An important Australian brewing milestone was passed earlier this year, although it is impossible to say exactly when. Some time in 2014, the number of commercial breweries in operation throughout the country passed two hundred for the first time since the early twentieth century, that is, about one hundred years ago.
The present figure includes the several very large breweries owned by SAB Miller and Kirin and a few others such as Coopers, but is mostly made up of the very many small-scale outfits that have all arisen in the past thirty years.
Not included in this total, however, are most of the many dozens of brew-on-premises homebrew shops that are also in operation. I have included in my tally only the small number of BOP shops that seem to be at least as interested in making beer for sale to the general drinking public as in providing facilities for amateur brewers.
New South Wales
At the town of Tumut in the south of the state, the Tumut River Brewing Company commenced operations earlier this year, after obtaining a brewer’s licence in June. Owners Tim Martin and Simon Rossato launched with four beers (blonde, red ale, ginger beer, and ‘Aussie ale’) at the Royal Hotel, Tumut, on 12 July. They use a tiny 130-litre brewing system.
Since the opening in April this year of the Blackhorse Brewhouse at the Blackrock Brasserie at Sylvania, its owner has installed a second brewery in the nearby suburb of Kirrawee. The Kirrawee premises function as a warehouse and growler refill station, and the brewery there, a 200-litre Braumeister kit, supplements the main 12-hL brewery at Sylvania.
I was fortunate recently to be shown around the Sydney Cidery in the basement of Rydges Hotel at World Square in Sydney. Despite earlier advice that some beer brewing was being carried on at this site using the equipment recently removed from the Macquarie Hotel (see May 2014 Update), I am now able to state positively that this is a cider-making operation only, and that beer is not being brewed at the World Square site. Some bottling of beer made at the Lovedale Brewery is, however, being done at the cidery, although this will cease, I was told, when new bottling machinery at Lovedale comes into action soon.
After twenty years of operation, in September this year the Wig and Pen Tavern and Brewery closed its doors for the last time at its original premises at Canberra House in Civic. The brewing equipment was moved out early in that month ahead of the cessation of trading on Friday 12 September. At the time of writing, new premises are being prepared in the main School of Music building at the nearby Australian National University, and the tavern and brewery will reopen there shortly.
New in Victoria is Bandicoot Brewing (pictured), at the Murray River town of Echuca. Bandicoot Brewing is the creation of wife-and-husband team, Tracey and Bruce Green, of whom, unusually, Tracey is the brewing partner. The idea of starting the brewery emerged from Tracey’s success at a Bendigo homebrew competition in 2011; she won the major prize for an entry in the English Brown Ale style. Brewing was commenced last month (October), and Bandicoot launched with two beers, a blonde and a pale ale, at the Bendigo Craft Beer Festival on 15 November. Two more beers are planned for release towards next winter.
The making of beer returned recently to an historic former brewery building in Hobart. Captain Bligh’s Tasmanian Cider, which had been started in part of the old brewery in 2011, was taken over earlier this year by Stephen Brooks, and was immediately diversified into a brewing business. Brooks acquired a 500-litre Speidel Braumeister kit, and after obtaining an excise licence early in September, put down his first commercial batch of ale later that month. Captain Bligh’s Colonial Ale will launch with a range of several brews late in December at the Taste of Tasmania festival in Hobart.
The historic building, at the corner of Elizabeth and Warwick Streets, is an eminently suitable place for a new small brewery. It was built as the Tasmanian Brewery for George Adams at the beginning of the twentieth century, and was revived briefly in the late 1920s for Co-operative Breweries of Tasmania. Adjoining it was a brewery operated by William Punshon in the early 1850s, and which became James’s Tasmanian Pale Ale Brewery in the 1860s, and continued until the 1880s. Captain Bligh’s is presently the only brewery in Hobart, and is the first to operate in the city since the brewing equipment was removed from the St Ives Hotel at Battery Point in 2008.