It all started when Australian husband and wife team Kerrie and Johnny Latta were travelling between their homeland and Italy, running their beer distribution business. During one trip in 2013 they brokered a deal with Global Top 100 Brewer and the founder of Italy’s Birra Del Borgo craft brewery, Leonardo Di Vincenzo (not to be mixed up with Leonardo Di Vinci- thought this one too is an artist). The agreement revolved around the distribution of his artwork in a bottle to our local shores. And it wasn’t long before Leo followed his beers and jumped a plane to Australia for a ‘tax-deductible’ promotional tour. One junket led to another and in a transit lounge in Singapore, an idea was floated to cash in their combined frequent flyer points, buy a few bits and pieces and start-up Nomad Brewing in Australia. The requirement of a brewmaster lead to yet another trip, this time to New York to coerce Brooks Caretta, formerly of Dogfish Head and Eatly to jump an A380 and head west. With the stars aligned and an all-star line-up of nomads in place, they found an empty warehouse in Brookvale, installed a brewery and filled the tanks. The team followed the successful model that Leo had pursued with Birra del Borgo: elegant and refined beers almost always featuring some unique or unusual local ingredient. And it’s that ethos that landed them this Jet Lag IPA. Although a beer that takes its inspiration from the highly-hopped IPAs of the USA where Brooks cut his craft brewing teeth, there’s a unique Aussie twist through the addition of the native bush food, finger limes. It’s not a character you’ll necessarily pick in the beer outright, but only because you’re not meant to. Rather, it’s just one of the many components including a blend of Vic Secret and both US and Australian varieties of Cascade hops, that serves up an amazing citrus punch. Pouring a rich amber colour with a generous fluffy head, this is a highly aromatic brew with strong bitterness – just the sort of sensory hit you need to perk you up after a long flight.