Beer Story: Bootleg Raging Bull

A closer look into beers that I love, the story behind their making, interviews with the brewer/s and whatever else I can find!

There are a lot of great beers out there and some beers are so memorable that the mention of that beer fills you with happy feelings. Maybe you remember where you were when you first had it, the way it tasted and the way it looked or maybe you just remember thinking “damn, this is really special”. You might be thinking I sound like a love sick fool and you’d be right, some beers I am downright head over heels in love with. Like anything you fall in love with you find yourself thirsty (pardon the pun) to learn more about it, you want to get to know it better and so here’s my semi-regular series – ‘Beer Story’, a look into beers I love, the stories behind their making and interviews with the brewer/s.


The first Beer Story I wrote way back in January so it appears that by “semi regular” I mean “six monthly”, certainly not my intention but perhaps I can do better with the third one.

In the mean time, here is the second Beer Story, this time on one of my most loved WA beers – Bootleg Raging Bull.

Bootleg Raging Bull

7.1% ABV | Robust Porter | Available All Year

Bootleg Brewery

Bootleg Brewery | Margaret River, WA 

A bit about Bootleg Brewery – Bootleg’s tagline has always been: “An oasis of beer in a desert of wine” and whilst there are many breweries in the south west today it wasn’t the case back in 1994 when Bootleg first opened her doors.

Margaret River is famous for wine all over the world and when Bootleg opened they were the only brewery in the area. To put things into perspective, Bootleg opened six years before Perth would see beers from Nail Brewing or Little Creatures who both started life in 2000.

For Bootleg’s history check out their website.

Bootleg’s Raging Bull is available all year round so even when it’s 40 degrees outside you can enjoy a Raging Bull in the blasting WA sun if that’s what tickles your fancy.

I’ve seen Raging Bull described as a robust porter, a Belgian dark ale, a strong ale, whatever style it is, quite frankly, it’s just a sensational beer. It’s 7.1% ABV so a little on the dangerous side and unapologetically so, it’s a beast of a beer. Rich red fruits, chocolate, coffee, plums, spice and biscuit are there and more, it’ll develop as it warms up and soon you’ll be reaching for another bottle.

Raging Bull turns 20 this year and the old girl is still looking so good. Bootleg’s general manager, Michael Brookes, says that people are visiting the brewery today who remember their father drinking Raging Bull. Pretty impressive, I remember my dad drinking Emu Export cans at home and pints of Redback at the pub.

Here is an interview I did a couple of months ago with Michael Brookes all about Raging Bull.

How did Raging Bull come to be?

Originally developed as relative of the original Dogbolter strong ale 7.5% brewed when Matilda Bay were in Nedlands and Fremantle. Also Ironbrew, another Matilda Bay early gem, was a relative. So it was Bootleg owner Tom Reynolds, ex-Matilda Bay brewers Rolf Vickers (now head brewer in Dublin for Guinness) and John Tollis who decided to formulate a recipe and give birth to Raging bull as we now know it.

Note: Dogbolter is still made by Matilda Bay however it’s now a dark lager – read more here.

When it was first released?

Mid-1995

Where did the name come from?

“Raging” came from the strength of the beer. At the time and still today cattle are agisted at the property and a bull was in the line of sight when names were being decided.

Black IPA at Bootleg Brewery

Still one of the best beer gardens in WA! This is a pretty old photo of a visit to drink Black Market IPA

Do you remember how people responded to Raging Bull at first?

They loved it same as they do now.

How does it compare to how people respond to their first Raging Bull these days?

Same.

What is the strangest description you’ve heard for Raging Bull?

Instead of words they cheer and get excited. They love the flavours of drinking old fashioned beer, the real stuff, not technically perfect but are consuming the real stuff of fine handcrafted ale.

Beer style for Raging Bull?

Highest end of robust porter.

Has the recipe for Raging Bull changed over the years?

No.

How much Raging Bull do you brew each year and is it on the rise?

Still brewed in 1500lt batches, more and more fermenters are filled up with bull each year!

How would you describe Raging Bull to someone who doesn’t drink a lot of beer?

A unique experience, it’s not beer as you know it.

What food would you match to Raging Bull?

Bootleg’s famous beef pie.

Beef & Bull Pie – Beef and vegetable chunks braised in a rich gravy with our Raging Bull Dark Ale w/ fries and salad. For full Bootleg Brewery Food Menu – download it here.

And finally, any memorable stories of serving a customer a Raging Bull?

At Dowerin Field Days we were doing tastings and the wheat farmers reactions to 7.1% was awesome and seeing them leaving with cartons over their shoulders, we grinned and how the parties around the bonfires those nights went on and on!


I had intended to, as I did in my past Beer Story post, leave some links to read more about Bootleg’s Raging Bull however it was a surprisingly hard task. Several Google searches came up short of things I’d recommend reading. The occasional beer review popped up but I found them very short and lacking in any new or interesting information.

Getting Oaked at Bootleg

Working away quietly at Bootleg Brewery in Margaret River, head brewer Michael Brookes has been experimenting with oak fermentation and oak aging his current range of beers.

Bootleg Brewery

Working away quietly at Bootleg Brewery in Margaret River, head brewer Michael Brookes has been experimenting with oak fermentation and oak aging his current range of beers.

Back in October when Bootleg had released The Grandfather Barley Wine, an annual limited release beer aged in Merlot barrels, there were plans to play around with oak fermenting their core range. Right now you can try Bootleg Wils Pils that has not only been fermented in oak but also aged in oak for two months. Not just any oak either, Michael has used the same barrels that he used for The Grandfather.

Bootleg Barley Wine

Michael poured the oaked Wils Pils and my excitement got the better of me as I stuck my nose into the glass without registering the golden straw clarity of the beer. The clarity of this unfiltered, oak aged pilsner was a bit of a nice surprise to Michael.

Oaked Wils Pils is an interesting beer and one that makes you sip, think and repeat. It has an unexpected sour funky thing going on and it’s buried in flavours of a recently empty glass of bourbon. Elements of a nice malty pilsner linger in the background but it’s being bear-hugged by some vanilla and spicy yet also sweet characters. Wils Pils on oak is definitely one I would recommend trying.

Drunk side by side with the regular Wils Pils, it is amazing what a little comparison can do. The aromas on the Wils Pils were just as though I’d stuck my face into a bag of pale malt. Citrus flavours that I’d never really thought were big in the Wils Pils were suddenly announcing themselves with great fanfare.

The next beer to get the oak treatment is Tom’s Amber Ale, currently fermenting away happily as I type. Tom’s Oaked Amber Ale will also be dry hopped with Australian Galaxy hops and sent off to next months GABS Festival (Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular).

Since I know very little about oak aged beer I’ve been doing some reading, good beery reading. If you’re interested, here a couple of articles I enjoyed:

In other Bootleg news, Michael has recently purchased a couple of cognac barrels so it will be interesting to see what he has planned for those. The recent addition of a new bright beer tank also means improved consistency in the brew house which certainly makes for a happy brewer!

You may have already seen on Facebook but Bootleg have new t-shirts with funky designs that I just couldn’t pass up. Available in both girls and boys sizes; girls will be pleased to know these tees have some length in them, not leaving you pulling them down every thirty seconds; and are a nice fit, as opposed to small man shirts disguised as women’s t-shirts.

And finally, did you know Bootleg Brewery is on tap at the new Jamie’s Italian in Perth? (sadly there’s no beer menu on their website) I hear that Bootleg and Feral Brewing were specially selected on the basis of the high quality of their beers, the ingredients they use and how they produce their beer. I’m very much looking forward to trying Jamie’s Italian soon with an entree of Feral White and main course of Bootleg Raging Bull!

New Bootleg Tshirts

girl + festival [part 1]

Recently the second annual South West Craft Beer Festival was held at 3 Oceans Winery in Margaret River. I went along on behalf of The Crafty Pint, you can read my article for Crafty here, so I was lucky enough to attend both days as a VIP.

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Recently the second annual South West Craft Beer Festival was held at 3 Oceans Winery in Margaret River. I went along on behalf of The Crafty Pint, you can read my article for Crafty here, so I was lucky enough to attend both days as a VIP.

I know a lot of people were unhappy with the festival organisation. There was a long line to get in, a line to buy tokens and more lines for beer. The South West Craft Beer Festival Facebook page reflected these frustrations and it was great to see the organisers jump in, acknowledge the problems and apologise, promising to address these issues next year. I’m sure we’ll see this great event just get better and better.

My partner and I had driven into 3 Oceans and upon seeing the line decided to kill some time at Cowaramup Brewing, a mere 10-15 minutes down the road. A walk through their hop bines and a middy later, we were back at the festival more than ready to get into the swing of things.

Beer and Hops at Cowaramup

First up we tried the Duckstein Wolf Pale Ale, an unfiltered American Pale Ale, that I really enjoyed though didn’t get the typical big grapefruit, pine needle characteristics that I was expecting. I got big aromas of cooked lemon and spices whilst the palate had a nice fruitiness and upfront bitterness. That’s the beer in the top picture if you want to see its hazy glory!

Next up was the latest seasonal from Michael Brookes at Bootleg Brewery, the Bramling Cross. It’s a twist on an extra special bitter using imported Chinese Blackcurrant tea in post fermentation and the English hop variety Bramling Cross, known for its blackcurrant characteristics. This beer completely blew me away with it’s subtle tartness and bitterness that was perfectly balanced with fresh blackcurrant fruit. Initially I tried the Bramling Cross at the start of December and since then this beer has really settled, all the flavours have balanced out and created a very unique and beautiful beer.

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Not to get all boring and talk about the weather but it was a freakin’ sensationally sunny day. So much so that it seemed improper not to stop by the Eagle Bay Brewing stall and have a glass of their Single Batch Summer Ale. Though it had only been a few weeks since we were introduced it was great to revisit such a tasty little number. Tropical fruits, fresh bitterness, citrus and pineapple. Gorgeous.

We pulled on our metaphorical lederhosen and walked back to see the guys at Duckstein Brewery where they were pouring something new. Assistant Manger, Patrick, presented us with their latest limited release, the Unbekannt. German for “unknown” it is a beer with no proper stylistic home. Head Brewer (or as Patrick says, “the hardest working brewer in WA”) Shannon Grigg has used Belgian yeast and German malts to create a complex and tasty ale with funk, toast, chocolate and red fruit all getting along nicely.

It was time for some food and though there was some delicious food being put out in the VIP room I wasn’t about to miss out on a Spicy Goat Balls Sub from my friend Mitch, aka Beersine.

Beersine

Back to the beers again and this time I stole a gulp of a friend’s honey pale ale from Brew 42. It was just enough to think “damn that was tasty, I gotta remember to visit them!” and add it to my long, long beery to-do-list.

I don’t think a beer festival in WA has gone by without me having a Colonial Kolsch and a freshly shucked oyster. It’s now a ritual and one I’m happy to continue until they stop serving me!

I reacquainted myself with the the Cheeky Monkey Hagenback Belgian IPA and had one of those moments when you realise your memory of a beer has barely done it’s justice. Good hits of citrus and tropical fruits, a little honey and a whack of bitterness.

In between trying to serve a long queue of thirsty drinkers Josh, Assistant Brewer at Bush Shack Brewery, managed to find a little of their Old Saint Nick Christmas Ale just before punters had run them dry. Thick and devilishly moreish with big red fruit characteristics I instantly wanted more. I added another brewery visit to Bush Shack to my list of things to do!

By this time it was getting late into the afternoon and there was the People’s Choice Award. Votes had to be counted from punters and the judges added their two cents too – somehow I ended up in that category but that’s all for Part 2 I think …

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