Origin – Western Australia. Fremantle
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- Summer Ale
It was Jordan Belfort who infamously said ‘OK, first rule of Wall Street – Nobody – and I don’t care if you’re Warren Buffet or Jimmy Buffet – nobody knows if a stock’s going up, down or f-ing sideways, least of all stockbrokers. But we have to pretend we know.’ So perhaps take the speculative buy recommendation from some of Australia’s smartest stockbrokers with a grain of salt, despite them justifying their stance by the fact that this WA craft brewer is on the up and up, with record beer sales and shares at an all-time high. There’s no doubt however that Australia’s only remaining listed brewery on the ASX has come a long way since it was founded by Peter Nolin and brothers’ John and Bill Hoedemaker in an old disused margarine factory just outside Freo in 2005, making use of salvaged and second-hand equipment. The lads at Gage Roads, which is named after the strip of ocean that separates Rottnest Island and Fremantle, started with good intentions; craft, independent, staying true to its ‘Brewed by Fussy Bastards’ ethos. Though a little like the Wolf of Wall Street himself, they got a little money hungry along the way and sold off a 25% stake to Woolworths. It did, however, allow them to upgrade to a custom-built state-of-the-art brewhouse that time after time smashed out consistently amazing cold ones. To their absolute credit, in 2016 the boys announced a “Return To Independence”, and bought back the shares from the supermarket giant. None, though, would repute their commitment to stay the course when it came to the beers themselves, certainly still on display in this three-time AIBA medallist. Despite being described as a sessional summer ale the Single Fin is chock full of aromatic Galaxy and Enigma hops, serving up an amora of tropical fruit and lime curd. With a pale golden appearance, she’s light on the palate, mild in bitterness and finishes both clean and crisp. I’m no investment adviser, but at 10cents a share, this might be one worth jumping on. Btw the stock code is GRB (insert ‘this is not intended to be blah blah disclaimer here!)
Origin – Melbourne. Victoria
Size- 330mL bottle
Style- Pale Ale
Who doesn’t root for the underdog? It seems we all love a story about those that have fought against insurmountable forces to bring about some type of positive change. The Kiwis are so proud of Kate Sheppard’s contribution in inspiring suffrage movements all over the world and installing women’s rights in NZ and that she’s been acknowledged on the $10 note. (She initially only got involved as a means to fight for liquor prohibition- thankfully that didn’t get through parliament!) Back home we all know the story of Sir John Kerr, our then Governor-General who gave the boat a little rock and dismissed our Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The story of Matt & Andrea Houghton may not be so well known but it’s just as inspiring. It starts off with a poor uni student spending his spare hour’s home brewing and dreaming of travelling through historic brewing locations such as Brugge, Boulder and Bavaria. And post degree that became a reality. With backpack on, Matt’s dreams came alive, seeing first-hand the role those century-old breweries had in history and social importance. The story continues with his reunion with wife Andrea back home in the land of the bland (VB or Carlton anyone!). It was from that moment on they knew they had to rock the beer boat and serve up craft beers that would open eyes and palates all over Australia. In 2009 they launched Boatrocker Brewery along with their first two beers via gypsy brewing. Besides open the eyes of Melbourne’s beer lovers, they also got the attention of judges at various international beer awards. But what really set the boat rocking, was the couple’s first purchase when setting up their Braeside home in Melbourne’s southeast in 2012. Rather than tanks, pumps and bottling lines, they kicked it off with the purchase of 60 wine barrels, ensuring first and foremost they could pursue Matt’s passion for Belgian style ales and barrel ageing. Although not aged in barrel nor flipping any boat upside down, this 4.4% sessional new-world hop ale is certainly an eye-opener. Unlike your typical pale the nose is stacked with tropical notes and stone fruit aromas, while the mouth is as intense as the nose, and finishes with mild hop bitterness. Ladies and gentleman, well may we say God save the boat rockers because nothing will save our craft breweries from a lucrative buyout offer.
Origin – Sydney. NSW
Size- 500mL can
It was in a 1983 Valvoline television advert when John Laws coined the now famous line ‘I switch my cars but I don’t switch my oil, Y’know what I mean’. And I guess if you’re as filthy rich as good old Golden Tonsils, and own twenty of them, you’ve got the luxury of switching cars every now and then! Given Richard Adamson, like many who live in the diverse suburb of Newtown, doesn’t own a one, he can’t switch his car. But what the Founder of Young Henry’s does have is plenty of different oils. In fact, since putting down the first batch in their Newton brewery six years ago, Richard and the lads have gone on to craft forty-six different conversational lubricants. Yet it’s this forty-sixth that has finally convinced Rich to make the big switch from his go-to 2L growler of YH Newtowner pale ale. And he hasn’t been the only one, their first limited edition batch of the Motorcycle Oil sold out in only a few weeks. From the moment you grip this big 500mL tinny, that looks so hip and old school that it should grow a beard and ride a Chopper, you get the feeling you’re about to enjoy something special. Yet this black bikie beer is anything but old and dated. Unlike the heavy, thick dark beers that John Laws grew up with, this smooth, black, hoppy porter is sessional enough that you’ll be reaching for a second …and that’s a big call for a beer that comes in a big can. On the pour, you get plenty of the dark roasted characters that you’d expect from a porter but take a mouth full and you’re hit with a hop punch more likely to be seen in a pale ale. The two stokes (nice pun!!) of genius come from the addition of Bairds Roast Barley for malt, and the Warrior, Centennial, Cascade and Citra hop mix that serves up a balanced but mind-bending flavour combination of dark chocolate, espresso, liquorice, pepper, pine and citrus. The finish is smooth but lingers on, greasing the gullets long after the liquid is gone. As you’d expect, a case of tall cans isn’t cheap, but for oil this good I’d happily swap my car for a few cases…Y’know what I mean’!
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.
Origin – Victoria. Melbourne
Size- 330mL can
I’m not sure if it’s lack of imagination or if the boys are just lazy, but Pike Brewing co in USA’s Mid-west recently started naming their beers after US Interstate highway exits. Now Exit Brewing may not be named after a highway turnpike, however, the name reeks of just as little imagination. Having decided in 2014 that beer was their future, the next step for founders Frase Rettie and Craig ‘Grum’ Knight was to determine a name. I’m reliably told that it was Grum who came up with the remarkably underwhelming ‘Exit’ based on the logic that the two lads were former IT guru’s getting out of the industry… hence ‘ex-IT’ people! The story goes that the two IT men meet in Melbourne before independently deciding, like so many Aussies before them, to strap on the backpack and travel the world. Although taking in much of the UK, rather than bunking in down in Earls Court like most, the lads reunited in Belgium. And it was there that they fell in love with beer more interesting than Newcastle Brown. Late one balmy night over a cold ale the lads stopped talking coding for a moment and start waxing lyrical about crafting beer. A dream was born and upon returning to Melbourne the planning began in earnest. Release one was this Saison (known as #001- another remarkably creative name!) brewed in tribute to the country that set them on the road. It won them fans almost instantly. Although having recently been repackaged into this slick looking can, this tribute to the roots of their brewing adventure in Belgium is still as good today as when it was first released. Following the traditional Belgium method, Frase and Grum use a mix White Labs Belgian Saison yeast and then blend them with new world hops, most notably here the Sorachi Ace. This quirky hop of Japanese origin has been used to wonderful effect in farmhouse inspired ales such as Brooklyn’s Ace. Here, it adds lemon and lime curd aromas to compliment the citrus driven characters of the yeast and other hops. In the mouth, you’re hit with honey like malts, spice, and a touch of tutti frutti, which is followed by a dry bitterness that sweeps up the sweetness that has come before. It seems they saved all their creativity for the flavour profiles …thank goodness for that at least!