Australian Craft Brewers Conference: Dr Ina Verstl

Dr Ina Verstl is the editor of Brauwelt International, an online resource for executives in the brewing and beverage industry. Ina spoke at last week’s Australian Craft Brewers Conference in Adelaide about the definition of craft, more specifically how she sees the definition of craft strongly linked to independence and local.

Dr Ina Verstl is the editor of Brauwelt International, an online resource for executives in the brewing and beverage industry. Ina spoke at last week’s Australian Craft Brewers Conference in Adelaide about the definition of craft, more specifically how she sees the definition of craft strongly linked to independence and local.

“Craft beer has finally arrived,”

As a category, craft beer is now recognised and accepted as a market segment and this, Ina said, is the big sign that craft is no longer a grass roots movement, it’s part of our cultural mainstream.

“For the consumer, craft beer is ideology in a glass,”

Local versus global, big versus small; Ina believes that for the drinker “ownership is central to what craft beer is.”

The idea of local goes beyond mere location, it’s a whole discourse, Ina says, about the way everything is approached. Much like when it comes to food, being local says to the consumer that quality is a priority above all else and the consumer, not finances, is at the heart of what you do which is why drinkers react so strongly when they see small breweries sell, it feels like a betrayal.

All brewers need to attract each generation and Ina believes this has been a challenge for the ‘large’ breweries like Lion Nathan and Carlton United. Ina draws similarities between craft beer and “fast fashion” with younger consumers attracted by the new innovations and styles and because they’re not hugely brand loyal. But can the big brewers adapt to this?

When craft and independent breweries create a new beer it is often the result of a casual chat and a pint with mates and/or other brewers or just an idea that pops into the brewers head and the process from there is basically a) have the thought then b) make the beer. The ‘big’ guys, on the other hand, launch NPDs with a lengthy strategy in place after they’ve conducted market research and the idea goes through several layers of departments and approvals.

The ‘big’ brewers can make great beer and when it comes to session and gateway beers, beers that are seen as a stepping stone from mass produced lagers to craft beers, Ina says, is something they do very well and she sees this is a challenge for independent breweries.

It’s highly unlikely, Ina says, that the ‘big’ brewers are concerned about the definition of craft beer. If the definition of craft is blurry it’s probably a good thing for them whereas for independent brewers, she continued, it is very important to find a way to differentiate.

Ina strongly believes a seal that signifies an independent brewery would go a long way to separating ‘big from small’, quickly and effectively communicate independence. The Brewers Association in the US introduced their Independent Craft Brewer Seal at the end of June, a move Ina says she was “baffled” it hadn’t happened sooner.

Image from the Brewers Association website

“For years, small and independent craft breweries have been turning the beer industry upside down,” the Brewers Association website says to explain the seal.

Drinkers understand what independence means, we just need to communicate it, Ina says and presents the Authentic Trappist Product seal as an example.

“Our label guarantees the monastic origin of the products as well as the fact that they measure up to the quality and traditional standards rooted in the monastic life of a real Trappist community,” – Trappist website.

Image from taptrails.com

It will be interesting to see if our own Independent Craft Brewers association follows in the footsteps of the Brewers Association in the US in creating a seal.


Last year Victoria’s Bridge Road Brewers introduced their own logos called ‘Respect(ing) the Craft’ and they were designed to quickly convey to the consumer that their beers were authentic craft beer. Read the details here.

 

WA Beer News #15

Featuring new collaborations beers from Mash Brewing and Black Brewing; more awards for WA breweries; Nowhereman Brewing is now open and more …

There is a lot of stuff happening in WA’s craft beer scene that it’s genuinely hard to keep up with all the new beer releases and WA really is kicking ass when it comes to craft beer and so I thought I’d try and make a regular feature out of all the new beery goodness our state has to offer.

The girl+beer Facebook page has a list of upcoming beer events that you might find worth subscribing to!


New Beers

Mash Brewing have been busy with limited releases recently and there are another two out now, both available on tap only.

Mash Brewing // the ADventures of milo and Oat.i.s

The puntastic name The Adventures of Milo and Oat.I.S is taken from the 1986 kids movie. The beer is an 8.5 percent ABV Oatmeal Stout brewed with orange and is a collaboration with the guys at Cellarbrations Superstore.

Photo from Mash Brewing’s Facebook

Mash Brewing // RAISIN’ THE BAR

Another collaboration brew but this time with the team at the Belgian Beer Cafe. It is a 7.5 percent ABV Belgian Strong Ale and the beer name refers to the strong raisin character they say comes from a heavy dose of caraaroma malts.

Photo from Mash Brewing’s Facebook

BLACK BREWING // BAO BAO VARIANTS

Last month Black Brewing released four keg only variations of their Bao Bao Milk Stout – a version with coffee, another with coconut, an imperial version and one called Port Royale which was rum and port aged. Brand ambassador Tim “Gunslinger” Hoskins says limited quantities of these beers will be available in bottles from next week from selected retailers, check out their Facebook page for updates.

Name Mash’s next beer

The crew at Mash Brewing are already planning their next limited release and it’s going to be a Red Rye IPA infused with nitrogen to add a creamy mouthfeel and lower carbonation to what sounds like an already delicious beer. They’re running a competition on Facebook to find a name for the beer; the winner not only gets the bragging rights but a carton of the beer when it’s released.

WA Award Winners

At the annual Craft Beer Awards were held in Adelaide on Thursday night and two WA breweries picked up Champion Trophies.

Eagle Bay Black IPA was the Champion Dark Ale and Feral Brewing’s Watermelon Warhead took out the trophy for Champion Wheat beer.

Eagle Bay Black IPA has been added to the year round range so you can now get this champion beer all year round!

Full Results available here on Crafty Pint

L-R: Will Irving from Feral Brewing and Adrian d’Espeissis from Eagle Bay Brewing

The Royal Adelaide Beer and Cider Awards were held last night and WA’s own Nail Brewing Red Ale and Clout Stout were awarded Champion Other Ale and Champion Stout respectively. Nail Brewing also tied for Champion Medium Brewery.

Note: I work for Nail Brewing

Photo from Fassina Liquor – Empire Liquor team representing Nail Brewing in SA accepting the trophy for Champion Medium Brewery

Nowhereman Brewing NOW OPEN

The local beer community have been eagerly awaiting for Nowhereman Brewing in West Leederville to open and the day finally arrived on Thursday! There are three beers on tap right now – an American Pale Ale, Saison and Lager – and more beers will be added to the range soon, fresh from the tanks a mere few steps away from the beer taps. They’re open Wednesday to Friday from 4pm and weekends from 12 noon.

You can find them at 25 Harrogate Street, West Leederville

Nowhereman Brewing’s brewer Paul Wyman

Growler fills in Marmion

Liquor Barons in Marmion have just installed a growler system so you can now get your 1lt squealers and 2lt growlers filled with delicious craft beer.

Mane adds sixth tap + 500ml bottles

Mane Liquor have added a sixth tap to their line up that will be specifically for “heavy hitting beers”. They have also added some great looking 500ml bottles as an option to get filled alongside 1lt squealers and 2lt growlers.

Photo from Mane Liquor’s Facebook

Mane Liquor also have Black Vanilla gift boxes available in-store for just $50 which include a bottle of Black Vanilla, their collaboration brew with Eagle Bay Brewing, Whipper Snapper Distillery and artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers, and a matching t-shirt designed by Kyle.

Photo from Mane Liquor’s Facebook

 

Australian Craft Brewers Conference: Dr Charlie Bamforth

Dr. Charlie Bamforth was the keynote speaker for this years Australian Craft Brewers Conference and gave a wonderfully engaging and interesting talk.

In introducing Dr. Charlie Bamforth as the keynote speaker for this year’s Australian Craft Brewers Conference in Adelaide, Pete Mitcham wisely opted to forego the long introduction, allowing for more time for us to hear from the man himself, the Distinguished Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at UC Davis and basically THE expert when it comes to beer.

“Brewers should pull in the same direction,”

Whether you’re a brewer in a large or small brewery much of the concerns are the same, Charlie said, those concerns around the ingredients and the quality of your beer.

The quality of your beer, Charlie emphasised, isn’t dependent on brewers alone but every single person in the brewery. “Everybody is important,” he said and that it was “critical” for a brewery to look after their people and to ensure they are trained, happy and proud to be part of the brewery family.

“Intensely flavoured or not, balance is the key,”

Another key to the quality of your beer, Charlie said, is consistency and balance and that quality isn’t necessarily about the complexity of flavour.

When asked, “what is a good beer?” Charlie says he responds with “I have no idea.” Perhaps you’d expect a far more complicated answer from someone with the words “distinguished Professor” in their title but he simply says, “what’s good for you may not be good for me.” Beer is subjective and no-one should be criticised for their choice of beer, whether it’s craft or not.

“Beer is to be celebrated. Beer drinkers should be celebrated, they do not need to be insulted,”

The current trend of hazy IPAs, otherwise known as New England IPAs, is not Charlie’s preferred choice but it doesn’t change the fact it sells and people like it so, Charlie said, “who is to say they are wrong? They’re not wrong as long as there’s a market for it.”

“I think it should be a fair playing field,”

Whilst saying clearly he did not think there was anything wrong with a small brewery being purchased by a large one, Charlie felt it should be “transparent” so consumers know where the ownership lies.

“The craft industry keeps seeking to go to extremes,”

Maybe the beer industry could learn something from the wine guys when it comes to celebrating their raw ingredients. Crazy ingredients like oysters or chilli and other pushing-the-boundaries additions are great but, Charlie commented, “we have so much to celebrate in the basic raw materials” and whilst wine has been doing a great job in making grapes the hero of their industry perhaps we in the beer world should be making more noise about ours too.

Charlie’s comments popped back into my head when Dr. Ina Verstl, the editor of Brauwelt International who spoke after Charlie, quoted a statistic that said 88 percent of people in Australia didn’t know what ingredients are in beer.

“Do you want a glass?”

Charlie recalled ordering a beer at a restaurant recently and the waitperson asked if he wanted a glass. “Why do you ask?” Charlie replied. “Cause we don’t have very many glasses and we don’t want to run out,” she said.

Now imagine he had ordered a wine.

That conversation wouldn’t have happened.

This short interaction highlighted the huge differences between the perception of beer and wine in restaurant experiences in general. Whilst wine has a sense of theatre around it, most of the time beer doesn’t even get a glass.

“Beer should be put into a glass, admired and looked at and celebrated.”

The Australian Craft Brewers Conference continues today and then Craft Beer Awards are held tonight at Adelaide Oval, stay tuned to the girlplusbeer Twitter feed for the results (mostly) live.

Getting the Gang Back Together – Black Vanilla

Eagle Bay Brewing love collaborating and it’s time for their winter release with Mane Liquor, Whipper Snapper and artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers – Black Vanilla

“It’s fun … except when I get left in the brewery to do all the work!” Nick laughs when I ask him about collaboration brews at Eagle Bay Brewing.

Eagle Bay Brewing seem to love collaborating more than anyone in WA. From annual collabs like the Cacao Stout with Bahen & Co chocolate makers to once-off brews like their West Coast Native Ale with Fremantle venue The Mantle, Eagle Bay seem* to have an open door policy to their (brew)house. In fact they’re working on another collaboration brew right now with Clancy’s Fish Pubs and Twin Peaks coffee.

*always best to ask before you attempt to just wander into a brewery though!

“Working with like-minded producers is always such a pleasure,”

Margarita Wallace, marketing and communications, Eagle Bay Brewing

This year Eagle Bay reunited with retailer Mane Liquor, Whipper Snapper Distillery and artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers to make a beer called Black Vanilla, a whiskey barrel-aged coconut and vanilla imperial stout.

Brew day for Black Vanilla – Photo from Eagle Bay Brewing Facebook

This has become an annual collaboration to make a barrel-aged dark beer and started in 2015 when Eagle Bay teamed up with Mane Liquor and Kyle Hughes-Odgers to make Black and Tannin, a black IPA aged in former Cabernet Sauvignon barrels.

“Collaborating gives you a chance to play with new ideas,”

Nick d’Espeissis, head brewer, Eagle Bay Brewing

In 2016 the crew made Forest for the Trees, and brought in Perth craft coffee roasters Twin Peaks and swapped red wine barrels for whiskey ones with new team mates Whipper Snapper Distillery on board. The result was a whiskey barrel-aged coffee imperial porter.

To make this years Black Vanilla they brewed an imperial stout and barrel-aged it for three months in two Whipper Snapper “Upshot” whiskey barrels. “It’s quite a privilege”, Margarita says “because once those whiskey barrels are given over to us they can’t use them for whiskey again.”

After aging they added toasted coconut and vanilla beans. The result is complex and rich, dark and roasty and it’s drinking great now and will also certainly age nicely.

I was lucky enough to be amongst the first to try Black Vanilla at The Dark Side event at Eagle Bay Brewing last week which they kindly invited me to. The event was held as part of the Cabin Fever Festival in Margaret River. Photos are below from the wonderful evening of food, beers and chat.

My partner once told me about a guy he knew who loved whiskey and when an awesome one would come out he would always buy three bottles – one to drink, one to keep and one just in case. I applied this to Black Vanilla, purchasing three bottles before leaving the brewery.

If you this sounds like an event you’d love and you’re sans a time machine, you can catch the crew who made the beer at the Black Vanilla Winter Feast dinner at Lalla Rookh tomorrow night (Wednesday 25 August). Tickets are $82+bf, more information can be found here.

 

Creativity and Clear Desserts at Baby Mammoth

Baby Mammoth are clarifying orange juice, teaming up with their favourite booze makers and creating weird and wonderful dishes and they’re having a great time doing it …

Recently the crew at Baby Mammoth in Northbridge spent over a week trying to clarify orange juice. Why? Because they found themselves with a lot of oranges and, quite frankly, just to see if they could do. Negronis are one of their most popular cocktails and it uses orange peel as a garnish, resulting in lots of peeled oranges with no purpose. Rather than go to waste, the idea came up to juice them, clarify the juice and then make completely clear Harvey Wallbangers. They named this new cocktail the Clarified Banger. Baby Mammoth’s co-owner Ryan Lambson and bar manager Zack Garcia toldd me the story with big smiles and a lot of laughter. Just telling me this story leads the guys to another idea; to create a clear rocky road ice-cream topped with a clear chocolate sauce. It may or may not happen but it’s not really the point.

L-R: Ryan Lambson, co-owner and Zack Garcia, bar manager

Ryan and his wife Tania along with Zack and rest of the Baby Mammoth staff have a group chat on Facebook. Often the messages are a relentless stream of “really constructive ideas,” Ryan says and adds,“it’s lots and lots of fun, I don’t get bored.” Tania, in particular, Ryan and Zack say is an “ideas muse”. The constant collaboration between the whole team is impressive.

“I’m loving coming to work and having the freedom to do and create,”

Zack Garcia, Baby Mammoth bar manager

The creation of their cocktail Gran Pappy’s Love Tonic, featuring rum, tequila, watermelon and La Sirene Urban Pale liqueur, they say was a particularly hard cocktail to develop and just one example of their very collaborative process. “That cocktail was the bane of my life,” Zack laughs.

Photo from Baby Mammoth’s Facebook – Gran Pappy’s Love Tonic
Baby Mammoth’s Tania Lambson – Photo from Baby Mammoth’s Facebook

Zack says that putting up a call on Facebook looking for work is what lead to him to Baby Mammoth. “I was desperate,” Zack laughs, “I put the white flag up and Ryan replied.”

“Within three weeks he gave me the keys and the alarm code,” Zack says.

Ryan in the kitchen plating up – Photo from Baby Mammoth’s Facebook

For Ryan, feeling confident that the front of house is in good hands with Zack, has allowed him to enjoy getting back to the food side of the business, creating new dishes and pairings. For instance, when they tapped a keg of Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic, one of the most highly regarded beers in the world, Ryan created a food pairing of pineapple and thyme compote with creamy blue cheese.

Photo from Baby Mammoth’s Facebook

“With the way business is at the moment it’s really important to get creative,” Ryan says of the somewhat flat economy.

Creativity in the kitchen has always been focus at Baby Mammoth where monthly ‘chef lab’ events challenge each of their chefs to create a new dish based around a theme. Customers votes determine the winner.

August Chef Lab theme is Carnivale! Bookings Essential $20pp // Tuesday 1st August // Event Information Here

Photo from Baby Mammoth’s Facebook – June ChefLab Voting

“We can’t play it safe, we need to take some risks”

Ryan Lambson, Baby Mammoth co-owner

Really great beers not only inspire and influence Ryan’s food ideas but also their house-made liqueurs and vermouths and with Zack on board they are developing these further; showcasing them separately as well as within their cocktails. This means you’ll be able to order from a list just like you would a wine or a beer and as someone who has sampled many of their liqueurs and vermouths, this is very good news.

“The longer we do this, the more interesting people we met,” Ryan says and these people inspire him further. People like the crew at Boatrocker Brewery and Starward Distillery who they are collaborating with for an upcoming event called Glorious Food, Beer and Whisky on 31 July.

Photo from Baby Mammoth’s Facebook

“We wanted to put the two [Boatrocker and Starward] together and then of course do something really weird with the boys in the kitchen so Baby Mammoth also puts its mark on the dinner,” Zack says excitedly.

The stars aligned for the event with Paul Slater, Starward’s brand ambassador and Ben Lancaster from Boatrocker coincidentally in Perth at the same time making scheduling the event with two east coast companies surprisingly easy.

“Me and Zack were so excited that we went an email at the same time,” Ryan says of organising the Boatrocker beers for the event and it promises to be an impressive list with some barrel-aged beers and beers that have not been available in WA before.

The team hope the Starward and Boatrocker night can be an annual event and they’re also hoping that last year’s La Sirene dinner with co-founder and brewer Costa Nikias will happen this year too (nudge, nudge, hint, hint, if you’re reading this Costa!)

L-F: Costa from La Sirene and Ryan from Baby Mammoth at last year’s dinner
Malt syrup tart with white chocolate and preserved fruit paired with La Sirene Sour Red at last year’s La Sirene dinner at Baby Mammoth

Ultimately Ryan and Zack agree that it is all about having fun whilst giving their customers an experience.

“Our job is to be informative, help our customers, guide them, feed them lots of interesting stuff and hopefully they leave happy every time and come back,” Ryan says and nicely sums up why I keep going back to Baby Mammoth.

Lentil Curry, pickled cauliflower, cashews and house-made brioche

WA Beer News #14

New beers this week from Innate Brewers and Boston Brewery plus a reminder about Eagle Bay and Colonial’s latest releases and a new brewery is about to celebrate their first birthday!

There is a lot of stuff happening in WA’s craft beer scene that it’s genuinely hard to keep up with all the new beer releases and WA really is kicking ass when it comes to craft beer and so I thought I’d try and make a regular feature out of all the new beery goodness our state has to offer.

The girl+beer Facebook page has a list of upcoming beer events that you might find worth subscribing to!


Innate Brewers

Innate Brewers have used lupulin powder for their single batch Red IPA, a limited release brew that started to hit taps from Friday 21 July. Lupulin powder is concentrated whole-leaf hops with all the resins, oils and good stuff that imparts intense hop flavor and aroma.

Upcoming Event // Innate Brewers and Homestead Brewery will be hosting the next Brewer’s Loft event upstairs at The Queens – $5 pints and meet the brewers!

Three Rivers Brewing

Mandurah brewery Three Rivers recently released their winter seasonal Black Knight, a 7 percent ABV coffee stout, recently spotted on social media pouring at The Sail & Anchor from the hand pump.

Boston Brewing

Boss is Boston Brewing’s premium lager. Usually only available on tap but this has just had a release in 375ml cans. It’s 4.8 percent ABV and it won a Silver medal at this years Perth Royal Beer Awards and promises to be “crisp and refreshing easy drinking lager.”

And don’t forget …

Black Vanilla

Eagle Bay x Mane Liquor x Kyle Hughes-Odgers x Whipper Snapper Distillery

9.5 percent ABV whiskey barrel-aged coconut and vanilla imperial stout

Full Disclosure : I was invited to an event last week for this beer

Colonial Inquest

Colonial Brewing Co

11.7 percent ABV imperial stout

Read about these two beers here in the last WA beer News update. Colonial have also kindly listed all stockists on their website here.

Full Disclosure – I was given a 4 pack of Colonial Inquest by the brewery

Congratulations!

White Lakes Brewing in Baldivis are coming up on their first birthday this month. White Lakes Brewing is located on Old Mandurah Road overlooking Lake Walyungup, a 430 hectare salt lake, with six beers on tap right now including –

  • Draught – a German style pilsener
  • Wit – a Belgian style wheat beer that won silver at this years Australian International Beer Awards
  • Standard – an English bitter that won gold at this years Australian International Beer Awards
  • Pilsener – a Bohemian style pilsener
  • Dark – a German Schwarzbier that won silver at this years Australian International Beer Awards
  • Summer – an English summer ale
  • Pale – an American pale ale featuring Mosaic and Wai-Ti hops, a bronze medal winner at this years Australian International Beer Awards
White Lakes head brewer Sean Symons

Rocky Ridge – Fifth Generation Farming with a Brewery

Rocky Ridge Brewing is no ordinary brewery. They are growing their own barley and hops to use in their beer, the family’s production dairy continues to operate on the farm and they’re pretty close to being ‘off the grid’.

For many people the downturn in the mining boom in WA was a negative but Hamish Coates credits it for setting him on his current path and he has no regrets. With a major in geology and a minor in physics, Hamish describes himself as “basically unemployable” but he says it with a laugh. Unable to get a job related to his field after finishing university, he and his partner Mel Holland started a landscaping business in Perth. After a couple of years they moved back home to Busselton where Hamish started working at Margaret River’s Cheeky Monkey Brewery and whilst there, working alongside head brewer Ross Terlick for two years, the idea for a brewery was born.

Rocky Ridge Brewing is no ordinary brewery. They are growing their own barley and hops to use in their beer, the family’s dairy continues to operate on the farm and they’re pretty close to being ‘off the grid’.

The brewery is located on the family farm near Busselton and Hamish, a fifth generation farmer, says his great, great grandfather named the farm ‘rocky ridge’ after the “massive ridge of ironstone that runs through the center of our property” so naming the brewery turned out to be pretty straight forward.

Hamish Coates and Melissa Holland // Photo courtesy of Rocky Ridge Brewing

“I wanted to use the farm and diversify in a number of ways,” Hamish says of his inspiration to build a brewery and also try to grow all the ingredients needed to make the beer as well, those ingredients being barley, hops and yeast.

“The land in the south west is so phenomenally productive that its always been my view that you can grow absolutely anything you want,” and it’s why Hamish started dabbling with growing hops whilst he was working at Cheeky Monkey Brewery.

“Barley grows really well but malting is another thing entirely,” Hamish says with a smile and a hint of sleep deprivation. “That’s a lot more technical than I think I ever gave maltsters credit for.”

“Learning about the science behind malting was a massive step for me.”

This years barley crop covered ten out of the farms 1000 acres which yielded 40 tonnes of barley and they’ll soon be expanding that to twenty acres and hope to double to yield. Expansion plans can almost be as big as they want given the farms size and that’s not including the additional thousand acres in a couple of blocks around the south west region.

Growing barley // Photo courtesy of Rocky Ridge Brewing

Their barley is taken to Dumbleyung where Hamish’s friend Jamie Frost has a one tonne malting set up. Rocky Ridge have their own base malts plus Hamish says, a “different variety for each beer so that each beer has it’s own unique flavour profile.”

Their hop bines take up just over an acre and they’re aiming to triple that as soon as possible. From this years harvest they got 450 kilos of dry hop weight which Hamish describes as a “fair stash” but for them to grow as a brewery he says they will need to bring that number up significantly.

Hop bines // Photo courtesy of Rocky Ridge Brewing

As a phrase, ‘hands on’ doesn’t seem to do justice to the hand maintenance of the hop farm which includes including harvesting the delicate hop cones. They’re hoping to partner with a couple of other hop farms in the region soon for a mechanical picker they can all share.

Hamish attending to the hops // Photo courtesy of Rocky Ridge Brewing

They are growing quite a few hop varieties and when Hamish lists them off it’s close to an automated response. There’s a couple of well known American varieties, Cascade and Chinook plus Goldings, Saaz, Hallertau, Hersbrucker, Perle, Styrian Goldings and Flinders. He is also keen to see if he can get some Centennial, another popular American variety, to add to the farm.

Hop harvest // Photo courtesy of Rocky Ridge Brewing

Cultivating their own yeast strain has proved to be the most challenging of beers four ingredients. Initial experiments at the University of Western Australia, where Hamish graduated, resulted in an excellent first generation but the second generation “failed miserably”. Whilst their own first generation yeast strains have been used in limited releases, commercial yeast strains are being used in their core range beers until they can get a strain that has a successful second generation. Eventually Hamish hopes to have a healthy yeast bank on site from which to pick and choose from.

“Four ingredients and each and every one of those four has an integral part in the end product”

Their most recent limited release – Rock Juice which Hamish says he used the most amount of hops he’s ever used in a beer to date

Listening to Hamish talk about yeast, water, hops and malt, it’s clear the respect he has for each ingredient and every professional who works with them. The driving force behind Rocky Ridge Brewing is “Everything We Brew, We Grow” and whilst it is not currently 100% true it shouldn’t take away from its wonderfully ambitious goal that they’re working towards every day and how much of their own grown ingredients are currently in use. Whilst something like bean to bar chocolate making or the farm to plate food movement has a certain amount of understanding, this approach to brewing is largely unknown. In the US these types of breweries who grow their own ingredients are commonly called “farm breweries” or “farm to keg breweries” and in New York they have their own type of license. From the handful of articles I have read on the subject, the concept is still emerging in the United States and here in Australia it’s pretty rare. “The concept is hard to communicate,” Hamish acknowledges.


More Reading …

Why Farm-to-Keg Brewing is the Next Big Beer Trend

Farm Brewery versus Microbrewery License in New York

Farm Breweries: When Local Means Your Own Backyard


The brewery // Photo courtesy of Rocky Ridge Brewing

“We have to be pretty careful about the beers we are brewing,” Hamish says. Growing their own ingredients provides Hamish with a unique challenge in selecting what beers to brew. For instance Hamish describes the Rocky Ridge IPA as a more traditional American west coast IPA style which relies on Cascade and Chinook hops, the two US varieties growing on the farm.

Getting creative // Gold Leader, a limited release White Stout that Rocky Ridge brewed earlier this year

They haven’t brewed a traditional stout yet because they don’t have the appropriate malts. “Certainly with our malt profiles we’ve had to think outside the square cause we are not roasting any at the moment so we’re having to really work hard in the brewing process to get different flavours and different body profiles,” he explains.

“The challenge is good because it makes you think more and more about what goes into making good beer and how to get that desired end profile,” Hamish says.

I had assumed that given the scale of the project, getting Rocky Ridge off the ground would have been more difficult than opening a brewery already is but even Hamish admits, “it all happened a lot quicker than I’d anticipated.”

Fermentation tanks ready to go into the brewery // Photo courtesy of Rocky Ridge Brewing

“So pretty much every brewery is going to hate me for saying this but it was actually really easy,” Hamish says somewhat quietly, referring to the council approval process. Rocky Ridge is not open to the public, a conscious decision by all involved due to the fact it is still a productive dairy farm so not particularly visitor friendly and so “everything fell into place because there’s no public access.”

It was roughly four months from concept to council approval and another 14 months between the laying of the slab to the release of their first beer.

“Hands on experience at Cheeky Monkey gave me a good grounding in beer, how to brew a good beer and then I decided to go and handicap myself and grow everything on site,” Hamish laughs.

Another challenge for Rocky Ridge is having a brewery the public cannot visit so having a satellite cellar door venue has always been part of the plan. Updates to the state’s liquor licensing allowed them to fast track their plans and they’re renovating the space as I write this with the aim to be operating before summer.

“It’s really difficult to create a brand identity without a home”

The satellite cellar door will provide their brand with a face and “create an intimate connection” between them and their drinkers. Their license allows them to do tastings on site and also sell packaged beers for takeaway consumption. Hamish is also keen to partner with local food trucks for the weekends. The cellar door will be located on Marine Terrace, just steps from Busselton town center.

Rocky Ridge have been releasing their beers in kegs only so far, a method Hamish describes as being “not a very profitable way to make beer.”

“The last four months having beers out, we’ve been really just making sure that quality control is in place, making sure that we are comfortable with the recipes and that we can supply all the ingredients for those recipes as well,” he says with particular emphasis on the supply aspect since they’re planning on releasing their beers in cans by September.

Another element of brewing Hamish speaks passionately about is building what he calls a “future proof brewery”. They are reusing all the waste from the dairy in the hop and barley fields and get their power from a solar battery bank.

“I don’t see a future in being connected to the electricity network because it’s all archaic”

Hamish feels strongly about being environmentally ethical, “if we don’t do it, who the f**k is going to?”

Solar panels powering Rocky Ridge Brewing // Photo courtesy of Rocky Ridge Brewing

There are so many great stories in the Rocky Ridge Brewing journey so far and it’s still early days. Whether it’s how the brewery came about or what they are achieving so far in growing their ingredients or their commitment to operating an environmentally friendly brewery, chatting with Hamish is stupidly interesting for any booze nerd. Funnily enough though, of all these stories, the one that has resonated strongly from a marketing point of view centers around man’s best friend. Well, Hamish’s best friend – Ace, the border collie brewery dog.

Ace the brewery dog, image from Rocky Ridge Brewing’s Facebook page

Speaking of social media, here’s where you’ll find Rocky Ridge Brewing on Facebook and Instagram

“It’s really surprised me in what works well with marketing and what doesn’t,” Hamish says. “Ace sells beer well,” he laughs. When he posts a photo of Ace on social media it “goes nuts” which Hamish didn’t really expect when he named a beer after him – Ace Pale Ale and used an image of Ace for the beer’s logo. It’s not a case of ‘just a pretty face’ though, the beer is a great pale ale!

Ace modelling the image for Ace Pale Ale in June at Mane Winter Beer Celebration

Keep an eye out for Rocky Ridge beers on tap at good independent beer loving places like Petition Beer Corner, Baby Mammoth, Dominion League and Dutch Trading Co to name a few; keep an eye out for cans in your favourite bottle shops in September and make sure to visit their satellite cellar door in Busselton this summer.