Last month I was in Sydney and I walked into my hotel, Paramount House Hotel with my eyes wide and my smile big. The place was beautiful, the sort of fit out that makes you want to sit and spend time just looking so you don’t miss anything. It opened in April and sits surrounded by the Golden Age Cinema, Paramount Coffee Project, The Office Space and Paramount Recreation Club.
I got into the elevator that’s covered in delightful pink wallpaper with a hibiscus and diving men pattern, I got out on the third floor, found my room and fell in love with the place. They’re not kidding when they say “permanent vacation”, the place does make you want to hang around for a really long time.
This long introduction is leading somewhere beery, I promise.
An exploration of the hotel room isn’t complete without looking in the mini-bar. I almost fell over when I saw a small bottle of Wildflower beer inside.
Wildflower Brewing and Blending in Marrickville, NSW is dedicated to making Australian Wild Ales. To see a bottle of this beer in a hotel room mini-bar was pretty extraordinary given mini-bars are usually the domain of mainstream beers only. Wildflower is also on tap in the hotel lobby and Topher, co-owner of Wildflower, says they are one of their best customers.
Blasta Brewing and their 20hec kit will be opening their doors on Thursday and among the beers will be something brand new to celebrate!
Steve and Kate Russell’s idea for a brewpub came from a love of good food and drink. “My homebrewing passion escalated a little bit,” Steve said with a laugh when I first spoke to him back in July last year.
The name Blasta comes from Scottish Gaelic, meaning “delicious” and Steve, who is originally from Scotland, says this is more than just a name, it is their guiding principle, to “only brew Blasta beers.”
The logo is a geometric unicorn which links to Steve’s engineering background and his Scottish heritage as the unicorn is Scotland’s national animal; true story, Google it! Folklore stories of the unicorn include one where a snake poisons a watering hole but a unicorn uses its horn to purify the water for everyone to be able to drink it again. It’s this transformation of water for all to enjoy that Steve felt resonated with brewing.
Steve and Kate have been living in Perth for ten years and always within the Burswood area. They have seen the suburb change significantly over the years and know there is more urban development on the way. They hope Blasta Brewing will be a positive addition to the local community. Their location on Goodwin Parade, just over 100 metres from the train station, and will have a capacity of more than 350 people.
Steve has been gypsy brewing at a couple of different breweries, depending on schedules and availability, and released their first commercial beer in May last year called Myway Grapefruit IPA, brewed using local grapefruit. The first venue to pour a Blasta beer was The Balmoral in Victoria Park and the keg sold out in less than three hours. Myway Grapefruit IPA went on to be awarded a silver medal at the Perth Royal Beer Awards in June.
Since then they’ve been busy not only building their brewery, bar and restaurant but also getting out to beer festivals across Perth, such as Perth Craft Beer Festival and Mane Liquor’s Winter Beer Celebration, to introduce themselves.
In early November they were granted their liquor licence and in January their brewery arrived in Perth.
The brewery is a 20 hectolitre kit that Steve helped to design, his brewing and engineering knowledge leading, perhaps inevitably, to him making a few tweaks.
The coffee shop side of the venue is already up and running, open from 6:30am daily. The booze side, the rest of the brewpub, will have its grand opening on 1st March and will be celebrated with the release of a brand new beer. Doors open at 11am, from 5 -7pm there will be a private event, after which it will re-open to the public.
When we started this year there was no relationship between Australian independent craft beer and the AFL and you certainly wouldn’t be served your favourite local craft brew on a major airline. Then, by mid-year, things started to change.
When we started this year there was no relationship between Australian independent craft beer and the AFL and you certainly wouldn’t be served your favourite local craft brew on a major airline. Then, by mid-year, things started to change. Colonial Brewing announced they had become an official partner of the Essendon Football Club and just this week Singapore Airlines launched their curated series of craft beer on their airlines starting with Cheeky Monkey here in WA and we will see a roll-out of similar local announcements made across the country soon.
Singapore Airlines hosted a launch event on Monday night for their one-year partnership with Cheeky Monkey. From Sunday 1 October, Cheeky Monkey Pale Ale cans will be available in business class on all flights between Perth and Singapore and the full Cheeky Monkey range will be in their SilverKris Lounge at Perth Airport.
“With interest continuing to increase across the globe for craft beer, we felt it was a perfect opportunity to partner with a local brewery to offer our customers a craft beer option,” said Singapore Airlines Area Manager Western Australia, David Pinche.
Perth Station Manager Sunny Sandhu had visited Cheeky Monkey Brewery in Margaret River while on holiday and it clearly made an impression, leading to the brewery being top of mind when Singapore Airlines approached a few WA breweries in their search for a local partner.
“This [airlines] has always been the domain of the big guys,” said Brendan Day, Cheeky Monkey sales and beer ambassador. For the team, it was not only a welcome surprise to be asked to pitch for the partnership but it was also a little validation of all the hard work they’ve put into the brewery and beers in recent times.
“Singapore Airlines are very committed to quality,” Brendan said and as part of the process the airline sent a site inspection team to the brewery to check it from top to bottom to ensure everything was clean and the service and quality aligned with the high standards of their own brand.
The selection of the Pale Ale for the beer served in flight was a choice by the Singapore Airlines team.
“The Singapore guys just loved it,” Brendan said, “I think they really loved the branding on the can as well and there’s a plane on our can, just a little one, so I think the liked that as well!”
Let this be a lesson to anyone looking to re-brand, it couldn’t hurt to put a plane on your branding for future major transport opportunities!
Brendan and Cheeky Monkey Managing Director Brent Burton had a photoshoot on the tarmac as part of the launch and media release and Brendan said the guys were still pinching themselves with excitement to be working with the airline.
The partnership with Singapore Airlines is not only a huge achievement for Cheeky Monkey Brewery but for the local industry as a whole. Maybe this and Colonial’s achievement to break into a major sporting partnership will hopefully lead to more opportunities at places like stadiums, arenas and major music festivals where previously only the “big boys” were able to play. Fingers crossed!
Big thanks to Singapore Airlines for inviting me to the launch event on Monday night!
As a West Australian beer geek I have always known of The Wheatsheaf Hotel, more commonly known as “The Wheaty”, but had not visited. I got to fix that beery injustice during last month’s Australian Craft Brewers Conference in Adelaide. I ate a wonderful dish from a food truck, I can’t be more specific than that sorry, poor memory and a few pints! I had a couple of beers, enjoyed them lots, and Uber-ed back to the hotel full, happy and sleepy.
Jade Flavell, co-owner of The Wheaty, told attendees of the conference during the SA Brewers Panel session about how her and two friends co-founded The Wheaty and I think it’s such a great story that I would like to share it with you here and hope that, the next time you’re in Adelaide, you’ll be sure to visit and raise a glass to a wonderful iconic Australian pub.
The founding trio – Jade, Emily and Liz came across The Wheatsheaf Hotel in 2003 and Jade says they “fell in love with it”.
Jade tracks back the idea to own a brewpub to a trip to the United States where she tried an Alaskan Smoked Porter and it blew her mind.
It took a few years of searching until they came across The Wheaty. Perhaps they could have found something else sooner but they wanted a pub without pokies. This proved difficult given, at the time, Jade estimates less than ten percent of pubs actually fit the criteria but then along came The Wheaty.
It was, as Jade describes it, an “affectionately regarded shambles” and the existing owners were looking to sell to someone who would keep it as a pub. “We bought the pub on a handshake,” Jade said and from there they moved in and lived there for three months, renovating at the same time.
The pub was originally built in 1919 and they were keen to preserve the exterior.
“We’ve done bugger all to the outside”
As for the rest of the pub, Jade describes it as “crap-tastic”, after all, it was never their intention to create a slick and modern pub. There’s live music most nights of the week, a pool table and a dart board, all the signifiers of a good ol’ local pub.
When they re-opened the doors, Jade says they had to chase people to get beer on. They had Mountain Goat, Little Creatures and James Squire pouring and they were “dragging people kicking and screaming into craft beer”. After all, it was almost un-South Australian to drink anything other than home grown, well known Coopers Brewing beers.
“It took years,” but Jade says the rise of imported beers helped to change things in a time when, in the early 2000s, there weren’t hundreds of breweries in Australia. Imported craft helped The Wheaty start to change their beer culture, “slowly, slowly, pint by pint, customer by customer”.
Three years ago they had to make a decision whether to add a kitchen or a brewery and since brewing beer was always part of the plan, that decision was easily made and well, who needs a kitchen when there are food trucks?
The Wheaty Brewing Corps beers are made on a 600lt system and they sell their beer at the pub though they keep six taps reserved for guest beers to serve alongside their own. Selling all Wheaty beers at The Wheaty is, Jade says, the only way a system this small can work. They did the math and wholesale beer sales would actually be a financial loss but Jade doesn’t seem disappointed; she loves selling her beer merely steps from where it’s made.
“The instant customer feedback is worth its weight in gold”
Apologies for the lack of photos in this post, while I was enjoying beers and food at The Wheaty I neglected to take a single photo! (a sure sign of a good time!)
Their brewery runs 24/7 and plans for their second site are well under way. Pirate Life Brewing showed up in 2014 and have been going fast and strong ever since.
Some breweries come along and make a significant impact on the Australian craft brewing scene. Little Creatures and Feral spring to mind and, of course, Adelaide’s Pirate Life Brewing. Not just because of their incredible beers but also because of how quickly they’ve made their way across Australia. Five years ago there wasn’t much talk about craft beer from Adelaide, and now Pirate Life is a staple in many craft beer lovers fridge across the country.
While I was in Adelaide recently for the Australian Craft Brewers Conference, I was able to visit Pirate Life in Hindmarsh. Along with good friends and fellow WA beer folk, Paul Wyman – brewer at the newly opened Nowhereman Brewing – and Adrian D’Espeissis from Eagle Bay Brewing, and we were given a tour of Pirate Life by Michael Cameron aka “MC”.
MC also spoke at the SA Brewers Panel on the second day of the conference to discuss how Pirate Life started and their approach to the national beer market.
The brewery is impressive and has been running 24/7 since March 2016, the canning line runs for 16 hours every day. When we visited, there were 24 fermenters, and by the time I hit “publish” on this, they’ll have an additional eight fermenters on site. In twelve months they hope to have their second brewery in Port Adelaide up and running.
When speaking on the SA brewers panel, MC said their plans had always been to take Pirate Life national and to do it quickly. MC, with brewers Jack and Red, launched Pirate Life with more than 270 tastings in their first year. Regularly they’d finish work for the day, throw on their Pirate Life branded shirts and visit three new bars.
Moving fast has perhaps been a defining characteristic of Pirate Life, and that rapid growth led to them outgrowing their own distributor and so they established their own distribution company in July last year called The Pirate Cartel. They are also exporting to the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Singapore.
Back in 2014, they had all their brewing equipment ordered but had yet to secure a place to actually house them. On November 12 they signed a lease, three days later their tanks arrived. It took them 91 days to build the brewery which also included, at Jack and Red’s insistence, $100,000 worth of lab equipment.
First and foremost, MC said, Pirate Life is about making great beer with a focus on quality and freshness.
“Quality and freshness, everyone should be talking about these two words,”
They have seven warehouses across the country, and MC says they are continuously working to improve their systems to keep stock as fresh as possible.
While Pirate Life Brewing continues to grow their brewery, they also keep adding awards to their name, recently winning the Champion IPA trophy at last months Craft Beer Awards for their Mosaic IPA.
It’s been just over a year since White Lakes Brewing opened so I sat down and chatted with head brewer Sean Symons
“This is pristine,”
Sean Symons, head brewer, White Lakes Brewing
A few years ago Sean Symons was having a pint of Guinness with John Gastev at the Vernon Arms in Baldivis. He and John, whose family of well-known publicans have a love of beer, were in the early stages of scouting for a location for a brewery. As they sat overlooking Lake Walyungup, Sean said “this is pristine” and thought it was exactly the sort of place you’d want to build a brewery.
Within twelve months an opportunity came up to take over the Vernon Arms and in 2015 they started construction of White Lakes Brewing right next door to the tavern.
It has now been just over twelve months since White Lakes Brewing opened their doors. The whole site is called West Garden, home to the Vernon Arms and White Lakes Brewing.
Construction involved converting the function centre on site into a brewery and this meant lifting a large portion of the ceiling to accommodate the HGM brew kit. What was the kitchen is now what Sean fondly refers to as the “mad brewers lab” where testing and quality control happen. The main function space with large timber ceiling beams and exposed brick walls is now home to fermenters and tanks lined up in neat rows. A couple of the fermenters are sitting where the dance floor used to be.
The brew kit is powered by steam, ticking boxes for the brewery in being both environmentally friendly and ensuring great brewery efficiency. The vapour condenser on the brew kit collects steam from the kettle and converts it to hot water, the condensation goes to the waste water treatment which is used to water the lawns and gardens.
Sean built their malt silo; something he was quick to add that he wouldn’t recommend. “It came from the US, flat packed,” Sean said it took a full week to put together.
“We love our lagers,”
Lagers feature strongly in the line up with the White Lakes Draught and Pilsener, German style and Bohemian style pilseners respectively, along with a seasonal Dark which is a German Schwarzbier.
Their Wit is a Belgian style wheat beer that Sean says is “a big favourite” of his and that won a silver medal at the Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA) in May.
White Lakes Standard, among their best-selling beers alongside the Pilsener and Draught, won a gold medal at the AIBA and is based on an English Ordinary Bitter. At just 3.5 percent ABV it is their reduced alcohol offering which was an important inclusion in their range given their somewhat regional location. It also reflects the old English beers that were available when the Vernon Arms first opened.
White Lakes Summer and Pale Ale round out the range providing some hoppier ale options.
“The beers that are approachable and sessionable and that you can return to will be the really successful beers,”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
“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.
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.”
“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?”
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.
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!
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.