These days, any brewing company worth it’s weight in hops is being sold off to big multi-national corporations. Case in point: Little Creatures recently being snapped up by Lion Nathan.
News like this is always met with dismay from beer-lovers. After all, who wants their favourite drop brewed under license, most likely in some industrial warehouse with little access to the public? It’s akin to seeing Heineken or Stella Artois labels with “brewed under license in Laverton” on them. No-one wants that.
Which is why the new rise of micro-breweries in Victoria is warming hearts much like an imperial stout would on a cold night. It’s not just picturesque locales near wine-country that are the focus for brewers these days either. As strange as it sounds, it’s Melbourne’s inner-suburbia that is driving the production of new ales.
My recent beer-drinking adventures took me to – of all places- Brunswick and Thornbury. As with any visit came the desire to expand my beer-drinking horizons. And expand it did!
Temple Brewing Company exists in imposing looking building (definitely living up to its name) down a quite street in Brunswick just off Sydney Road which it doesn’t suit at all. Think big, black outer, big, black doors and tinted windows amid suburban sprawl.
Operating since 2005 thanks to husband and wife duo Ron and Renata Fergulio, Temple started off as many micro-breweries do,with a pale ale and a bitter. Despite early success, these were clearly too boring. Going all out for their second batch of beers, you’ve now got on hand:
A very hoppy ‘Midnight IPA’, a ‘Soba Ale’ brewed with toasted buckwheat of all things, a Bicycle Beer (a tart ale brewed with red malt and spelt), a Saison, a ‘Saison de Miel’ (which is a saison refermented with orange honey blossom), and a Smoked Weizen. Add in a ‘People’s Pint’ called the Double Hoptendre (brilliant name, slightly confused beer – try it and you’ll understand) and you’ve got an extraordinarily healthy beer list. Best of all, they’re all quality beers.
It’s a slightly bizarre place too.The interior is reminiscent of an inner-CBD bar, yet you look in one direction and see the brewing floor in all its glory, and the other and you see people’s houses.
Leaving a satisfied, slightly beer-soaked, and slightly perplexed customer, Thornbury was the next stop – the home of 3 Ravens. Starting out in 2003, 3 Ravens haven’t quite got the sleek, modern ‘brasserie & bar’ set-up that Temple has. More importantly thought, they have a brewery door which lets you have free beer tastings.
Rocking a Blond ‘Altbier’ (a golden ale with a German heart), a Witbier (very quaffable traditional witbier), an American Pale Ale (a 5.5%, five-hop gem), a Stout, and an English Ale as their core range, the brewers are also beginning to experiment!
There’s a softly smoked wheat beer, a bock (ridiculously smooth and malty), and a brand-spanking new Prussian Porter (aged in oak and pinot noir barrels). There’s also what might be a double IPA in the works, although this could yet turn into a tripel or a barleywine.
Again though, there wasn’t a bad beer amongst the lot. Sure, some were merely drinkable rather than spectacular, but let’s be honest – sometimes you just want a beer you can drink a lot of.
Perhaps the best part about the day was the realisation that beer-drinkers needn’t despair. Sure, there seems to be a veritable glut of breweries being overtaken. But, in the suburbs of Melbourne exist quality beer-makers with a passion for flavour and ‘difference’.
Looking for inspiration of where to go? Try this article for starters: http://www.au.timeout.com/melbourne/bars/features/604/victorias-best-breweries