Ferment issue 60 // Melbourne

jamesbeer52

Catch some winter sun in Australia's craft beer capital

FERMENTMAGAZINE.COM | ISSUE 60

ADVENTURES IN THE GLOBAL CRAFT ALCOHOL MOVEMENT

CATCH SOME WINTER

SUN IN AUSTRALIA'S

CRAFT BEER CAPITAL

60>

9 772397 696005


HYDRA ENERGETIC

ANTI FATIGUE

MOISTURISER

ENRICHED WITH

NATURAL ORIGIN VITAMIN C.

PURE ENERGY

FOR MEN'S SKIN

YOU'RE WORTH IT.


EDITOR

Richard Croasdale

DESIGNER

Ashley Johnston

Editor’s

NOTE

@fermenthq

@fermentmagazine

FLAVOURS FROM THE DEEP p30

Contributions, comments, rants:

richard@beer52.com

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COVER ILLUSTRATION

Mark Oliver

mrmoliver.co.uk

PUBLISHED BY:

Ferment & Beer52,

Floor 2,

26 Howe Street,

Edinburgh,

EH3 6TG

This issue of Ferment was first

printed in November 2020. All rights

reserved. Reproduction in whole or in

part without written permission is strictly

prohibited. All prices are correct at the time

of going to press but are subject to change.

This month, we’re bringing a little slice of festive sunshine into

your drinking experience, with a trip to the craft beer paradise of

Melbourne, Australia. In recent years, Melbourne has emerged

as one of the world’s most exciting cultural centres, particularly when

it comes to food and drink. Our man on the ground, James Smith, tells

the story of this meteoric growth, through the breweries, bars, coffee

shops and restaurants that were (and are) in the heart of the action.

We’ll meet the amazing brewers in this month’s Beer52 box, and

find out more about the vibrant (and shamelessly geeky) culture that

spawned them, as Katie Mather digs into the city’s fertile homebrew

scene, in search of the next generation of garage superstars.

Speaking of unfettered geekery, Mark Dredge brings us this

month’s Beer School with an explanation of esters: those weird, fruity

by-products of fermentation that can add lip-smacking layers of

complexity if handled with care.

Matt Curtis also chips in on a trend I hope to see continue into 2021,

namely the rediscovery of truly regional beer styles, amid the global

juggernaut of Americanised beer hegemony.

To paraphrase Her Majesty The Queen, 2020 was a quite horrible

anus of a year for most of us. My personal resolution for the coming

12 months is to try and remember the lessons I’ve learned, and be a

kinder, more tolerant person. Here’s to better year to come for all of us.

Cheers!

Rich

@fermenthq

Got a Beer52 customer service query? Call 0131 285 2684,

email support@beer52.com, or on social media @beer52hq


CONTRIBUTORS

MATTHEW CURTIS

WRITER & PHOTOGRAPHER

Matthew Curtis is an award-winning

freelance beer writer, photographer and

podcaster based in London, UK. Co-founder

of Pellicle magazine. @totalcurtis

ANTHONY GLADMAN

WRITER

Anthony is an accredited Beer Sommelier

and freelance writer based in London. When

he’s not writing about beer he runs tastings

and beer tours. @agladman

KATIE MATHER

WRITER

Katie is a beer blogger and part-time

goth who loves writing essays about pub

culture. She’s also a monthly guest on BBC

Radio Lancashire where she speaks about

local beer. @Shinybiscuit

MARK DREDGE

WRITER

Mark Dredge is an award-winning beer and

food expert based in London. He has written

four books including The Best Beer in the

World, where he travelled the world looking

for the perfect pint. @markdredge

CONTENTS

10: the jewel in victoria’s crown

James Smith gives us the inside track on this

remarkable beer city

ALEX PAGANELLI

CHEF & FOOD

PHOTOGRAPHER

As founder of Dead Hungry,

Alexandre has been creating

incredible and exciting

recipes for Ferment.

deadhungry.co

EOGHAN WALSH

WRITER

Eoghan Walsh is founder of the

Brussels Beer City blog. 2018 Young

Beer Writer, Eoghan has lived in

Brussels for a decade, prefers Zinnebir

to Taras Boulba, and his writing has

featured in The Irish Times and Belgian

Beer and Food. @eoghanwalsh

HOLLIE STEPHENS

WRITER

Hollie is a freelance writer and

beer blogger with a particular

passion for writing about drinks

history and travel.

@GlobeHops

OLLIE PEART

WRITER

Host of “The Zeitgeist”

on The Modern Mann

Podcast, Ollie keeps his

finger on the pulse so we

don’t have to. @Ollieep

16: FLY ME TO THE MOON

Meet the standard bearers of Melburnian craft

20: ONE NATION UNDER HOPS

How do you like your hops? Hoppy? Good

22: BOATROCKER

A penchant for the wild

26: WHAT’S THAT COMING OVER THE HILL?

Good times, great beers and city-devouring monsters

34: GRASS ROOTS

Katie Mather seeks out Melbourne’s garage geniuses

40: I HEAR YOU

Jessica Mason on the power of the spoken word

44: BUMS ON SEATS

Mothballed furniture tells the tale of our pub

lockdown

50: BRUSSELs StOUTS

Christmas might be over, but you can still

celebrate the Belgian way

56: HOMEWORKING AND HOME-DRINKING

A brave new world in these four walls

61: A RETURN TO REGIONALITY

Matt Curtis finds a resurgence in local brewing

traditions

64: THE ESSENcE OF ESTERS

Mark Dredge gets fruity, with some magical

brewing by-products

74: Beer guide

All the beers in this month’s box

By Craig Collins @CraigComicsEtc & Mark Brady @HolidayPirate


MELBOURNE

On Australia's southmost tip, huddled around Port

Philip Bay on the Bass Strait, Melbourne is the capital

city of the state of Victoria, and the nation's recognised

craft beer epicentre. With a population of around 5 million

(that's just shy of Scotland's) it's a true metropolis, with all

of the cultural dynamism, energy and variety that entails.

Yet those who call it home speak of its strong, distinct

local communities, and are most often cheerleaders for

their favourite local breweries, bars and restaurants.

And so they should be; Melburnians are used to

the best, whether it's beer, fresh food or

coffee (the entire city is coffee mad), so the

standard is universally high, even though the

culture is welcoming and open. This friendly,

passionate spirit is definitely reflected in the

beers in this month's box, and the amazing

brewers that made it.

PORT PHILIP BAY

Ferment acknowledges the

Traditional Custodians of

country throughout Australia

and their connections to land,

sea and community. We pay our

respect to their elders past and

present and extend that respect

to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait

Islander peoples today.

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FRENCH ISLAND

370KM EAST

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COOP'S SHOT TOWER

PHOTO: Devinder Signh

James Smith takes us on a whistlestop

tour through Melbourne’s worldrenowned

craft beer scene

PHOTO: Ern Gan

LITTLE HOP

FLINDERS STREET STATION

PHOTO: Wayne Yew

spilling out over the

streets, people drinking in the

“People

line waiting for their next beer, it

was that long, but everyone was happy. It was

hectic and awesome.

“We all wore gum boots behind the bar,

using jockey boxes and trestles – we would

change kegs using the floor as our drip tray.

There was friggin’ beer everywhere.”

So says Sam Howard, former venue manager

for legendary Melbourne craft brewery

Mountain Goat. Mountain Goat wasn’t the

first small brewery to open in Melbourne in

the early years of the craft beer revolution in

Australia. But if you wanted to pick a ground

zero for the city’s rise to global beer city of

note, those early years around the turn of the

Millennium in the back streets of the inner-city

suburb of Richmond are a good place to start.

Sam, an expat Brit who later moved on to

Moon Dog (of whom more later) now runs two

great pubs – The Royston (across the road

from Mountain Goat) and The Park Hotel in

Abbotsford – with husband Edward Harley.

Yet you could easily unearth similar tales from

brewers, bar owners, reps, festival organisers

– maybe related to a night at the brewery,

maybe their first encounter with the brewery’s

original flagship beer, Hightail Ale.

Just as many brewers and beer lovers in the

States will be able to trace their affliction back

to their first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, there’s a

generation of Melburnians who have their own

hazy recollections of those warehouse parties.

You don’t turn a city of several million

people who had known little other than

Australian bastardisations of European

lagers for generations into a must-visit for

knowledgeable beer tourists on the back of

one brewery, however.

In the two decades since those back street

parties, a cast of thousands has helped turn

Melbourne into the country’s craft beer capital,

aided by a population willing to embrace

anything good and interesting. Maybe

embrace is underselling it; Melbourne likes to

embrace things and then do them better than

anywhere else.

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THE JEWEL IN VICTORIA’S CROWN

BRIGHTON BEACH BOXES

The most European of Australia’s

capital cities, it might lack the instant

international cachet of Sydney with

its Instagrammable Opera House and

Harbour Bridge yet, whether it’s sport,

music, arts, or dining, Melbourne does it

bloody well.

When it comes to beer, the state

of Victoria is home to more brewing

companies than any other in Australia.

The city has the best pub culture in the

country (something that was established

well before craft beer came along –

now it just tastes better). It’s home to

Good Beer Week and GABS (the Great

Australasian Beer SpecTAPular), which

run together each COVID-free May

and have been praised by some of the

biggest names in beer as the best of

their kind in the world. The country’s

biggest beer awards is held there.

Don’t get me wrong: you’ll find great

beer, wonderful venues and talented

brewers all over Australia. Sydney’s

inner west is a phenomenal pocket of

small breweries worth walking between

more than once. Brisbane’s beer scene

is arguably the most fun. You could

spend days boozing in the Margaret

River region of WA without even

getting started on the wines for which

it’s best known. But Melbourne is a beer

city.

That said, it still helps to know where

to start; not all parts of the city are

poured equal, after all.

The 86 Tram

Can there be a public transport route

anywhere on the planet that’s better for

beer lovers than Melbourne’s 86 tram?

Once it leaves the central business

district (CBD) on its way north, you

could alight at pretty much any stop

for mile after mile and find a great bar,

pub, bottleshop or brewery a short walk

away. As soon as you hit Fitzroy, there’s

The Catfish, home to a rotating lineup

of local and international beers, the

artery-cloggingly delicious Sparrow’s

Philly Cheesesteaks, and live music

several nights a week.

Indeed, if you only had time to

visit one place while visiting, a few

hours at The Catfish alone would give

you a great insight into what makes

FIXATION INCUBATOR

PHOTOS: James Smith

MOLLY ROSE

Melbourne’s beer scene what it is. Then

again, you could walk a few blocks

north and gain a similar insight in The

Standard’s beer garden, or amid The

Rainbow’s English pub stylings, or at

The Napier with its roo-topped chicken

parmas, or at the Marquis of Lorne or

The Rose, or…

OK, let’s just agree there’s a lot of

very good pubs in that part of the city.

And that’s without mentioning the bars

with quality beer at the heart of what

they offer: the likes of Bonny, Little

Hop, Near & Far (where you’ll always

find some UK offerings on tap if you’re

missing home).

But back to the 86. Once it’s made

its way along Gertrude Street, past

some of Melbourne’s top restaurants, it

swings left onto Smith Street, an iconic

strip that’s been undergoing serious

change and gentrification for more than

a decade yet still retains its appeal,

whatever you fancy shoving into your

face.

On the beer front, you’ve got one of

the best examples of the bottleshopmeets-bar

concept in Melbourne,

Beermash, and once you cross Johnston

Street you pass The Mill Brewery, the

latest incarnation of pioneering retailer

Slowbeer, and Fixation’s Incubator

taproom within a handful of blocks.

Once you’ve had your fill of hops at the

IPA-only Fixation, you can wander 200m

away from Smith Street to Molly Rose, a

brewpub serving up a high quality array

of beers encompassing hop-forward

IPAs, quirky sours, barrel-aged blends

and co-ferment farmhouse style ales.

After the tram leaves Collingwood,

the highlights might not be as frequent,

but still take in some of Melbourne’s

best pubs and bars – The Terminus

in Fitzroy North and Carwyn Cellars

in Thornbury among them – plus

more brewpubs. Tallboy & Moose in

Preston typically tap a couple of new

beers every week (and do a fine line in

“Modern Scottish” food from Wee Man’s

Kitchen), while if yeast-driven, barrelaged

subtlety is your thing then Future

Mountain, a relatively new, family-run

operation where every beer name is a

musical reference, is worth the ride all

the way to Reservoir.

Way Out West

Melbourne is a large enough city to

have areas with distinct personalities.

The most obvious divide is found at the

Yarra. Crossing from one side of the

river to the other almost warrants a visa

checkpoint, with craft beer ubiquitous

in the north, still finding its feet to the

south, albeit with notable exceptions.

The area that’s seen arguably the

most change on the beer front in the

past five years, however, is the west,

where Footscray and surrounding

suburbs have so much to offer there’s

little reason for locals

to leave and plenty of reason

for drinkers from elsewhere to jump on

a train for a day of exploration.

Two Birds, Australia’s first femaleowned

brewery, got the ball rolling, with

its Nest in Spotswood a fine example

of a contemporary brewery venue and

the best place to enjoy its fun and punheavy

beers. Not far from there, and

among the more recent arrivals, is Black

Arts, a tiny operation specialising in

barrel-ageing and blending.

Hop Nation, meanwhile, was started

by a pair of winemakers – initially

without a brewery of their own, but

now with two and a second venue

in planning – and has enjoyed rapid

growth, in part on the back of the wildly

popular Jedi Juice (now rebranded

as J-Juice) NEIPA, while exploring

beer-wine hybrids and barrel-ageing. In

2019, they created the Blobfish Festival,

dedicated to wild, funky and sour beers;

it sold out and felt like a milestone in

the evolution of beer in Australia.

Add in venues as diverse as Bar

Josephine, with its welcoming

neighbourhood vibes, and

Mr West, which could be transplanted

from its location in a shopping precinct

to a hip suburb in any global city

without being out of place, as well as

more Vietnamese food than you could

consume in a lifetime and you’re in for a

wild time out west.

And Now For Something

Completely Different

As much as its people are willing to

embrace anything good, you can also

trace the rise of Melbourne as a beer city

back to a few people willing to think big

and refuse to take no for an answer. It

was the scale, ingenuity and, sometimes,

utter ridiculousness of ideas that saw

the likes of Good Beer Week and GABS

garner global attention within a couple

of years of launching. You still see that

sense of “What if…?” driving the beer

scene today.

While you’ll detect distinct

personalities throughout the city’s beer

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THE JEWEL IN VICTORIA’S CROWN

PHOTO: Bruce Meier

BOATROCKER'S BARREL ROOM

venues, there are some that go above

and beyond, arguably none more so

than Moon Dog World. Moon Dog,

the brewery, started out in a small

warehouse pretty much next door

to the city’s brewing behemoth CUB

(now owned by Asahi who acquired

it from AB InBev) with beers such as

Skunkworks Cognac barrel-aged double

IPA, Perverse Sexual Amalgam cherry

wild ale, and Nordic Saddle Buffer

barleywine.

Yet, for all the daft names,

experiments and shenanigans – filling

the brewery with sand or hot tubs or

giant inflatables – it was the opening of

Moon Dog World in 2019 that brought it

to wider attention. The home of its main

100hL production facility is where you’ll

find a 725-capacity venue complete with

indoor lagoon, waterfall, hidden tiki

bar and “Wall of Warnie” dedicated to

Shane Warne and other Aussie icons.

In its own way, Bodriggy Brewery’s

home is just as out there: an impeccable

reinvention of an old warehouse in

Abbotsford, where you can choose from

dozens of beers, wines and spirits on

tap, while DJs play under a giant glitter

ball. Take your pick from leather booths,

tall stools, or long benches, while

admiring the attention to detail in every

curve of metalwork.

Or, if you fancy leaving the inner-city

behind for a while, it’s worth making a

trek to the city’s southeast, home to an

ever-growing numbers of breweries.

There are some focused mainly on

production, including KAIJU! plus

brewpub/taproom-based operations

like 2 Brothers, Bad Shepherd, Mr

Banks, BoJaK, Wolf of the Willows and

the madcap Dainton.

But if you want to take your palate

for a ride, you can’t miss Australia’s first

Barrel Room, opened by Boatrocker

and now incorporating a still, since

the brewery and WA’s Hippocampus

Distillery became one. Best known

for its Starward whisky barrel-aged

PHOTO: James Smith

imperial stout Ramjet, Boatrocker also

produces some of the finest Belgianinspired

beers in Australia and has

proven itself increasingly nifty in the IPA

space of late too.

The Pioneers

Today’s Melbourne offers myriad delights

for the beer tourist, even off the beaten

track, but it’s not too long ago that it was

slim pickings.

When I moved here in 2008, finding a

pub or bar with a handful of interesting

beers on tap required prior knowledge

or great luck. The small band of regional

brewers – the likes of Bridge Road and

Bright in the High Country, Hargreaves

Hill in the Yarra Valley wine region about

40 minutes’ drive from the CBD, Holgate

Brewhouse in the Macedon Ranges to

the northwest, Red Hill Brewery on the

Mornington Peninsula, and Red Duck in

the regional city of Ballarat – were thus

reliant on early-adopting venues to reach

metropolitan drinkers.

Some have gone, others have

changed hands or changed their

approach, but a few continue to

contribute to the community they

helped create. As mentioned earlier, the

north-south divide is real, yet it would

be an oversight to leave the city without

checking out The Local Taphouse in

St Kilda, a trailblazing venue that was

offering 20 rotating taps and innovative

events before the vast majority of

publicans knew beer came in flavours

other than lager. Its founders created

GABS, before selling the festival in 2019,

and now also run Stomping Ground,

a brewery with a mightily impressive

venue in Collingwood, a second

brewpub at the city’s main airport (when

it reopens) and a third on the way.

The Melbourne pub experience is

encapsulated at the Great Northern

Hotel in Carlton. Owner Al Carragher

might not rotate his 20 taps nearly

as much as his crafty peers, but this

is less pointy-end beer geek territory

than a classic pub – pool table in the

front bar, pub grub, sport on the big

screens, excellent beer garden – with

far better-tasting beer than when he

took over. Former staff can be found

behind the bars at The Palace Hotel in

South Melbourne and The Retreat in

Abbotsford, two more old boozers given

fresh injections of life with good beer at

the heart of what they do.

Since Mountain Goat sold to Asahi in

2015, the mantle of oldest independent

brewery in the city passed to 3 Ravens

in Thornbury. Particularly thanks to an

ongoing reinvention in recent years, it’s

one of the most innovative breweries

in town, whether you’re after a juicy

NEIPA, a tongue-in-cheek pastry beer, a

funky blend of various barrel-aged wild

ales, or a beer-wine hybrid.

And, while they don’t have a venue,

3 Ravens’ near neighbours La Sirène’s

beers are well worth hunting down. The

brewery launched its flagship Saison

back in 2011 and has continued to kick

goals with farmhouse-inspired, barrelaged

and spontaneously fermented

beers since.

* * *

As I look back over this article, it occurs

to me I could remove entire chunks,

take a different tack and still be left

with a sizeable mound of deliciousness

on the cutting room floor. There’s the

award-winning, amazing-at-everything

Lincoln Hotel in Carlton, The Cherry

Tree in Cremorne that keeps the

uniquely Melbourne spirit of the sadlydeparted

GB Hotel alive, the Good

Beer Week festival hub Beer DeLuxe

in Fed Square, the 30-tap, Americaninfluenced

Westside Ale Works in

South Melbourne, or Hawkers, led by

the founder of Beirut’s 961 Beer whose

beers have become ubiquitous around

the city.

And that, as much as anything, makes

the case for Melbourne. It’s a city that’s

gone from people sloshing in wellies in

a back street warehouse to global beer

destination in 20 years. You might not

be able to visit before 2022, but when

you do, know you won’t go thirsty. And

that’s before we even touch upon the

state’s wineries and distilleries…

James Smith is the founder of The Crafty Pint, Australia’s

leading beer website. Full disclosure: he was also a founder of

Good Beer Week and festival director for its first five years.

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Ever since Richmond’s Goat

Mountain sold up Asahi in 2015,

Melbourne’s Moon Dog has

arguably taken up the role of standardbearer

for the whole Victoria craft beer

scene. It’s the biggest, the best known,

the most tap-roomed-up dog in town

and the slickness of its operation is a

marvel to behold. Yet it wasn’t always

meant to be this way. Launching in 2010

with a cognac barrel-aged double IPA,

which it followed up with a black cherry

Lambic-style brew, it feels a lot like the

young Moon Dog went out of its way to

be feared rather than loved. So where

did it all go right?

“I’ve been with the company about

four years, but I’ve known the guys

since day one,” says Dave Langlands,

who heads up Moon Dog’s new product

development. “I don’t think Josh, Karl

and Jake – the founders – ever had

something like this in mind. It was

literally like three guys like two brothers

and their pal from high school, who

wanted to make weird as fuck beer. And

this is 10 years ago in Australia, when

the standard breweries had a pale ale

and a lager.

“It’s funny, I think Moon Dog’s always

been successful in the sense that it’s a

brewery that people follow and wait to

see what we do next. But up until about

three or four years ago, we’d never

really pushed to get into every bottle

shop or in every bar. Now we’re in 13

export markets, we’ve got a nationwide

sales team, 200-odd staff, hospitality

venues, with more opening.”

So what changed? In short, about

four years ago Moon Dog made the

conscious decision to grow in a way that

would allow it to keep trying new things

without abandoning the wild innovation

that had got it to where it was. So

it invested in extra capacity, more

sophisticated kit and, crucially, for the

first time ever brought out a core range.

“For the first five or six years, the guys

would only occasionally repeat beers,

and even then it was normally a spin on

Moon Dog World © The Crafty Pint, One for the post-Covid bucket list!

the previous year. And everything was

pretty crazy; nothing was below 7% or

8%, everything was a hybrid style. So

to suddenly bring out a lager, a pale ale

and a dark ale was a big move. To be

honest, it coincided with the opening

of our first hospitality venue, where

we realised that if you fill a venue for

people and you only have 8% beers to

drink, it gets really out of hand,” Dave

says.

An important part of the Moon Dog

mindset is that every project is an

opportunity to blow people’s minds. So,

anyone concerned that Melbourne’s

brewing enfant terrible was getting old

and dull will have been reassured by the

absolute state of its Moon Dog World

taproom. 750 seats, 70 taps, an indoor

lagoon with palms and a five-metre

indoor waterfall. A secret tiki grotto

and an expansive outdoor terrace. It’s

a madman’s dream and it’s absolutely

glorious.

“What would your ideal venue be?”

asks Dave, somewhat rhetorically. “We

really just wanted to have places where

people could explore and where every

single seat in the house was kind of a

cool spot. So you’re either sitting next to

the river, or you’re in the secret like Tiki

Bar, or you’re up looking over the whole

place or, sitting by the lagoon with the

roof open and a gin in your hand.

“It’s part of this idea that we’re actively

trying to include as many people into the

beer thing as possible. We found really

early on that the way to do that was to

not… ‘wankify’ beer, but make it conceptdriven,

flavour-driven. It’s not style-driven

or process-driven – most people

don’t care about those things.”

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There’s a really strong team behind

Moon Dog, which keeps all the

brewery’s different elements pointing in

the same direction, even as it explores

weird new ideas. Working alongside

Dave on new product development is

innovation brewer Adrian McNulty, a

“mad scientist” who is essentially given

free rein to work with new ingredients

and techniques.

Josh and Karl are the driving force of

the business, working there every day

and really fuel the creative side, which

is executed by creative director Loren

Tanis. Loren has designed every single

label Moon Dog has ever used, and has

been integral to the brand from the

very start.

“She holds it very, very dear and

her output is incredible,” says Dave.

“She’s just constantly coming up

with cool stuff, mixing between

collage and illustration to create

this universe of imagery and

characters. Even the language we

use is all kind of driven by her and the

boys. So I guess you could say we’ve

matured a little bit, and tightened up

our message, but only in the sense that

we’ve come to a better understanding

of what makes Moon Dog so great.”

As the biggest dog in the park, I’m

curious to hear about Moon Dog’s

relationship with the other Melburnian

breweries. In response, Dave without

pausing reels off every single brewery

we have in the Beer52 box this month,

and what special quality he loves about

each. He does this with as much obvious

enthusiasm as when talking about his

own brewery.

“We all know each other, we all get on

with each other,” he concludes. “There’s

no great divides, not a lot of posturing

or swinging dicks. It’s a scene, and

we all live here; we all go to the same

parties kind of get on. And there’s a real

professional community too, a lot of

sharing of information and innovation

and collaboration. So, sure, we’re

probably the biggest or second biggest

craft brewery in Victoria but that

honestly isn’t something we think about,

and I don’t see the others really thinking

about that either… There are guys

producing literally 20 wooden barrels of

great beer a year, and they’re as much a

part of this thing as we are. That’s what

makes Melbourne so exciting.”

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How do we know Melburnian

brewers are the toughest

in the world? Because they

can switch from wine to beer

with apparently no ill effects.

Or at least that’s the career path

successfully followed by many of the

city’s most respected craft pioneers,

including Sam Hambour and Duncan

of Hop Nation.

“Duncan and I both studied wine

and made wine around the world for

a number of years,” says Sam. “And

we both had a little microbrewery set

up at the back of the winery where,

especially during the quieter times in

the winter, we would brew and have a

little bit of competition between our

friends; just a bit of friendly rivalry.”

This was also at the time that

Australia’s juggernaut wine industry

was just beginning to plateau slightly,

while the craft beer market was

noticeably on the rise.

“From working for a bunch of different

people, we began to think about starting

something for ourselves. So we both

moved to Australia – where I’m from

and Duncan’s from New Zealand – to

Melbourne for different reasons, and kept

making wine over there, just around the

area. And that’s when we said, ‘why don’t

we just upscale a couple of our recipes?’”

The brewing business got off to a good

start, but remained very much a side

hustle until around a year later, when

in 2014 Duncan caught wind of a New

Zealand brewery that was expanding and

selling off its old kit for a good price. It

was a crossroads.

“So Duncan flew over, cut it up and put

it in a 40 foot container,” continues Sam.

“We found a warehouse in Footscray,

signed the lease and set up the brewpub.

It all happened quite fast.”

As the name hints at, the original

concept behind Hop Nation was to

produce hop-forward beers that paid

homage to individual nations’ hops and

brewing styles; for example, an American

red ale, New Zealand Pilsner, Australian

IPA and then a New Zealand DIPA.

“We wanted to use hops that

were proprietary to each country,

really focusing on I guess where the

ingredients came from and what they

contributed in terms of hallmark flavours

and aromas. It was a nice concept, but

we quickly realised it was stopping us

from making some beers we wanted to

make, so really then broadened it out to

developing hop-forward recipes that we

really liked.”

Hop Nation’s core range still rotates

around mightily-hopped pales and IPAs,

with some exciting diversions into sour

wine hybrids. Not wishing to confuse the

hardcore Lupulin fans, these barrel-aged

brews are sold under the side brand, The

Site Fermentation Project, which has its

own space and packaging line to prevent

cross-contamination.

“Wine culture and beer culture are

getting closer all the time. You know,

I think in the early days, it wasn’t

accepted to go a dinner party and talk

about beer, discuss the flavours and

pour it in a glass. Yeah. Whereas wine

always had that. But I think people are

coming to realise that you can taste

the best beers in your country for, you

know, 50 bucks a week. So the entry

into educating ourselves much lower,

and I think your average person is more

confident.”

Hop Nation continues to go from

strength to strength, and in mid-2020

took over a brand new facility which,

at the time of writing, the team was

busy setting up and dialling in their

brewing. This will mean bringing 100% of

its production back in house for the first

time in a long time, which you can tell

Sam is thrilled about.

“It’s going to allow us to make the beer

on a slightly larger scale and be more

consistent, you know, that’s the goal

of it. We can really stand behind every

batch and see every quality parameter.

So as much as we’ve been growing, and

what we’re doing was good, there were

limitations to our equipment. And you

know, there’s no way round that – you just

need to invest. So this is really going to

be a big step for us I think, in terms of

giving us the confidence and the tools to

really push out brewing. Touch wood,

next year will be great.”

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WORDS: Richard Croasdale

PHOTOS: Boatrocker

Founded in 2009 by Matt & Andrea

Houghton, Boatrocker has certainly

come a long way from selling its

first beers from the back of their car.

Even so, Matt’s fascination with beer

goes back even further, to staying with

his older brother at 16 and watching the

legendary show Beer Hunter on public

TV, presented by Michael Jackson.

“I was watching this man travelling

the world tasting different beers, talking

about Belgian ales, drinking beer out of

the champagne flute… it sort of blew my

mind, and remember thinking it seemed

like the best adventure a person could

take,” says Matt. My dad’s from England

originally, so I really got fascinated

by that beer culture, which gradually

expanded into looking to travel around

Europe.

“When I finally saved up enough

money, in 1998, my first guidebook for

Europe was the Pocket Guide to beer,

which just led me to some amazing

experiences and bars and breweries. My

first stop when I landed with Cantillon.

Back then you could do your own tour,

and at the end a little old lady would

shuffle in to serve this little glass of

beer completely flat. I’d never smelled

anything like it before; this still, sour

beer completely changed how I thought

about brewing.”

Returning home, Matt enrolled in

a photography degree course, but

remained an avid home brewer. During

his studies, the realisation gradually

dawned that, amid a growing interest in

craft beer in Australia, his pipe dream

of owning his own brewery might not

be so far fetched after all. So Matt went

back to uni to study brewing, where he

also discovered his other passion; his

wife Andrea.

Matt & Andrea Houghton

Together they then set about

planning a brewery, initially gypsy

brewing a pale and pilsner, to the

acclaim of not just friends and family,

but also judges at international beer

awards. But after a few years, Matt

and Andrea were in a position to build

a brewery of their own, and late in

2012 did just that. The first items Matt

purchased were 60 used wine barrels,

starting the wheels turning on what

would later be Australia’s first barrel

room and cellar door. The first beer: a

turbid mashed lambic style beer.

“There weren’t many people playing

around with barrels in Australia in

2012, and it was very hard to get

allocations of Belgian beers that had

been long-term aged in wood, so I

thought let’s give it a crack. And then

we started playing around and putting

lots of different beers on wood; we also

had the luxury of a nearby distillery –

Starward – who liked our beers, so we’d

borrow their barrels.”

Boatrocker’s use of wood has only

got more ambitious over time, and the

brewery now has around 300 barrels

with a multitude of crazy experiments

on the go. One that caught our eye

was its use of a solera system to

preserve and develop cultures for wild

fermentation.

“Yeah, we felt like, a lot of the time

with the barrels, we’d start out with this

beautiful culture inside, and then you

rinse it out and clean it for the next use,

and you never see that culture again,”

explains Matt. For us, we feel we feel

we get a lot more depth of flavour and

and complexity with taking out twothirds

and then re-topping it up with

fresh wort. We just add a little bit of

saccharomyces to help bret along a little

bit, or it gets a bit too much phenolic

character, but then we’ll get some really

fascinating flavour profiles that way.”

Having clearly taken so much of their

inspiration from Belgium, Matt and

Andrea are very happy to see a more

serious appreciation of beer taking

hold in Australia, and in particular the

gastronomic hotspot of Melbourne.

Matt says: “We’ve been fortunate

enough to do a lot of work with a

gentleman name Rob Kabboord, who

was previously the chef de cuisine at

Quay, one of Sydney’s most highly-rated

restaurants. He’s originally Dutch and he

really understands beer as well as food,

and how the two can work together.

That’s an idea that’s slowly gaining a

foothold here, and when it does I think it

could lead to the most amazing culture.”

As well as having one of the largest

barrel ageing facilities in Australia,

in late 2017, Boatrocker became

Boatrocker Brewers & Distillers, after it

merged with the distillery Hippocampus.

“We’ve got so much we want to

do, so many more beers we want to

make,” says Matt. “But on the spirit

side of things we’re also pushing a

lot of boundaries, living up to the

boatrocker name! We made a whisky

wash a number of years ago, which was

actually a beer that was distilled; our

very first pale ale. And that was put

into a bourbon barrel for five years and

became a whiskey. The whisky purists

didn’t like that, because it’s not a whisky

wash, even though it’s a barley malt

base, there’s no hops added post. And

it tastes incredible. We’ve got similar

ones reaching maturity now, imperial

stouts distilled and aged in barrels as

well. They’re really quite unique, but

delicious as well, with all the complexity

that you’d expect from a long term

aged whisky.”

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Ravens’ journey has been a

long and fascinating one, and

could easily have ended, as so

many first-wave craft breweries

do, in a slow decline from relevance as

innovation atrophies and interest in the

core range wilts.

The brewery started out at the very

forefront of Melbourne’s craft scene, not

long after Mountain Goat had shaken

things up with its legendary amber ale. 3

Ravens’ goal was likewise to give the city’s

drinkers something entirely unfamiliar,

with a focus on cask conditioned ales and

traditional European styles. It’s ESB was a

game-changer for many Australian beer

lovers, while German styles including

Altbier and Bamburg-style Rauchbier

earned it the country’s most prestigious

brewing plaudits.

This was beer devised by seasoned

beer lovers. The original brewery

basement (on the site of the founders’

engineering firm) was known as the

‘pleasure palace’ and festooned with

labels, coasters, bar towelsa and other

brewerania from favoured spots across

Victoria and around the world.

But the winds of taste and fashion can

shift cruelly, particularly in the world of

craft beer. Soon enough, the increased

availability of imported US brews and

a new wave of hop-forward Aussie

breweries nudged local drinkers’ tastes

away from the old-world styles that had

quoth the

ravens,

evermore

become 3 Ravens’ stock in trade.

Seeing the writing on the wall, the

brewery settled on a bold plan for

a reboot, hiring a new head brewer

Brendan O’Sullivan. Brendan was an

experienced aficionado of Lambic-style

wild fermentation and barrel ageing,

areas in which 3 Ravens had recently

enjoyed renewed success.

“I joined the company in 2015, just

after we’d won Champion Small Brewery

at the Australian International Beer

Awards, off the back of three of our

beers - our ESB "English" (which won

best in class for "British Style Beer"),

Pedro Jimenez barrel-aged quad "The

Druid" and a chipotle smoked porter

"Black Mass". I’d been watching 3 Ravens

since the early days and was really

excited about the direction it had started

taking, so when they asked me to join

the company and try to maintain that

momentum, it was the right move at the

right time.

“I really saw that as an opportunity

to reposition ourselves, from bringing

worldly styles to Victoria, toward

championing local ingredients and

developing a range of styles that

reflected Australia and Australian

drinkers.”

This involved a total overhaul of the

core range (or the “Caw Range” as it is

somewhat wince-inducingly named) to

include all of the Aussie-hopped pale

ales and, eventually, hazy IPAs that

drinkers demanded. From there, Brendan

has segued neatly into milkshake IPAs,

kettle sours and the kind of craft-buzz

styles that a modern UK brewery might

also be pushing.

The bold strategy has clearly paid

off; 3 Ravens is the reigning Champion

Independent Small/Medium Brewery

(as judged at the 2019 Australian Indies)

based on its haul of three gold, five

silver and two bronze medals. Brendan is

quietly confident about its chances in the

2020 competition.

His passion though clearly lies on the

more experimental, wild fermentation

Head brewer Brendan O’Sullivan

side of the business. And it’s here that

his goal to tie 3 Ravens’ output to the

broader Victoria landscape and culture is

most obviously fuelling his creativity.

“So, I guess I’ve always been really

fascinated with Lambic fermentation.

Even before I started brewing I was a

lambic enthusiast and a lambic pusher,

and generally really wanted to see that

style take off here. Hearing about it as a

teenager it really sparked something in

my imagination; it made so much sense,

given how strong the wine culture is

around Melbourne, to leverage that or at

least engage with some winemakers. We

have so many different styles of wine and

so many different microclimates within

like an hour or two’s drive it made sense to

champion that.

“Now, brewers haven’t had close

relationships with winemakers historically.

This, combined with Cantillon’s view

that the second maceration on fruit was

always better than the first, because

it concentrates rather than dilutes the

beer, led me to decide that ageing beer

on the pomace could be a good way to

go. It’s a lot easier to get pomace out of

winemakers than it is to get the juice, and

the results have been outstanding.”

Although he spent most of his youth in

Perth, Brendan was born in Melbourne

and always considered it his spiritual

home. He feels an affinity with its

noted love of flavour, seen not only in

its breweries and wineries, but also its

restaurants, coffee roasteries and other

craft producers.

“I roast coffee and make cheese, so it’s

really energising to be around like-minded

people who are this fastidious about the

pursuit of excellence. It means I’m never

tempted to rest on my laurels, because

it’s a lot more productive to be amongst

competition and amongst people who are

always trying to better themselves. And

with the breadth of our portfolio we can

work with restaurants and with people who

love flavour as much as we do. We just

love exploring and pushing boundaries

and sometimes kind of poking buttons.”

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WORDS: Richard Croasdale

PHOTOS: KAIJU!

ith its city-devouring

monster branding and

obsession with massive

hop character, Kaiju

Brewing is bursting with

fun. Brothers Callum and Nat Reeves

started the business with their dad back

in 2012, in the early days of Melbourne’s

craft revolution. Like many Melbourne

brewers Callum started out in the wine

industry, where he worked for about

five years before moving into market

research. It was there that he noticed

the growing regional market for craft

ciders, and decided with Nat to start a

“side business”.

“A lot of people started jumping on

that bandwagon, but our ultimate plan

was to start making beers as soon as we

could, because Nat had been an award

winning homebrewer,” recalls Callum.

“You have to remember that at this

time, in the early 2010s, there was no

craft beer in Australia. We were getting

some Green Flash, as that was really the

most notable of the American beers,

but the supply was patchy. So when you

happened to get one that was super,

super fresh, it was just like, ‘oh my God,

I can taste hops’. So that’s what we set

out to do at home.”

By the end of 2013, Callum and Nat

had started brewing in earnest, having

bought a tank and wangled a cuckoo

brewing space at a friendly commercial

brewery.

“Everything in the market at that

moment was an American style pale

ale, but we knew the best thing we

were making at home was a double IPA,

super hoppy. So we just decided to try

and scale that up to a commercial brew.

And, you know, people told us we were

crazy to do that, because it was over

20 grammes a litre of dry-hopping, and

over 9% ABV.

“They were right in a way, because

the yield on it was ridiculous; we just

didn’t know how to make hoppy beer on

a commercial scale. In your garage, you

don’t really care how much beer you

get out of your tank as long as it tastes

good. But over time we learned how to

be more efficient – making great beer

without quite so much waste. And we’ve

stayed on that hoppy path ever since

really,” Callum says.

The dense, porridge-like mash bills

used in these early brews actually form

the basis of Kaiju’s entire brand. Originally

named Monster Mash, the brewery soon

received a polite but firm letter from the

lawyers of a certain popular energy drink.

Rather than fight the point, Callum and

Nat decided to rebrand, taking their new

name from the Japanese word for citycrushing

mega-monsters.

“It turned out to be a good thing.

The name change gave us some more

direction, so rather than just being a

generic monster, it’s that distinct Japanese

comic book monster style. From the start,

we’ve had that strong visual identity from

the work of our designer Mikey Burton,

© Amy Whitfield

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WHAT'S THAT COMING OVER THE HILL?

The

Bottleshop

Visit our bottleshop, jam-packed with great beer for you to explore and

enjoy. Discover the benefits for our members and make the most of

your unlimited points with a tidy selection of beers available right now.

and everything else has flowed from

that. And if you read the blurb on the

label, there’s always a story about that

beer’s character. It’s not your standard

tasting notes, but hopefully it gives

people a sense of the kind of beast

they’re dealing with. And it’s fun, of

course; it certainly gets people to pick

up the beer off the shelf the first time.

The second time? That is delivered in

the beer.”

In terms of the beers themselves, it

was the original Monster Mash DIPA

(now Aftermath) that really put Kaiju

on the map, followed by another hit in

the form of Hopped Out Red, which

picked up a trophy at the prestigious

Australian International Beer Awards.

There followed a number of other brews

destined for the core range, including

Cthulhu on The Moon, Metamorphosis,

Where Strides the Behemoth and the

wonderfully-named Robohop.

“We really stepped up the volume

at that point, moving into our own

brewery,” recalls Callum. “Robohop

became our biggest seller, until around

a year later, when we launched Krush.”

Kaiju Krush, featured in this month’s

Beer52 box, now makes up more than

70% of the brewery’s production, and

has driven its growth. It’s a distinctly USstyle

pale, employing the classic North

American hops alongside a healthy

slug of Kiwi Motueka, for a breezy and

tropical hop profile and unintrusive,

clean malts.

Callum and Nat have watched the

Melbourne craft beer scene grow up

around them, and become increasingly

intertwined with the city’s established

wine, culinary and coffee cultures. It’s

proven fertile ground for new breweries

across the city, with a sense of shared

purpose helping cement Melbourne as

Australia’s premier beer hotspot.

“So many of the people in

Melbourne, in the wider craft food

and drink community, are friends

of ours. And there is a really, really

strong camaraderie and I think it’s a

wonderful thing. It’s a huge place, but

I’ve always considered Melbourne to

be an incredibly liveable city because

of its culture – there’s a lot of focus on

living life well, rather than being part

of some huge machine. And it’s funny,

you can walk into a cafe in China, in

New York, or London and you’ll get a

distinctly Melbourne vibe. So you speak

to someone and find out it’s actually

been set up by someone you know. It’s

a really special place.”

SPEND £50 FOR FREE DELIVERY ORDER BY 4PM FOR NEXT DAY DELIVERY REINFORCED BOTTLE PACKAGING

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PHOTO: Izzie Austin

PHOTOS: Sailors Grave, saltbush foraging

WORDS: Richard Croasdale

here’s something a bit magical

about Sailors Grave Brewing, like

the old mariners’ tales that inspired

its artwork and, arguably, its whole

outlook. Based in a formerly derelict

butter factory, on the banks of the

Snowy River in the township of Orbost,

Sailors Grave is essentially a farmhouse

brewery, run by husband and wife team

Chris and Gab Moore.

In a previous life, the Moores were

successful restauranteurs in the super-

cool Darlinghurst neighbourhood of

Sydney, before selling up and moving

back to the far south coast to start a

family. Their own brewery venture was

always part of the master plan, so the

pair spent several years taking short

tours of the US, visiting rural breweries

they admired and making careful notes.

This groundwork seems to have

paid off. More than 200 miles east

of Melbourne, Sailors Grave wasn’t

exactly at the heart of the action, and

launched at the peak of a flurry of

other new breweries. Yet it managed to

stand apart from the pack, catching the

attention of beer lovers who are after

something new and authentic.

Its beers seem to be a way of

expressing and exploring the local

culture and environment. They’re often

unusual and, Chris freely admits, can

sometimes be “challenging”, but always

offer drinkers a layered, complex,

nuanced journey of flavour and aroma.

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FLAVOURS FROM THE DEEP

The first beer in a long series of

seasonal releases was a mandarin

Berliner Weisse, brewed in

collaboration with a local farmer who

they got chatting with on Facebook,

shortly followed by a saison using

ingredients from Gab’s family farm.

More recent projects include a

collaboration with famed indigenous

historian Bruce Pascoe, to create a dark

lager brewed with roasted mamadyang

ngalluk and burru ngalluk (grass seeds)

harvested by the Yuin people.

“All our beers are hand crafted,

and we’ve brewed a whole range of

styles, really led by the array of farmed

and foraged ingredients that take

our interest,” he says. “We look for

ingredients that express the terroir of

this corner of Victoria; its agricultural

and maritime history. It’s a shame

you couldn’t come out here, because

you really need to see the kind of

pristine wilderness that we have on our

doorstep here – it inspires us.”

And there’s plenty of history to draw

on. The brewery takes its name from a

local reef that has claimed many ships

and many lives over the centuries, and

spawned even more tall tales. This

heritage resonates particularly strongly

in the brewery’s branding, which is

quite unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Chris and Gab wanted something

unique and naively romantic, so found

a children’s book illustrator that they

loved, after months of searching the

internet.

Chris and Gab Moore

Living in Cornwall at the time, Joe

Lyward’s work already drew heavily on

the sea, marrying a simple style with

just a touch of sadness. It was exactly

what Sailors Grave was looking for, so

Chris and Gab flew him out to Australia,

shared some beers and figured out

the brewery’s whole look and feel

(including designs for the first 20

beers). They’ve since started working

with two additional illustrators, Melissa

Castrillón and Alexis Snell.

PHOTO: Richard Cornish

The same striking style can be

found on the façade of the beautifully

renovated old butter factory brewery,

which is now a firmly established local

landmark. The very fact that Chris

and Gab can look at a ramshackle

industrial ruin and see a brewery,

restaurant, barrel room and boutique

hotel says everything you need to

know about the strength of their

vision, and their determination to

make it real.

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in brewing starts in

homebrewing,” says Hayden

“Innovation

Henderson, a keen member

of The Melbourne Brewers, one of the

city’s longest-running homebrewing

clubs. I agree, but I let him explain.

“You’ve got so much freedom in

homebrewing to try new things. If

I try something crazy and stuff up

a batch, I’ve probably cost myself

about fifty bucks. If someone like Bad

Shepherd [a craft microbrewery based

in Cheltenham, a southern suburb of

the city] did it, they’d end up costing

themselves thousands of dollars.”

Our session has begun. I’m speaking

to five of The Melbourne Brewers over a

grainy Zoom connection, morning in the

UK, evening in Victoria. Someone on the

chat has a beer. I’m jealous.

I’m chatting to this band of brewers

because I want to find out why the

Melbourne craft beer scene is one of

the most vibrant (if not the most vibrant,

don’t tell Perth) in Australia. I have a

feeling that the huge homebrewing

community there has something to

do with it. Chris Duckworth, or “The

Duck” to his mates favours the BIAB

(brew in a bag) method when brewing

his own beer on his two vessel kit, and

Katie Mather meets the homebrewing

community that’s the lifeblood of

Melbourne’s vibrant craft scene

PHOTOS: The Melbourne Brewers

Melbourne Brewers at the 2019 Australian National Homebrewering Conference

(ANHC 2019) L-R: Ian Bennett, Chris Holmes, John Keske, and Craig Bates

he explains why he thinks Melbourne’s

such a creative place when it comes to

flavour and taste:

“We were one of the first

homebrewing clubs in the country, we

started in 1972 when the Government

legalised homebrewing. We’ve had

a number of our members go on to

become professional brewers and found

breweries of their own, like Dereck

Hales at Bad Shepherd and Shane Ward

at Beach Hut.”

Melbourne’s recognised

begrudgingly by other parts of the

country as the foodie capital within

Australia, and I think homebrewing is a

large part of that.”

Tom Cooper, the treasurer of the

Melbourne Brewers, says homebrewing

doesn’t really leave those who move on

to bigger things either.

“Most of the breweries still have

their pilot kits,” he says, “and breweries

encourage their staff to homebrew.”

He has a flexible homebrew setup,

switching from a three vessel HERMS

(Heat Exchanged Recirculating Mash

System) to a fully modular two vessel

RIMS (Recirculating Infusion Mash

System) setup. (“I can switch back at

any time, just depending on what I feel

like using. I like tinkering, I think the

term is.”)

We’ve had a number of our

members go on to become

professional brewers

Duck agrees with Tom. “Yeah, a lot

of the people working at breweries

are making beer at home, and they’re

known for encouraging their staff to

create their own beers — starting small

then looking to brew for real and credit

them when it hits the tap room or the

bars and bottle shops.”

Ian Bennett, the club’s President

(who favours BIAB in his 50l three-tier

system) says the breweries push the

homebrewers too, keeping the scene

moving on both sides.

“It used to be that homebrewers

pushed the limits and breweries had

to catch up. Now breweries are just as

likely to push it. It keeps us all on our

toes.”

If you’re a restaurant or a small plates

bar in Melbourne, you’re going to need

delicious things to drink alongside your

genre-busting dishes. Hayden links a

deep local interest in sour and wild

beers to the gastronomy of the area.

“Sour beer’s not competing with craft

beer on menus. It’s competing with

wine.”

“Here people are more likely than

ever to try sour and wild beers — barrel

soured too, not just kettle soured.

Around Australia you’ve got Wildflower

in Sydney and Van Diemon in Tasmania,

but then there are seven breweries

creating sour and wild beers actually

in Melbourne. So you’re talking about

a huge percentage of the sour beer

made in Australia being made here, and

those brewers are really pushing the

envelope. That’s got a lot to do with the

foodie culture around here.”

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GRASS ROOTS

John Keske brewing at “Steinbrew“

camping weekend away

PHOTO: Carlos Aranda

Another aspect of Melbourne’s

creativity may be meteorological.

At least the members of Melbourne

Brewers seem to think so.

“We’re more seasonable than the

rest of the country,” says Ian, after

telling me that their day had been

pretty “English” (heavy rain, grey

skies).

Duck agrees. “We actually have four

seasons here — sometimes all in one

day — which is very different to the

north where it’s tropical and pretty hot

all year round.”

“So the beer styles change to

match. We get winter warmers when

it’s colder outside, and summer thirst

quenchers too because it can still get

up to 40 degrees when it gets sunny.”

Spirit of Competition

“The number of competitions in

Melbourne really drive you to brew

constantly and innovate,” Hayden tells

me, and the heads of the people I’m

speaking to nod in agreement inside

their little Zoomy squares. Hayden’s

what you might call “enthusiastic”

when it comes to homebrewing comps,

entering at least one every month in

regular years with beer brewed on his

65l Brewzilla — an all-grain brewing

system.

“I’ve got 15 fermenters in my

shed full of various wild and sour

beers,” Hayden confides. “I’ve been

brewing pretty much non-stop

during lockdown, and with all the

competitions being cancelled, I’m not

sure what I’m going to do with it all!”

Lockdown has

cancelled a lot of the

comps and that’s hit

homebrewers very hard

Duck’s in more or less the same

boat. “Lockdown has cancelled a lot of

the comps and that’s hit homebrewers

very hard. It means we aren’t getting

that feedback, or winning any prizes.”

“The growth of the community

is brilliant though,” he assures me.

“They’re still brewing and joining clubs

and keeping their heads above water.

And because we’re a club, we can offer

feedback and help with any issues

they might be having, even if it’s just

over Zoom or Facebook or whatever.”

Homebrewing In Lockdown

It’s worth mentioning that at the time

of our Zoom, Melbourne was under

strict lockdown rules. Melburniums

were only allowed to travel up to 5km

away from their homes, meaning many

were stuck without pubs, taprooms

or even bottle shops in their available

vicinity.

Tom says this has driven interest in

homebrewing way up.

“You’ve only got to go online to see

people who’ve got their King Kegs or

whatever, and now they’re like, ah, I’ve

gotta make some beer now! They’ve

bought the equipment because they

can’t get to the pub, so now they’re

having to learn how to use it through

necessity.”

“People think, “how hard could it

be?”” says Duck. “Covid restrictions

have driven people to be more selfsufficient

in the things they enjoy

— bread, coffee, beer — because they

can’t get it fresh. People are realising

that these things aren’t actually that

hard to do. I’ve been learning how to

make sourdough!”

“It’s cheaper too, once you’ve paid

for your equipment. The tax bands

here are harsh on smaller breweries

Club members Michael Hewes (front) and Roger Cheesman brewing at Michael's place

which pushes the price of their beer

up. That makes people more keen to

homebrew some of the craft beer they

like drinking.”

Ian says the increasing quality you can

get from homebrewing your own beer

is really helping to drive more people’s

interest in making beer.

“The ingredients and the equipment

you can get for homebrewing are

improving exponentially,” he says. “And

people have more access to different

styles of beer now, giving them more

ideas and inspiration. Tap rooms are

friendly places to try new things and the

brewers are usually there to speak to

and ask your questions.”

“More bottle shops are popping up

that only specialise in craft beer too,”

adds Tom. “They’re really inspiring

homebrewers. I went into my local one

recently and picked up a couple of

really well made sour beers. I’m now

trying to brew them at home.”

Club secretary John Keske has a

different perspective on Melbourne’s

homebrewing scene. Originally from

Minnesota, he moved to Victoria in

2008, and noticed a beer-based culture

shock straight away.

The ingredients and the

equipment you can get

for homebrewing are

improving exponentially

“The scene was really limited back

then compared to the US,” he says,

“but craft beer quickly became more

popular, first with the hoppy stuff, and

it’s just grown and grown.”

John enjoys brewing on his

Braumeister, or if he’s feeling like a

change he switches to his trusty three

vessel system, and mostly brewing

outside in the Aussie sunshine. The

lucky bastard.

“I do make a lot of American Pale

Ales and New England Pale Ales, but to

be honest, I mostly enjoy brewing malty

beers or lagers. Playing with ingredients

other than hops.”

He says that the popularity of

homebrewing has kept growing despite

the Covid situation, and I’m told that the

local homebrew supplies shop and one

of their sponsors Grain and Grape were

saying they had something like a 400%

increase in sales since lockdown sales.

“Even over lockdown we’ve had four

or five new members join us,” he says,

“Despite not being able to have our

meetings in person. It’s great to have

new homebrewers join us and start

to figure out what they enjoy about

brewing, and how they can improve

their beers.”

Tom agrees. “One of the things

I noticed when I joined Melbourne

36 FERMENT MAGAZINE

FERMENT MAGAZINE 37


GRASS ROOTS

PHOTO: Monica DiLoxley

Former President Andy Davidson and Chris Duckworth at

Melbourne Brewers Annual Dinner

Brewers was when someone brought

in a beer they thought was bad, five or

six experienced brewers would come

rushing over to help taste it and figure

it out.”

“It’s a lot about confidence,” says

Duck. “New members can be scared

to take criticism, or maybe don’t think

their beer’s up to much and don’t want

to put them in. At the club there are

people who have the experience to help

you improve. We want to help everyone

improve!”

Getting Everyone Involved

While homebrewing is an increasingly

popular hobby in Australia, and

homebrew kits are selling out to prove

it, it’s not a particularly diverse scene at

present.

Hayden tells me that the club prides

itself on its friendliness and welcoming

attitude, “but it’s very white and male,”

he says. “And that just does not reflect

Melbourne at all. I’d love to know how to

make it more diverse.”

We’ve had a number of our

members go on to become

professional brewers

In 2017, a study by Beer Cartel

revealed that only 2% of homebrewers

in Australia were women. In reaction to

the statistic, Melbourne craft brewery

Himmelhund Brewing, led by Annabel

Meagher, set up Women’s Brew Club.

The Pink Boots Society of Australia is

making waves too, encouraging women

to gain skills in brewing and enter the

brewing industry professionally. But it’s

a long journey, as anyone working to

improve the diversity of the beer world

anywhere on the planet can attest to.

Perhaps after the lockdowns the proven

benefits of homebrewing can help

encourage even more people to get

involved.

“For our club dinner we often do

what we call our Monster Brewday,”

says Duck. “We bring our brew rigs

down to a warehouse and we brew our

beers for the dinner. And that’s when

anyone can come in and take a look at

the equipment, and all the different

styles that are being brewed, all the

techniques and all the rest of it...and

they can ask experienced homebrewers

anything. It’s an open floor.”

“People rock up and we can talk

to them about starting brewing, or

improving their beer on what kit they

have, or if they want to, we can look at

their financial situation and see what

other equipment they could look at

buying to progress their brewing. We

want to show that it’s fun, accessible

and anyone can do it.”

The Melbourne Brewers just want

people to get brewing. And why not?

There’s nothing else to do at the

moment.

“It’s been a difficult year,” says

Duck, “But the resilience that’s been

shown in the community through the

continued growth of our facebook

group and the enquiries we’ve had via

the website, it definitely shows that

the community here in Melbourne is

alive and well despite the lockdown

conditions we’re under.”

38 FERMENT MAGAZINE

FERMENT MAGAZINE 39


I Hear You

There are a raft of podcasts, live

streams and online tasting classes

now available to keep us all

informed about beer. Jessica

Mason takes a closer look at how

audio updates are manifesting

in the beer community and why

they are important.

he tacit natural trinity of beer,

pub and a friend has been

somewhat disrupted of late.

Real life engagement has

diminished. Some of us have felt more

than a little adrift. But one thing that

this enforced estrangement has taught

us is that when the going gets tough, it

is in our nature to become resourceful.

Seek out new means of celebrating

what we love with those we are in

communication with and in and amongst

that, if good beer is still being brewed,

find it we shall. And, as such, the realm

of digital beer drinking is upon us.

“A true food and drink experience

that engages your senses is worth its

weight in gold for the participant,”

says Brett Ellis, co-founder and brewer

at Wild Beer Co, who recently began

hosting live tastings online so that

people could enjoy his newly-brewed

beers - at distance - while hearing about

how they came to be created.

Ellis uses both Instagram and

Facebook and this has helped forge a

community of like-minded and engaged

beer fans. There is storytelling at the

heart of each session and people leave

feeling that they learned something

new.

Similarly, Beer with Nat, a careers

podcast produced and hosted by beer

sommelier and advanced cicerone

Natalya Watson - where she shares a

beer and a chat with people who work

in the beer industry - is also hinged on a

storytelling narrative. Each time, lyrically

imparting each interviewee’s own

autobiographical beer journey.

“I felt that a podcast would be the

perfect medium for the stories I was

hoping to share”, says Watson, who

admits that she loves “the personality

and passion that audio conveys. There’s

really nothing quite like hearing people

tell their story in their own words.”

It is this kind of personality in audio

that people are clearly seeking. Hearing

about the lives of others is like a form of

meditative therapy for some. For others,

a way to learn or network amidst the

myriad responsibilities life continues to

hurl on a daily basis.

Writer and photographer Matt

Curtis, who produces and hosts The

Pellicle Podcast which includes “lots of

long-form interviews with people in and

around the industry, as well as quite

a few panel talks recorded at events”

explained that “in one recent episode

I narrated an article of mine from the

site, but also recorded a soundtrack to

add a more emotive feel.” That’s the

power of audio. That ever so seamless

articulate layer of sound that helps

convey a human element. A reminder

that real people are sharing something

of themselves. And, right now, during

the darker days of 2020, we need

as many touchpoints to closeness as

possible. In fact, we yearn for them as

a way to replace the recent prohibition

of human contact.

There’s really nothing

quite like hearing people

tell their story in their

own words

Emma Inch, producer and presenter

of Fermentation Beer & Brewing

Radio - a ‘magazine-style’ podcast that

involves short interviews and features

about brewers, breweries and other

aspects of the beer industry, explains

how podcasts in particular can reflect

society in all of its diversity, but also

remain a very personal experience too.

“Podcasting has the potential to be a

more democratic medium, meaning

diverse voices can be heard in ways

that perhaps they can’t on mainstream

radio or TV,” says Inch, pointing out that,

additionally, it serves well to remember

that “most people listen to podcasts

on their own, many on earbuds” and

“this makes podcasting a uniquely

intimate medium that has the power

to communicate with people in a very

distinct way.”

There are, however, other ways

you can take your beer audience on a

journey. Chiefly, through the medium

of video. By, quite literally, showing

people the places they are yet to visit

themselves. This method, naturally,

encourages the presenter and watcher

to feel like an alliance has been formed.

All of this helping build further loyalty.

As such, the Craft Beer Channel,

which predominantly uses YouTube as

its platform, makes mini documentaries

about beer, food and travel. “We learn

along with the viewer as we explore the

world’s best breweries and bars, as well

as the cultures around them,” says its cofounder

and presenter Jonny Garrett.

“As a journalist I’ve always understood

40 FERMENT MAGAZINE

FERMENT MAGAZINE 41


I HEAR YOU

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the power of written words to tell a

story, but video adds so many extra

elements vital to talking about beer –

the processes, the looks, the reactions,

the scenery, the camaraderie.” In many

ways, this is what brings it to life.

Most notably, there is a void now

present. What people are craving is the

taste of what they miss. Some breweries

are beginning to realise they can

help bring some good cheer through

interaction directly to people in their

own homes. Namely, the candid pub

conversations that used to take place

over a beer.

Andy Nowlan, marketing manager

at Siren Craft Brew explains how the

brewery is now “doing some really short

‘beer with’ chats on Instagram which are

designed to last the length of a pint,”

describing how “that format is ideal as

it keeps the ‘pub conversation’ vibe.”

But the relationship doesn’t end there;

Nowlan emphasises this is only the

beginning, because each conversation is

an opportunity to connect with people

and reaffirm what the beer and brewery

are all about. “There is only so much

you can say on a can, even less so on a

keg badge. Perhaps the big thing is the

opportunity sweet spot with a customer

where it comes to life for them,

personally,” he reminds.

Jaega Wise, TV and radio presenter

and brewer at Wild Card Brewery

agrees with the sentiment, revealing

that, for Wild Card, there was an

opportunity to become part of the

conversation. “Online tastings give

people a reason to talk about us. We

went from hyper-local through to

reaching customers all over,” explained

Wise, who is also no stranger to the

fact that, armed with a smartphone,

we are much more connected than we

have ever been before. “I did a piece

for TV recently where we interviewed

people at the top of their craft on a

global scale, which isn’t always possible

face-to-face, but we also managed to

record it all pretty much via phone,”

she adds. It’s revelatory that this kind of

thing is possible. Pointing out that, “our

reachability is so good now.”

If we give a bit of

ourselves, we often find

that people are drawn to

the warmth

Such grassroots approaches are

known to have many benefits. But key

to the style is a sense of authenticity

which, in turn, breeds interest and

kindness from others, but could, so

easily bring scrutiny, but instead,

right now amidst so much bad news

elsewhere online, actually encourages

people to reach out and recognise

the good. It’s these kinds of human

responses that remind us all that we

can connect to praise and not just

critique.

“I am the kind of person that easily

shares the emotion and effort that

went into these beers through stories

and feelings. Doing that to a camera

without an actual person or crowd to

read the body language of is not only

difficult, but the feeling of exposure is

exhilarating,” says Ellis.

And he’s right, if we give a bit of

ourselves, we often find that people

are drawn to the warmth, the humanity

and the part of our brains and hearts

that gain something from being around

others, from hearing their views and

from recognising their industrious

activity. After all, we have a lot in

common, Ellis reminds, we are stronger

together. “We are all drawn together

around a table of food and drink.

Everyone and every culture. Around

flavour and nutrients is where life

happens and, in this year, the digital,

audio and visual table is where life is.

These mediums and digital spaces that

are created are ripe soil for growing a

community of like-minded people.”

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42 FERMENT MAGAZINE

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FERMENT MAGAZINE 43


BUMS ON SEATS

IT’S A LOT MORE WORK,

AND A LOT LESS MONEY

COMING IN. IT’S STRESSFUL

The stark reality of running a pub in 2020 can be seen clearly

in its furniture, writes Anthony Gladman

CORONAVIRUS IS A

CATALYST. As it runs through

the population, this illness

changes our society. Transformations

that were already happening slowly

are sped up and magnified. Working

remotely, for instance, or drinking more

beer at home.

Britain’s pubs were dwindling in

number for years before coronavirus

reached our shores. But that long

and gentle decline was nothing

compared to what was to follow once

the lockdown bit. As autumn arrives

the disease is putting its foot on the

accelerator again.

In October there were almost 25,000

fewer pubs, bars and restaurants

operating in Britain than had been

before March. In London, where the

slump hit hardest, almost one in four

licensed premises remains closed as

a second lockdown looms. These are

businesses shuttered, wages foregone,

lives on hold. People can only cling on

and hope they will be able to reopen.

Pubs have been quicker to do so than

restaurants, according to research from

CGA and AlixPartners. More than nine

out of 10 are trading again, but social

distancing measures compel them to

operate below capacity. Many exist on a

knife-edge.

MORE WORK FOR LESS MONEY

The Kings Arms is a small pub in East

London known for its extensive beer

list. Its reputation pulls drinkers off the

main road to Bethnal Green and down

a side street few would explore without

the lure of a good drink at the end.

Ian McGrath, the general manager,

says trade is ‘vastly reduced’ since

Covid hit. “It’s tough,” he tells me.

“You’re managing staff, but you’re also

managing people, you’re also managing

all these rules and regulations and

things that need to be complied with.

It’s a lot more work. It’s a lot more work,

and a lot less money coming in. It’s

stressful.”

To reopen safely, he had to remove

30 of the pub’s 88 seats. Stools that

once lined the bar are now stacked

along one wall of the disabled toilet.

Tables and chairs lie in the darkened

basement among bottles of ageing

beer.

Before Covid his pub could hold 100

customers. On weekends it often felt

like more. “A busy Friday and Saturday

here would have people sitting at the

bar, and then people standing, plus all

the tables would be full,” he tells me.

Since it reopened, his pub hasn’t

once operated at its new ‘full’ capacity.

For two months it ran at a loss. It only

started to break even in September.

“The Saturday just gone was our

busiest day since we reopened, and

yeah, all the tables were occupied, but

some were in groups of two, some were

in groups of four. I don’t think there’s

ever going to be an occasion where

we’re actually going to have a bum on

every single seat.”

Seats matter in a small pub like this.

Seats hold customers. Customers buy

drinks. You want seats to be filled.

This was easy before the lockdown.

If seats were free, people sat in them.

Sharing tables wasn’t an issue. Moving

seats around wasn’t an issue. Couples

and small groups — the tables at the

Kings Arms all seat six — often moved

on partway through an evening. Now, if

a couple book a table and stay there all

night, that’s four seats not earning the

pub any money.

“That is the issue that we face. Even

pre-lockdown it was kind of annoying

when you saw a couple nursing their

drinks, but now, with the manager hat

on, you’re giving them the evils.”

Ian says his pub is a popular spot for

dates. As such, he gets a lot of requests

for two-person bookings. “We limit

how many we take now, because I don’t

want a situation on a busy Saturday

night where we have 10 tables with two

people.”

CHANGING THE GAME

Drinking is different in a pandemic.

There are issues to navigate which

didn’t exist before, not least the ever

present risk of falling ill or infecting

someone else. The rules governing how

and with whom we can socialise seem to

change all the time.

And this can lead to blocked seats.

PHOTO: Mehrad Vosoughi

“People aren’t moving on,” says Ian.

“They realise it’s going to be tough

getting in places, so if they’ve got that

table, people are definitely staying

longer.”

“It’s kind of like an occasion now, isn’t

it? If you go to the pub, you’ve got to

be prepared to go through the whole

thing of wearing a mask, of sanitising, of

signing in.”

Ian tells me that he has noticed a

shift in attitude behind the bar as well.

Social distancing has introduced an

unwelcome undercurrent of tension

between staff and customers.

“You have this bizarre anxiety with

the public now. You’ve got this constant

policing and management of people,

which wasn’t part of the job. The only

real time you needed to confront

customers [before Covid] was if they

were being loud or misbehaving or

drunk or whatever. Now you’ve got this

constant anxiety from the moment they

arrive.”

He tells me people have abused his

staff over wearing face masks, signing

in with the NHS Covid-19 app, and

track and trace measures. With each

customer, his colleagues wonder: will

this person be nice or obnoxious?

“You have 100 customers who are

fine, absolutely nice. And then you get

one who ruins your day by being an

absolute dick. That sticks with me more

now than it used to. If someone came in

and was abusive or drunk or whatever,

I’d be like, ‘Get out of the bar now,’ and

I wouldn’t dwell on it at all. And I don’t

know why, but now that person sticks

in my head, and I’m fuming about them,

and I won’t shut up or stop talking about

them. I don’t know why that is.”

UNDER THE HAMMER

Most of the hospitality businesses no

longer operating will hope to reopen.

But for some it is already too late.

England and Wales lost more

than 300 pubs between March and

September, according to real estate

adviser Altus Group. Some were

earmarked for demolition or were

converted for other uses. Others simply

closed for good.

With the threat of closure looming

so very close and so very real, some

pubs have responded by flouting social

distancing regulations.

44 FERMENT MAGAZINE

FERMENT MAGAZINE 45


BUMS ON SEATS

One for

the

Road

EXCLUSIVE

IT’S FRUSTRATING WHEN

YOU GO INTO ANOTHER

PUB THEY’RE NOT

COMPLYING AT ALL

New episodes live now!

Subscribe to the Beer52 podcast, One for The Road.

As Jess says, there’s nothing quite like hearing tales of beery

adventure straight from the horse’s mouth. We don’t have a horse,

but we do have Rich and Doug, and a grab bag of brand new

episodes online now, covering everything from Aussie beer culture

to which mythological creatures would run the best craft brewery.

“It’s frustrating when you go into

another pub and you see that they’re

not complying at all with anything,” Ian

tells me. “There’s a lot of that. They’re

just trading ignoring what’s going on.”

Ian finds himself asking why these

pubs aren’t bothering to enforce the

rules. But also, he sometimes wonders

why he bothers when others do not.

With some pubs up against it, a

calculation takes hold. Managers

balance the extra money they can make

each week by ignoring the rules against

fines they will pay if they get caught.

In the long run, if they only get caught

once every few months, they will still

come out ahead.

“I’ve not had a visit from anyone since

we reopened,” Ian tells me. “I’ve not had

licensing come in. I’ve not had the police

come in. I’ve not had environmental

health. I’ve not had anyone check what

I’m doing.”

ADAPT TO SURVIVE

The Kings Arms hasn’t yet lost any staff,

but the hours available for them to work

are reduced. The weekly rota has 144

hours these days. Ian and his Assistant

Manager, the only two salaried staff

with contracted hours, take 96 of these.

The remaining four staff members

must split just 48 hours’ work between

them. “There’s not a huge amount to go

around,” Ian says.

Staff at the Kings Arms are doing

PHOTO: Flickr - Ewan Munro

their best to find ways of generating

more money for the pub. Ian hopes to

improve mid-week trade by running

bottle share nights, or beer and

cheese pairing nights. And he will

run a sour beer festival at the end of

October, if pubs are still able to open

by then.

He also plans to sell the pub’s stock

of cellar aged bottles online. This

would allow for some cash flow even

if new lockdown measures forced the

pub to close again.

“I don’t know,” he muses. “I’m taking

each week as it comes at the moment.

Everything changes. I’d like to say I

feel positive. There’s certain times of

day... Putting this festival on at the end

of the month has given me a bit more

focus and desire.”

ALL WE HAVE IS NOW

Ian tells me he can’t remember what

running the pub was like before Covid

changed everything. “I’m trying to feel

optimistic about things, but it seems like

something comes along every couple of

weeks that knocks your confidence a little

bit. It’s hard to think that far ahead at the

moment.”

In the midst of the pandemic, uncertainty

smothers everything. Furniture remains

pushed away into dark corners. In other

pubs up and down the country it fills rooms

that would otherwise hold paying guests.

It even spills into staff member’s homes,

where each chair, each barstool reminds

them of a customer unable to buy a drink.

The jumble of wood in the dark is profit

unrealised, a future on hold. It is the

pub as we knew it waiting to return.

46 FERMENT MAGAZINE

FERMENT MAGAZINE 47


Ollie’s

MODERN

Life

This month, Ollie Peart looks

beyond the pandemic, and hears

a wakeup call for all of humanity

e are nowhere near

the new normal. Each

time we think things

are under control,

they’re not. I’m pretty sure there’s

some science as to why this is the

case. I think it’s called chaos theory.

The idea that a fart can change the

weather, or something like that. I

wonder how many of my horrific

guffs have caused damage and

suffering to others across the world?

Humanity forgets this. Humanity

forgets its own fragility. We have an

incessant, irrational desire to control.

Maybe our craving for control is

part of the reason 1.4 trillion (yes,

trillion) photographs will be taken

by the world’s population this year, a

single moment in time, the framing

and presentation of which we have

absolute control. No wonder we’re

so addicted.

But as we stand back and watch a

virus tear through our normality, we

have again, forgotten the reality - we

have absolutely no control, nor will

we ever. There is no normal, and

there won’t be a new normal either.

Our craving for control is one

of the reasons we are in this mess

in the first place. We tamed the

world, conquered every corner and

gorged our way to this pandemic. A

pandemic that hitched a ride on our

astonishing inventions, and reaped

havoc across the world as a result.

Our first instinct was to ‘control

the virus’. It was a reassuringly

simple idea, as if a man with a big net

would come along, catch all the virus

and seal it in a big glass jar. For a

moment, we thought we had it. After

an intense and gruelling lockdown,

cases plummeted, the sun shone and

news stories of people enjoying the

beaches beamed across the world.

But we were making the same

mistake we always make. We thought

WE were in control. We never were.

We were merely taming a beast, and

just a like a lion whipped to perform,

pretty soon it’ll get tired and bite

your fucking arm off.

The misconception was that

barriers, masks, one way systems and

hand sanitiser would fight off the

virus, or scare it off or something. It

gives us a false sense of security, a

feeling of control, a feeling that with

all this clobber, everything will be

fine.

You may think I’m some kind of

anti-masker or herd-immunity activist

who’s about to suggest we let it

have its way. Far from it. In fact, the

complete opposite. The world will

always change, and we have to learn

to change with it, not fight it off.

Let me explain.

All efforts so far have focussed

on systems, tiered or otherwise,

that can allow us to return to a ‘new

normal’ to get things back to the way

they were. But what happens when

another pandemic hits? Which it will

- In the last 20 years alone we’ve had

SARS, MERS, Ebola, avian influenza

and swine flu. It just so happens

Covid-19 was the one to get us.

We’re just lucky it isn’t more deadly.

The next one may be much, much

worse.

The idea we are even

contemplating getting things as

back to normal as soon as possible

is fucking ludicrous. If we did, it

would mean a continuation of mass

deforestation and plummeting

bio-diversity, a human habit which is

one of the driving factors for further

deadly pandemics in the future.

WE need to change,

and we need to

change now or

this will just keep

happening

We need to stop thinking of

ourselves as these things that

were popped on earth one day. We

weren’t. We ARE nature and we are

part of the natural world, and we

need to start working with it. If we

had, we wouldn’t be in the situation

we are now.

Sir David Attenbourough has

been doing the rounds with this

message. That we have to build

biodiversity back up again, and

change the way we live our lives

otherwise we will see further, more

devastating pandemics, ferocious

weather events and catastrophic

shifts in our climate.

The messaging around this

pandemic should not be one of

‘control’ - it should be one of

change. WE need to change, and

we need to change now or this will

just keep happening.

In the short term we will have

to change what we wear, how we

behave and our habits. But in the

long term, we will have to change

almost everything. We will have to

change what we value. Economic

output should not be a measure of

prosperity, growth should not be

conflated with success. What we

eat and how we farm it will have to

change drastically. Industrialised

farming of animals will have to

cease, how crops are planted

and harvested will need to be

addressed, the use of fertilisers

that obliterate biodiversity will have

to stop. We have to stop burning

fossil fuels, we have to use more

renewables. We need to travel less,

we need to protect the wild…

The list goes on, and on, and on.

The pandemic is perhaps the

sharp kick up the arse we need

for action. We have a real danger

of being the generation who was

alerted to the problems, but craved

our comfortable ‘normal’ lives so

much, we didn’t bother changing.

So, have a think. If anything about

your current situation feels ‘normal’

- it shouldn’t.

YOU need to change. WE

need to change.

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Eoghan Welsh revels in the enduring

pleasures - and pitfalls - of Belgium’s

Christmas beer tradition

It was the train shuffling away from

the platform at Brussels Central that

jolted me out of my nap, alerting me

to the fact that I had only one station

left ahead of me if I was to get off the

train in the correct city, Belgium’s

capital and the place I’ve called home

for a decade. In my defence, it’s a

long journey down from the Belgian-

Dutch border town of Essen, and

falling asleep on public transport is an

occupational hazard for beer festival

attendees.

Because, as well as being the last

Belgian station on the railway to The

Netherlands, Essen is also home to

what could be the most idiosyncratic,

rambunctious, and festive beer festival

in the country - the Kerstbierfestival.

Every December, thousands of people

make their way to Essen’s Heuvelhal

for two days of celebrating Belgium’s

rich Christmas beer tradition. It’s a

festival at which the average ABV of

the beers on offer teeters somewhere

around 10%, so what other option was

there for a post-festival like myself

than to sink slowly into a yule-inspired

fugue state as I rumbled home towards

Brussels.

YULETIDE TRADITIONS

Belgium’s beer reputation is

almost defined by its odd edges,

unconventional brewers and their

unconventional beers, and the curious

traditions that have emerged from

the country’s brewing culture. This is

after all the country that maintained a

monastic brewing tradition long after

others had abandoned it. It is a country

possessing a formal Knighthood of the

Brewers’ Paddle, a modern descendent

of the medieval brewers guilds and

one which bestows gold medals to the

country’s brewing worthies.

Christmas beers - Kerstbieren in

Dutch, and Bières de Noël in French

- and Essen’s Kerstbierfestival are

just one more thread in Belgium’s

rich brewing tapestry. Belgium is not

alone in having a tradition of strong,

dark, often spiced, beers brewed for

the yuletide festivities; Scandinavians

have their Juleøl, Germany its

Weihnachtsbier, and England has its

Winter Warmers. In fact, the Belgian

Christmas beer tradition as we know

it today owes its origins not to any

indigenous Christmas brewing heritage

from the Low Countries, but to their

English (or, more often, Scottish)

brewing counterparts across the

Channel.

SCOTCH ALES BECOME

CHRISTMAS ALES

In the early 1900s, English beers were

hugely popular with a Belgian drinking

class that desired bright, clear, fresh,

and modern beers that local brewers

were not in the business of brewing.

Already advertised in local papers

before World War I, after Armistice

in 1918 the Belgian obsession with

British beers grew exponentially. And

alongside adverts for Whitbread Stouts

and Pale Ales, you could find notices

for McEwans Scotch, Double Scotch

Ale and - depending on the time of

year - Old Scotch Christmas Ale.

By the 1930s and into the 1940s

Belgian brewers had begun brewing

domestic rivals to these foreign

imports, or were commissioning

breweries in Scotland to brew

something specifically for the Belgian

market. Drinkers found themselves in

a situation where they could drink

a glass of Navy’s Christmas Ale,

brewed in Brussels, or Gordon’s

X-mas brewed in Edinburgh for

the beer importer John Martin. A

century later, Gordon’s survives,

although it is now brewed in

Belgium, and is what could

be accepted as standard

example of the Christmas

Ale style: dark and strong,

intensely sweet with muted

hop character, often (but

not always) spiced, and

malt-forward with a very

light roast. Perhaps the most

famous Belgian Christmas

Ale to emerge in the post-war period

proved so popular that it escaped its

seasonal release to become a yearround

blockbuster for the monks

responsible for its production. Chimay

Bleue, the darkly enticing flagship of

the Chimay Trappist brewery, started

its life as a seasonal Bière de Noël in

1948, before it was released year-round

in 1954.

IN AND OUT OF STYLE

It’s not hard to see the familial

connection between the Double Scotch

Ales of John Martin and Chimay. But

curious drinkers thinking a template

for Belgian Christmas beers was set in

the first half of the 20th century and

stuck to dogmatically ever since are

failing to consider the eccentricities

of Belgium’s brewers. Belgian brewers

by their nature are averse to rigid

categorisation; ask them in what

category they might place this or

that beer of theirs and they may

create a style all their own, or

more likely say they brew to no

style specification but instead

brew what they like and it is

up to others to categorise the

beer. It’s no coincidence that it

took a foreigner - beer writer

Michael Jackson - to coral

the country’s cornucopia of

beers into still-fluid style

designations. Christmas

beers are no exception.

Qualifying a beer as a

Christmas ale is less a

process of ticking off certain

PHOTO: Nicole Baster

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PHOTO: Matt Seymour

BRUSSELS STOUTS

characteristics than it is a

question of identity (Yuletide

iconography and/or name)

and availability (the period

running up to and through

Christmas and the New

Year). This is why beers as

diverse as Brouwerij De

Ranke’s Père Noël, amber,

bitter, and 7% ABV, and

the dark, boozy, fruity St.

Bernardus Christmas Ale

can sit side by side on

the tap list of the Essen

Kerstbierfestival.

SILENT NIGHT, HOLY BEER

There is perhaps no better example

of the fluidity around the Belgian

Christmas beer categorisation than

perhaps the most-garlanded and

obsessed-over of all Belgium’s festive

brews: Stille Nacht from Flemish

brewery De Dolle Brouwers. Ostensibly

a Strong Belgian Pale Ale at 12% ABV,

the beer is instantly recognisable

for its label with the rotund brewery

(whose name means “The Mad

Brewers”) mascot Oerbier man in a

snowy, Christmas landscape. The beer

is brewed every year for the holiday

season, and no two editions are exactly

alike. It’s complexity, strength and

fruity aromatics have ensured the beer

has been crowned “best Christmas

beer” on multiple occasions at the

Kerstbierfestival’s annual awards, and

the beer rarely drops out of the top ten.

The beer - the name of which is Dutch

for “Silent Night” - has garnered an

obsessive online following,

stimulated both by the

quality of the beer, but also

the variety of each yearly

edition and the evolution of

those beers as they age over

time in their bottles.

There are few people

better placed to rhapsodise

about the merits of Stille

Nacht than Jezza G (who

goes by the twitter handle @

BonsVoeux1, and prefers to

speak anonymously to keep

his beer and professional

lives separate). “Nothing else comes

close,” he says of Stille Nacht’s

reputation relative to the country’s

other Christmas beers. He first came

across it on a trip to Bruges in 1998

and was, he says, “blown away” by

it. “[My] first impressions [were], this

is different. This is strong. This is

amazing! [It] needs to be treated with

respect. Who are these Mad Brewers

anyway?…So Christmas beers are a

thing then?”

SUPERCHARGED TRIPELS FROM

CRAZY BREWERS

He is fascinated by how the beer has

morphed over time from the slightly

sour-ish 8% dark ale that he first

discovered to what he describes now as

a 12% blond-ish “super charged Tripel

on steroids”. And it is the anticipation

of how each new vintage will differ (or

not) from the previous one that keeps

him coming back. “I am expecting

2020 Stille Nacht to be up there with

the 2017 [edition],” Jezza says. “[I] Can’t

wait to try it, and this anticipation of

what might appear this year is one of

those great features of the beer. While

it’s not that different a recipe, I think,

with relatively few actual tweaks,

whether they’ve nailed it each year has

a major impact on its quality. And that

adds to its appeal.”

Jezza is (or was, until Covid-19

intervened) a regular attendee at

Essen’s Kerstbierfestival, where he gets

to indulge his passion in both draught

and bottled format. To get in alongside

Stille Nacht, the only qualifying criteria

are that entries are described by their

breweries as Christmas beers, and they

are brewed in Belgium. A 230-strong

list at the 2019 edition is evidence

enough that interest in Christmas

beers has risen alongside Belgium’s

brewing revival in the past decade, in

a category that received little coverage

in Jackson’s totemic Great Beers of

AVEC LES BONS VŒUX BRASSERIE DUPONT

A New Year’s beer rather than a Christmas one (the

name translates from French as “With the best wishes”,

originally brewed in 1970 as an end-of-year reward for

Brasserie Dupont’s loyal customers. Bons Vœux could best

be described as a higher-strength (9.5%) version of the

brewery’s famous Saison, and is an atypically festive beer

- bitter in place of sweet, citric instead of jammy, golden

instead of dark, and with a beautiful pillowy, meringue-soft

mouthfeel.

BUSH DE NÖEL/SCALDIS NOËL PREMIUM

BRASSERIE DUBUISSON

A beer so good they named it twice. Technically, Bush

de Noël has two names because Brasserie Dubuisson,

the brewery that makes it, wanted to avoid any

confusion between their Bush brand and a certain

American lager brewery, choosing instead to sell

there under the name Scaldis (named for a Belgian

river). US magazine Paste crowned Bush de Noël

its favourite Christmas beer in 2015, 2016, and

2017 - and with good reason. A sweet, complex

aroma is accompanied by a warming but balanced

heat from the 12% ABV, alongside dried fruits and

port-like flavours.

STILLE NACHT DE DOLLE BROUWERS

It may have only come third in the 2019 Kerstbierfestival

competition, but Stille Nacht brewed by former architect

Kris Herteleers remains a cult favourite against which

all pretenders to the throne of best Christmas beer are

measured. So-called “Reserva” editions - matured on a

variety of the brewery’s wooden barrels - are released

occasionally. Characteristics will vary, but a recentlypopped

2017 vintage was full of juicy, figgy, marmaladey,

spicy notes alongside every bit of the alcoholic warmth you

would expect from a 12% beer, and had kept its body and

carbonation well in the intervening three years.

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PHOTO: Juliana Q

BRUSSELS STOUTS

AVAILABLE FROM

WWW.BEER52.COM/SHOP

GOUDEN CAROLUS CHRISTMAS

BROUWERIJ HET ANKER

A personal favourite, and about the best of the “standard”

Christmas beers currently brewed. Made by Het Anker

brewery in Mechelen (where you can sleep off the ill-effects

of too many Christmas beers in the adjacent

hotel), Gouden Carolus Christmas is rubyverging-on-dark-brown,

10.5% ABV brewed

with three hop varieties and a blend of six

different herbs and spices. Of these, it is

anise and liquorice notes that predominate;

thick, gummy and with a hint of roast in the

finish, they will keep well in a cellar for years.

Belgium. It’s also a list with some curious

entries. In an interesting synthesis of

Belgian and Scandinavian yuletide

traditions, Danish breweries To Øl and

Mikkeller are well-represented, given

their beers are made an hour’s drive

from Essen at the De Proefbrouwerij

contract brewery outside Ghent.

It is a weekend of raucous crowds

sat at long rows of communal tables,

gathered under the banners of local

and international breweries, Santa hats

and reindeer antlers well-represented.

“It’s a great event,” Jezza says.

“Friendly, extremely well organised,

[with an] amazing range of big, dark

winter beers…And when it snows, as it

did - heavily, in 2010 - it provides the

perfect Christmas event!” He’s been

to 15 of the last 18 festivals, and 2020

would have been his 16th if Covid-19

had not intervened and the festival was

cancelled. He describes it as an annual

end-of-year reunion, a chance to meet

BEOIR NA NOLLAG MESCAN BREWERY

In addition to their own indigenous Christmastime beers,

brewers outside of Belgium have also tried their hands at

the Belgian Christmas beer tradition. London’s Anspach

and Hobday have their Pfeffernusse Saison, inspired

by the round cinnamon ubiquitous in Northern Europe

in December, and Oregon’s Pfriem have their Belgian

Christmas Ale, and 8% Belgian Dubbel brewed with

coriander. But if you really want to execute the style

correctly, you need a Belgian brewer - which is exactly

what Mescan Brewery on the west coast of Ireland have.

Their Beoir na Nollag (Christmas Beer as Gaeilge) is

aged on Whiskey barrels and infused with traditional

Christmas spices, and dry-hopped and bottleconditioned.

It is sweet, strong, alcoholic, with strong

anise notes and a slightly lighter body and finish than

you may expect.

with old friends from around the world

and indulge in a shared passion for

strong, characterful Belgian beers.

It’s a passion - shared by brewers

and drinkers alike - that the current

uncertainty is likely only to postpone

rather than extinguish altogether, and

the festival’s organisers are already

putting plans together to bring

everyone back to Essen for two days

of the best of Belgium’s Christmas

brewing tradition in 2021. Ready again

to send merry attendees off into the

chilly December night with a wobble

in their step, and a heaviness in their

head, primed for a well-earned festive

snooze as their train winds its way

through the frosty Belgian countryside.

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Homeworking and

home-drinking:

The dubious future of the

after-work pint

WORDS: Hollie Stephens

With a few exceptions, I’ve been

a primarily home-based worker

for six years now, and overall,

I love it. Setting my own hours and working

rhythms helps me to be more productive

whilst avoiding burnout. I have time to make

myself a healthy lunch instead of queuing at

a crowded M&S Food or Tesco Metro to buy

an overpriced sandwich to consume back at

my desk. Rather than spending an hour each

morning and evening jostling onto an already

crowded train amid many tuts from fellow

passengers, I can enjoy reading a book from

the comfort of my sofa, or perhaps even get

ahead with the week’s housework. Benefits

aside, I have a confession to make. There is

one thing that I deeply miss about commuting

to work: the immense joy of an after-work pint.

Stopping for a beer in a pub between the

office and train station was one of life’s simple

but great pleasures. Sometimes it would be

a swift pint alone to clear my head before

a carefully timed jog to catch the train with

moments to spare. Other times, a ‘quick one’

would turn into a lingering drinking session

with colleagues as daylight turned to dusk.

It felt like sneaking in an extra treat to the

week, providing a concerted time to relax.

For me, an after-work pint was a bookend to

the day, which has always been much harder

to orchestrate when working from home.

Grabbing a bottle from the fridge at 5.30pm

never feels quite the same.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a long

overdue push towards flexible working, and

many businesses have committed to allowing

employees to continue to work from home – in

some cases indefinitely. For many employees

this could lead to a higher quality of life,

with greater ease of juggling childcare and

other commitments, but what will happen

to the pubs that have traditionally counted

commuters among their key clientele? If

increased homeworking becomes the new

normal and many office buildings sit partially

empty, so might the adjacent pubs with

expensive leases.

At the beginning of July, the government

gave pubs the green light to begin welcoming

back customers for on-premise service, but for

many businesses the feasibility of operating

is closely tied to the level of foot traffic. Until

more aspects of public life return, some

establishments could struggle to operate

viably. Nick, the owner of The Queens Head

pub near to Kings Cross station in London,

expects a severe reduction in local footfall

to dramatically affect turnover. “That area

around Kings Cross is completely different

now to what it was before. We used to

have a lot of Monday-Friday office workers

coming in.” Nick believes that the COVID-19

pandemic might make 9-5 office working as we

know it a thing of the past. “Regardless of what

people are saying about getting people back

to the office, we’re looking at the past now.

We need to be looking at the future, which is

probably a blend of home and office working.”

Nick points out that the pandemic has

changed the way that people buy beer.

Hop Burns & Black, a bottle shop located

in southeast London, is one example of a

business that saw a surge in sales due to the

increased demand for booze-to-go at the

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HOMEWORKING AND HOME-DRINKING

onset of the pandemic. “We saw a lot of panic

buying in March, prior to the lockdown - at

one point we were seeing customers come

into our shops and almost sweep the shelves

straight into their baskets” says shopkeeper

Jen Ferguson. “We saw very strong (online)

sales throughout April and May. Basket sizes

during this time were usually fairly large

too - there was a fear that production and

importing could be affected at any time, so

people wanted to ensure they had something

in their fridges.” Jen doesn’t believe that

people are drinking more than they were

before the pandemic, but rather, their habits

have altered. “People are drinking differently.

A lot of weekly units would have been

consumed at the pub or in restaurants pre-

COVID, but they’re now being consumed at

home.”

I spoke to some drinkers to learn how

their habits have shifted due to the lifestyle

changes brought about by the pandemic and

lockdown. David, a marketing professional

based in Greenwich, has been working

from home for the last six months instead

of commuting to Camden daily, and doesn’t

expect to be back in the office full-time any

time soon. “My drinking habits have definitely

changed” David says. “Much of my drinking

used to be after-work drinks with colleagues.

Sometimes it was a quick couple of pints,

but it’s not rare that we would stay until near

closing.” David says that since pubs reopened,

he has supported his local establishments

by going for a quiet pint alone with a book

from time to time; something that he didn’t

do frequently previously. Rob, a designer, has

also shifted his habits because of restrictions

connected with the pandemic. “I had personal

rules of never drinking at home and just

having drinks out as a social thing. Now I’ve

been stocking up on a lot more drinks at

home!” The experiences of David and Rob

demonstrate that the pandemic has done

more than change the location in which

people are drinking; it has changed broader

drinking habits, potentially for the long term.

In coming months, it will be critical for

each of us to consider how our new drinking

behaviours may affect our favourite watering

holes. Lesley, who has been at The French

House in Soho for 31 years, tells me that

she has been lucky to reopen her doors to

wonderful support from her regulars, but says

that it has still been incredibly challenging.

“It’s been very, very, difficult. We’ve all become

waiters instead of bartenders.” She says

that her regular base of local customers has

been rallying to support The French House

since its reopening, spending more than

they usually would. On the other hand, she

says, the Christmas period usually provides

a cash injection for the industry, and she is

concerned that the prospect of being able to

host large parties is not looking good. “The

future is very grim for hospitality as it stands

at the moment.”

Nick agrees that the industry is not yet out

of the woods. “The last six months have been

difficult, but I really feel that the next three

to four months will be much harder for the

hospitality industry as a whole.” He says that

the mandatory shutdowns have shined a light

on how low the operating margins are for

businesses across the industry. Paul, general

manager of The Harp in Covent Garden, is

optimistic that the sense of community offered

by pubs will endure. He says that whilst The

Harp is missing trade from office workers,

regulars are keeping the place ticking over.

“It’s certainly quieter – but each day it gets a

little better. We have a great crowd of loyal

supporters. We will survive – it’s just a very

strange time at the moment.”

With many would-be commuters still

working from home, the tradition of the afterwork

pint is a long way from recovering in full.

In the post-pandemic world, our lifestyles and

work patterns could evolve beyond recognition,

and a large number of people could develop a

taste for working partially or even completely

from home. I hope that many of us will

remember to pop into one of our former

favourite after-work haunts from time to time,

even if it takes a more deliberate journey than

once it did. Supporting our most beloved pubs

– including those further from our residential

areas – will be key to their survival. We must

quite literally go the extra mile if we want them

to weather the storm.

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WELSH RED

ALE 4.6% ABV

PHOTO: Dan Barrett

VERMONT SE SION

IPA 4.2% ABV

WORDS: Matt Curtis

I’m currently writing a book that,

when finished, will hopefully be

called Modern British Beer. Before

I get started however, I am working

to develop a strong definition of

what “modern” actually looks like in

the context of British (and Northern

Irish—I won’t forget you folks) beer.

Ferment’s editor, Rich, has kindly given

me a few column inches to explore

this idea, as I take my first, tentative

steps into producing this work.

I want to delve into the idea that

being “modern” isn’t simply down

to the styles of beer being made. I

believe you can make bitter or lager

and still be very much of-the-moment.

How a brewery carries itself as a

business: through its treatment of staff,

its efforts to promote diversity, equity,

and sustainability on an environmental

level are all, for me, key tenets of a

modern approach to brewing. As is its

approach to agriculture, the quality

and provenance of its ingredients, and

connecting drinkers back to the fact

that beer is made with things that are

grown in the ground. I look forward to

digging into these ideas more when I

get into the meat of the book, and it

will also influence which beers I end

up writing about for it.

That’s for thinking about a bit later,

however. For now I want to stick

to style and a trend I feel has been

bubbling under the surface for years

largely unnoticed, but could be pivotal

in defining what modern beer truly is:

regionality.

Historically in the UK, regionality was

a strong differentiator in beer styles

and helped develop so much in terms

of how we know and enjoy beers today.

Take Burtonisation—for example—a

process developed by brewers to

mimic the mineral content of the

Burton-upon-Trent water supply. The

hard water of Burton contains higher

levels of gypsum, which when used as

a brewing process aid in the form of

brewers salts will lower your worts pH.

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STYLE, MODERNITY, AND A RETURN TO REGIONALITY

Fuggles farmer foils

attack of the killer wilt

In our eyes, farmer Tom Spilsbury is a hero

worthy of immortalising as a statue. Over

the past few decades, the killer wilt fungus has

decimated acres of English Fuggles hops –

an ingredient crucial to the Taylor’s taste.

Thankfully, Tom agreed to plant two new

yards of Fuggles just for us, in soil elevated

above local rivers. This protects our hops from

any wilt attacks spreading from land upstream.

So we can keep brewing with the Fuggles that

give Landlord its inimitable flavour. Here’s

to Tom Spilsbury, hops hero, beer legend.

All for that taste of Taylor’s

This is preferred by some brewers when

producing pale, hoppy beer styles, as

it aids hop absorption rates, and thus

how they are showcased in the resulting

beer. It’s no coincidence the story of IPA

began here, in the Midlands.

Burton water also contains unusually

high amounts of sulphates, sometimes

lending an “eggy” aroma to the beer—

jovially described by some as “Burton

Snatch.” This tends to divide the room,

and if you’ve ever had the chance to

try Draught Bass, you’ll know what I’m

talking about.

Burton Ale is just one example of

many regional UK styles that have been

secluded into the annals of history.

Other examples including the South

West beers tended to be pale, yet

softer, and less bitter than its northern

cousins. Meanwhile, in the South East,

darker, malt driven styles worked better

with the local water, and so rose to

prevalence. In the North West, beers

were typically pale and very bitter.

Before Manchester’s Boddington’s

became a severely dumbed down

version of its former self, it was

renowned for its assertive bitterness.

With the rise of craft beer, however,

also came a gradual move to a greater

amount of homogeneity, as brewers

attempted to recreate the most invogue

styles at their own breweries.

As brewing equipment and processes

improved—as did communication with

the rise of the internet, meaning a

new recipe or idea can be shared with

another brewer on the other side of

the world in seconds—so did this march

towards uniformity.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I

love “West Coast” IPAs and “Munich”

Helles but many of the ones I drink

now were made many miles away from

California or Bavaria. Yes, it sometimes

feels over the past few years I’ve tried

beers hopped exclusively with Mosaic

and Citra hops ad infinitum—some have

been exceptional. But I can’t escape

the feeling that in a regression from

regionality, we’re losing something that

makes beer truly special.

This changed quite recently, when

I had a moment while drinking a

Kernel IPA—always a highlight. There

is something unquestionably Kernel

about all of their beers; a quality you

can’t quite put your finger on but

know is there. With The Kernel, it’s

not something I really get in any other

beer, so I started to think about other

beers that are similar.

Immediately I thought of Burning

Sky. Not just the lauded Sussex

brewery’s wild fermented saisons

and sours, which are unquestionably

their own, but also their pales and

IPAs. Try them and compare them to

others—their inherent quality is not

only that they’re delicious, but that

they don’t taste like anyone else’s

beers. Marble’s cask ale also sprang

to mind, that sharp minerality of their

cask Manchester Bitter (a beer based

on the original Boddington’s) that is

unequivocally, well, Manchester. And

what of Rooster’s Yankee in Harrogate?

It’s only brewed 50 miles up the road

from Marble, but its inherent quality is

totally different. That Pennine divide

brought sharply into focus by the flinty

It’s only brewed 50

miles up the road... but

it’s inherent quality is

totally different

finish of this groundbreaking pale ale.

Beneath the surface of hype and

fuss, and far away from the mass

produced beers that dominate most of

the beer market, I believe regionality

is alive and well. And not just that,

but seasonality as well. I want to see

beer shift from dark and malty to

vibrant and hoppy as the hours of the

day wax and wane. I also believe that

breweries in the UK that truly consider

themselves as being modern will look

to exploit their own regionality—their

terroir if you will—and imbue in their

beers a sense of place that you can’t

find elsewhere.

And it has to be said, nothing really

beats tasting fresh beer from the source.

If you’ve ever had pilsner in Prague

or IPA in San Diego, or have enjoyed

one of many hundreds of similar beer

experiences, then you’ll know exactly

what I’m talking about. I always thought

Anchor Steam Beer was pretty ordinary,

until I tried it in San Francisco...

I look forward to further exploring

this idea in Modern British Beer. I’m

writing it for CAMRA Books and it

should be available just less than a year

after this article has been published.

Until then if you fancy debating

regionality with me, come find me on

Twitter at @totalcurtis.

62 FERMENT MAGAZINE

FERMENT MAGAZINE 63


“I

think they’re the most important

aspect of beer,” says Sam Dickison,

co-founder and head brewer at Boxcar

Brewery. “You put all the ingredients in and

the esters are the cookie cutter that cuts that

shape out. The whole beer is defined by the

esters.”

Esters are volatile aromas created by the

yeast during fermentation, and they give beer

a breadth of sweet-smelling fruitiness – banana,

apple, pear, honey, aniseed, peach – distinct

from the fruitiness we get from hops. In some

beers the esters will be obvious, like in a

Hefeweizen with its banana ester aroma,

while in others they can be subtle, like the

faint fruitiness of a pale lager, but

there are esters in every beer,

and the yeast’s presence and

character defines each style. As

WORDS: Mark Dredge

Ben Landsberry, brewer at The Kernel, says: “It

would be weird if [esters] weren’t there. If you

took them away you’d be, like, something’s not

right.”

Scientifically “an ester is a flavour-active

chemical which is formed within a yeast cell by

the reaction of an alcohol and a fatty acid,” says

Andrew Paterson, Technical Sales Manager of

yeast supplier Lallemand.

As yeast is creating alcohol (ethanol as well

as higher alcohols) there are a lot of different

compounds moving around within the yeast

cell, including organic acids and different

enzymes. Those enzymes catalyse

reactions between alcohols and acids,

and new chemicals – or esters – are

formed. “There could be hundreds

of different esters in your beer but

maybe only a few are above their

flavour threshold,” says Paterson.

The genetic makeup of the particular

yeast strain, plus brewing processes

(fermentation temperatures, alcohol

strength, tank geometry), will

determine the ester profile in the beer.

Common esters include ethyl acetate

(lightly fruity, or solvent-like, found in most

beers), ethyl hexanoate (sweet apple, found in

English ale) and isoamyl acetate (the banana

aroma in Hefeweizen), while esters also “work

synergistically meaning they can interact

together and present as a new flavour,” says

Paterson. A banana ester plus sweet apple

together might smell something like creamy

stone fruit – it’s like mixing two colours to

create a new one.

It used to be that we only discussed esters

in relation to Hefeweizen or Belgian ales,

with their aromas all coming from the yeast,

but that’s changing, and the popularity of

New England-style IPAs means brewers are

deliberately trying to get lots of fruity esters

alongside the hops.

***

“My primary mission is to get a really fruity

yeast, really happy, and expressing esters as

much as it can,” says Boxcar’s Dickison. “Playing

with hops is a beer-by-beer ‘let’s see what these

hops do’ kind of thing… The hops come second

to esters.”

Using characterful yeast in hoppy

beers is a relatively recent shift for many

brewers: “People didn’t focus on [esters]

so much with West Coast IPAs as they’re

really low level,” and the hops cover over

the yeast aroma anyway, “but people

are focusing on esters a lot more now,

and realising that they’re arguably the

main flavour of beer.”

For his hazy modern IPAs, Dickison

is trying to great an ester profile of

“addictively delicious fruit”. Think Fruit Salad

sweets, peach, apple and vanilla. To get that he

uses a blend of different yeasts: “I like blends

because I feel like a lot of yeasts have some

aspects where I’d prefer less of one thing and

more of the other stuff. It’s interesting to see if

in a blend, flavours from another yeast can mask

some of the flavours you’re not so keen on.”

The yeasts in these New England-style IPAs

are all related to old English ale strains. We

might not associate a strong yeast aroma with

English ales, certainly not in comparison to hazy

IPAs, but “with subtle hops and background malt

flavours, the yeast is singing more than anything

else in [English ales],” says Dickison. In fact, for

many traditional British breweries the yeast

USING characterful

YEAST IN HOPPY BEERS IS A

RELATIVELY RECENT SHIFT

FOR MANY BREWERS

64 FERMENT MAGAZINE

FERMENT MAGAZINE 65


BEER SCHOOL: THE ESSENCE OF ESTERS

flavour is their trademark

character and any

similarities you might taste

between one brewery’s beers

is likely from the unique ester

profile of their house yeast

strain. Harvey’s is bruised

apple, Fuller’s is marmalade,

Timothy Taylor’s is stone

fruit and pear, even Guinness has

a strong berry ester flavour when

you drink it fresh.

Popular New England yeasts

include London Ale III and London Fog, and

over multiple generations and mutations,

with natural and scientific selection, and

manipulations in the brewhouse, the old

English ale yeasts transformed to give a much

more expansive range of aromas and flavours,

and that perfectly suits the shift towards

extremely fruity New England-style IPAs.

“I fell in love with [London Ale III] and

its slightly sweet vanilla notes,” says James

Heffron, co-founder and head brewer at

Verdant Brewing. Over time the yeast they

were using took on new characteristics specific

to Verdant and when they had the yeast

analysed they discovered “it had genetically

detached from London Ale III,” and had

become a slightly different strain.

Verdant’s IPAs are known for being very

aromatic and having a full, smooth texture to

them, and the esters are integral to that. “If

you’re making a New England-style beer then

you definitely want that yeast to be a part of

the drinking experience,” says Heffron. “The

yeast character we like is a lovely

soft creaminess. It seems weird

to describe an aroma as

creamy, but it is… It’s a

bit like vanilla custard,”

he says. The suggestively sweetsmelling

yeast mixes with the tropical,

citrus and stone fruit from the hops, giving

Verdant a “lovely melding of the yeast

character and the hop character, and a

sort of blurred line between the two.”

With the increasing popularity of this type

of beer, and specifically one with that perceived

creaminess, Verdant collaborated with

Lallemand to have their yeast commercially

available for brewers around the world.

“It produces loads of apricot and a really

nice vanilla ester,” says Jimmy Hatherley,

founder of Unity Brewing, who is now using

Lallemand’s Verdant IPA yeast (Hatherley also

likes that the yeast produces lots of glycerol,

a flavourless sugar alcohol, and that adds to

the silky mouthfeel). It’s got “lovely, fluffy, soft

flavours which compliment that juicy, hazy style

so nicely.”

Yeast character has always been fundamental

to Unity’s beers, but it wasn’t initially with IPAs

in mind: “The reason why I started brewing

New England-influenced IPAs in the first place

was coming from enjoying brewing Belgian

styles that focus on the yeast,” says Hatherley.

In a Belgian-style beer, “you have to build

the recipe thinking about the yeast,” says

Hatherley. Most Belgian ales are defined by

their ester profile, and aromas might include

pear, mild alcohol, banana, citrus, dried fruit,

ONE THING THAT MAKES ESTERS

STAND OUT IS THEY GENERALLY

taste nice, AND THEY’RE NOT

NORMALLY A DEFECT

stone fruit, aniseed and almond. Think about

a Belgian Blonde, Saison, Tripel or Quadrupel

and that aroma is all from the yeast; esters are

the flavour of Belgian beer.

With Belgian-inspired wild or sour beers

there’s even more yeast character. At The

Kernel, their Bière de Saison uses a mixed

culture fermentation. Saison ale yeast is

active at the beginning of fermentation, and

after a week the beer has a strong banana

ester aroma, “but you wouldn’t say there’s any

banana in the finished beer,” says brewer Ben

Landsberry, and that’s because of the wild

yeast brettanomyces. This starts working

later in the fermentation, and it works for

longer, and the brett is able to physically

break down the isoamyl acetate (the

banana ester) and turn it into something

different, as well as transforming

other esters into new compounds

(“all those things are still in there,

they're just tasting different to us

now; they are chemically a different

compound,” says Landsberry),

and giving some of its own

new esters, notably pineapple

and fermented tropical fruit.

Add dry hops or fruit into the

beer and there are even more compounds for

the yeast to biotransform, creating more new

aromas and flavours.

Brett beers are sometimes described as

having a ‘barnyard’ or ‘farmy’ character, and

these aromas are also from the yeast, but

they are not esters, they’re phenols. This is

relevant because during fermentation yeast is

producing a lot of flavour-active compounds

beyond the esters, and most of those are

considered to be off-flavours if in high volumes

or inappropriate to style, including higher

alcohol (solvent), phenols (clove), acetaldehyde

(apple), diacetyl (buttery) and sulphur (eggy,

vegetal).

“One thing that makes esters stand out

is they generally taste nice, and they’re not

normally a defect unless you have them

in really high quantities,” says Lallemand’s

Andrew Paterson, and while brewers can try

to manipulate their fermentation to draw out

more esters, they also have to manage

good fermentation techniques to get

good flavours and not bad ones. As

Unity’s Hatherley puts it: “If you get

a really nice healthy fermentation, your

beer tastes good.”

Every beer contains esters, whether

they are prominent or subtle. Where

malt gives beer bakery flavours

(bread, caramel, coffee), and hops

give fruit and herbs, yeast gives it

definition, it gives complexity and

form, and it turns something flat

into something three-dimensional.

Esters are the essence of every beer.

66 FERMENT MAGAZINE

FERMENT MAGAZINE 67


This month, Alex Paganelli offers

up some sweet Aussie treats

Lamingtons

PUT NEW LIFE INTO YOUR LAMMOS WITH THIS

LUXURIOUS TWIST OF A HOUSEHOLD FAVOURITE

INGREDIENTS:

For the sponge:

120g butter (I used soy), 200g caster sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla

extract, 3 eggs, 250g self-rising flour, 1 tbsp baking powder,

100ml milk (I used soy)

For the icing:

500g icing sugar, 40g cocoa powder, about 100ml of

boiling water

TO ASSEMBLE:

Cherry jam

Desiccated coconut

METHOD:

• Beat butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric whisk until

smooth

• Add eggs one at a time, so the batter doesn’t curdle

• Fold in the sifted flour and baking powder

• Pour batter into greased cake mould (I used mini bundt

cake mould)

• Bake at 200°C for about 20 minutes, if you’re using a

similar mould to mine

• Once cooked, unmould bundt cakes whilst they are hot

and place on a cooling rack

• Refrigerate for two hours before icing

PREPARE THE ICING:

(this should be done after the cakes have cooled)

• In a bowl place icing sugar and coco powder, whisk in the

boiling water until smooth

• The consistency shouldn’t be too thick or too runny

• Pour the glaze over the cooled cakes

• Roll cakes in desiccated coconut

TO SERVE:

• Reheat the jam and pour into the centre of the bundt cake


Pavlova

A QUICK, LOW MAINTENANCE AND CHOCOLATEY

TAKE ON AN AUSTRALIAN CLASSIC.

INGREDIENTS:

1 packet of devil’s food cake

1 Tin of condensed milk (I used coconut)

Salted caramel sauce: 200g sugar, 75g water, 90g butter

(I used soy), 50ml milk (I used soy here as well), pinch of

sea salt

TO ASSEMBLE:

Meringues

Handful of frozen raspberries

1 can of squirty cream (I used soy)

METHOD:

• Bake devil’s food cake according to instructions of pack

• I baked mine for 35 minutes at 170°C

Whilst the cake is baking

MAKE THE SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE:

• Add sugar and water to a pan and boil until golden

brown, off the heat add butter and milk, whisk until

smooth.

• Cool at room temperature until ready to use

• Once the cake is cooked prick all over with the end of

a wooden spoon and the pour coconut condensed milk

over it

• Let the cake absorb the condensed milk with the help of

a spatula if needed

• Once the condensed milk is absorbed repeat with salted

caramel sauce and refrigerate for two hours.

TO SERVE:

• Place one meringue on your desired serving plate and

spoon over a generous amount of devil’s food cake

• Top this with the squirty whipped cream

• Finish with a spoon of roughly blitzed frozen raspberries


COCKTAIL OF

THE MONTH:

THE BAMBOO

A

festive raid of the family drinks

cabinet has inevitably led us to

an old sherry-based favourite this

month, and one of the very few classic

cocktails that doesn’t have a spirit base.

The bamboo is mixed quite differently

depending on who is behind the bar

and your own personal taste, but is

fundamentally a blend of fino sherry,

vermouth and bitters.

The story of the Bamboo’s creation

are murky; its first mention in print dates

back to 1908, where it is credited to

German bartender Louis Eppinger, who

was then working at the Grand Hotel

in Yokohama, Japan. However, there is

evidence that Eppinger actually created

the cocktail (though perhaps gave it a

different name) while he was still working

in San Francisco, as early as 1886.

In terms of the recipe, we like to keep

it simple, classic and dry, though if this

is a little unbalanced to your palate,

try using equal parts dry and sweet

vermouth, or even adding a dash of

sugar syrup. Using two different kinds

of bitters may seem a bit finickity, but it

honestly makes a big difference, so we

would urge you not to cut this particular

corner.

THE BAMBOO

INGREDIENTS:

• 45ml Martini Extra Dry vermouth

• 45ml Fino sherry

• 2 dashes Angostura orange bitters

• 20 drops Angostura aromatic bitters

METHOD

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain

into a chilled glass. Garnish with a wee

twist of lemon peel.

72 FERMENT MAGAZINE


Everyone is drinking these beers this month

Everyone is drinking these beers this month

OLD MATE

Moon Dog Brewery

MELBOURNE

MELBOURNE

METAMORPHOSIS

KAIJU!

ABV: 5% Enjoy at 6°C

Style: Pale ale

ABV: 6.7% Enjoy at 8°C

Style: IPA

TASTING NOTES

Bloody Old Mate... Did you hear old mate

old mates old mate with old mate? Bloody

unreal. This pale ale has got a real tasty

clean maltiness with a peachy/citrusy

hoppy twang. Old Mate loves it. Enjoy!

MOON DOG BREWERY

Moon Dog Brewery is one of Australia’s

leading independent craft breweries.

Located in Melbourne, Moon Dog has

been crafting fun and delicious beers for

almost 10 years now. From classics like

Old Mate Pale Ale to imperial fruited

sours and barrel aged smokey stouts,

there’s not much we haven’t thrown

in a beer! In October 2019 we moved

our production facility to a huge new

12,000m2 site and launched Moon Dog

World, a must-visit 725 person venue

that features 72 taps, a lagoon, rainforest

walk and a huge indoor/outdoor area.

KAIJU!

Nat and Callum Reeves are the duo

behind KAIJU! Beer and Golden Axe

Cider. After releasing a Double IPA

back in 2013 that not only got a lot of

attention, but single handedly caused

a statewide shortage of Simcoe hops,

the brothers quickly established

themselves as the original hopmasters.

Since then, they have been very busy

growing the KAIJU! Beer range of

hop-driven beers, all made at the

brewery in Dandenong South, Victoria.

TASTING NOTES

Don’t be fooled by the nefarious aroma.

Quite a hefty malt profile, perfectly

balanced by refreshing hop bitterness.

THE HEART

Hop Nation

MELBOURNE

MELBOURNE

JUICY IPA

3 Ravens

ABV: 4.6% Enjoy at 6-9°C

Style: Pale ale

ABV: 6% Enjoy at 4-6°C

Style: NEIPA

TASTING NOTES

At the heart of our Footscray brewery

is most definitely this pale ale. Pouring a

golden straw colour with a lacing head, floral

and citrus hop aromas make for an inviting

and crisp take on this infamous style.

HOP NATION

Hop Nation craft brewery started as a

pipe dream of friends Sam Hambour

and Duncan Gibson. Our first brew,

THE FIEND IPA, was released

in May of 2015; and we've been

brewing in Footscray, Melbourne

ever since. We favour hop-forward

styles and experimenting with

quality ingredients. Our small

batch beers are made using quality,

natural ingredients with no fining or

pasteurisation and minimal filtration.

3 RAVENS

Established in 2003, 3 Ravens are pioneers

of Australian craft beer and Melbourne’s

oldest independent brewery. 3 Ravens love to

explore the world of flavour with innovation,

creativity and fun being the heart and soul

of everything they do. Their regular flock

of drinking beers are pale, hop forward and

sessionable and brewed for everyone to

enjoy, whilst experimenting with technique

and challenging traditional perceptions are

key components of their ever evolving array

of speciality beers. Here’s to passion, hard

work, good times and the 3 Ravens potion for

human happiness - great beer!

TASTING NOTES

An unfiltered IPA with low bitterness and

a smooth mouthfeel, combining protein

rich wheat and oats, fruity yeast and new

world hops to give the impression of

breakfast juice.


This month's light case selection

Switch to light case to get these beers

BEER CAN

Moon Dog Brewery

MELBOURNE

MELBOURNE

THE DAMNED

Hop Nation

ABV: 4.2% Enjoy at 5-7°C

Style: Tropical lager

TASTING NOTES

An extremely drinkable tinny

that's chock-full of tropical fruit

character. Light and refreshing,

it's perfect for merriment and

outdoor drinking with mates.

ABV: 4.8% Enjoy at 5-8°C

Style: Pilsner

TASTING NOTES

Crisp and refreshing, its Eastern

European styled Pilsner has been

crafted with all NZ hops – Riwaka

and Motueka hops highlight the

profile. Classic Pilsner character with

a distinct modern hoppy twist and

big citrus all around. The Damned

pours with a spectacular head.

KRUSH!

KAIJU!

MELBOURNE

EXCLUSIVE

NEW PALS

Gipsy Hill X Moon Dog Brewery

ABV: 4.7% Enjoy at 5-8°C

Style: Tropical pale ale

TASTING NOTES

A super-clean malt profile allows

the shipload of juicy tropical fruit

flavours to arrive on the desert

island of your palate unhindered.

And it comes in a can, so after

you Krush it, you can Krush it.

ABV: 4.5% Enjoy at 6°C

Style: Session IPA

TASTING NOTES

An exclusive collaboration brew inspired

by Simon, Gipsy Hill Employee #1 who

visited Moon Dog last year. Sessionable

Hazy Pale Ale, dry-hopped with a fist full

of new world Australian hops, Galaxy and

Vic Secret. Easy drinking, full-flavoured,

and tropical vibes.


This month's MIXED case selection

Switch to mixed case to get these beers

KARMA

Hop Nation

MELBOURNE

MELBOURNE

CTHLUHU ON THE MOON

KAIJU!

ABV: 5% Enjoy at 9-12°C

Style: Oatmeal stout

TASTING NOTES

Karma uses three uniquely-toasted

malts, alongside speciality oats

and roasted barley. The result is a

smooth, creamy mouthfeel and dark

hue—expect hints of chocolate,

coffee and a toasted profile.

ABV: 6.5% Enjoy at 8°C

Style: Black IPA

TASTING NOTES

A complex malt bill, yet refreshing

beer, delivers layers of roasty

flavours, coffee and panela, offset

by a herbaceous hop profile.

CAKE HOLE

Moon Dog Brewery

MELBOURNE

MELBOURNE

salted caramel shake

3 Ravens

ABV: 6.5% Enjoy at 8-12°C

Style: Black Forest stout

TASTING NOTES

How big do you reckon the biggest ever

Black Forest cake was? Well, it was pretty

freakin' big! Weighing 3,000kg and

packed full of sour cherries, cacao and

a whole lotta love... Just like this stout!

Imagine trying to fit that in ya cake hole!

ABV: 6% Enjoy at 8-10°C

Style: Salted caramel milkshake IPA

TASTING NOTES

An unconventional IPA with low

bitterness and a rich mouthfeel,

combining protein rich grains,

fruity yeast, Australian hops,

caramelised malts, salt, vanilla and

milk sugar for added creaminess

and a sweet finish. Just like a

caramel milkshake, only hoppy.


10 pack upgrade beers

12 pack upgrade beers

SPLICE OF HEAVEN

Moon Dog Brewery

MELBOURNE

MELBOURNE

DANK & BITTER

Boatrocker Brewers & Distillers

ABV: 6.5% Enjoy at 7°C

Style: Pine-lime ice cream IPA

TASTING NOTES

What do you get when you combine

Dave Dobbyn and a popular

Australian ice cream? A mildly witty

name for a beer... a beer that's all

about pineapple, creamy vanilla

and lime - and that's the bottom

lime - that makes us feel like there's

a warm Moon Dog shining over our

collective horizon. It's most certainly

a splice of heaven.

ABV: 6.1% Enjoy at 4-6°C

Style: West Coast IPA

BOATROCKER

Boatrocker Brewers & Distillers set

out to challenge the status quo back

in 2009. Founded by Matt & Andrea

Houghton, they started off selling beer

from the boot of their car, and from

the start of 2013, Boatrocker began

crafting beers in their little red shed in

Melbourne’s South East, always looking

to make delicious beers that are not your

normal tipple. In 2015, Boatrocker started

Australia’s first beer Barrelroom and

cellar door, home to nearly 300 barrels

of beer, from whisky barrel imperial

stouts to 3+ year old sour beers…

TASTING NOTES

Loaded with bold US hops, featuring Simcoe,

Centennial and Citra, this is a beer that is

unashamedly dank and bitter. Remember the good

ol’ days? Before smart phones and even smarter

people? This beer pays homage to the big, brash

West Coast IPA, with loads of hops all ‘round.

OUT TOO FAR

Sailor's Grave

ORBOST, VIC

MELBOURNE

SIR PLUM MCCARTNEY

Moon Dog Brewery

TASTING NOTES

A hazy pale brewed with wild foraged coastal salt

bush and brimming with Cashmere, Galaxy and El

Dorado Hops. Bright and juicy with a subtle marine

herbaceousness that balances the hop fruitiness.

ABV: 5.5% Enjoy at 5°C

Style: Hazy pale

SAILOR'S GRAVE

Sailors Grave Brewing is at its heart

a farmhouse brewery located on the

wilderness coast of Far East Gippsland.

Our beers are unique, sometimes

challenging but always with nuance &

subtle layers of complexity. We make

hand crafted, artisanal beers that

explore an ever changing selection of

styles with a diverse array of farmed

and foraged ingredients. Our beers

showcase the “terroir” of place and are

an expression of our area's agricultural

& maritime history and the pristine

wilderness that we call home.

ABV: 4.5% Enjoy at 8°C

Style: Plum sour ale

TASTING NOTES

Sir Plum McCartney is packed with six

metric tonnes of plum - that's heavier than

two African elephants! The flavour is short

and tart upfront and long and plum-y at

the back!


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