The ongoing dispute in Western Australia between would-be microbrewery developer Murray Burton and Cullen Wines might suggest that the relationship between wineries and small breweries in Australia is an uneasy one. Cullen, which ferments its wines using wild yeasts, is seeking to stop Burton’s microbrewery on the grounds that escaped beer yeasts will contaminate its grape ferments. Normally, however, wine is made from cultured yeasts, so this sort of trouble usually won’t arise. Wineries, in fact, have become the happy homes of many new microbreweries during the 25-or-so years that the latter have been popping up around the country.
Among the earliest Australian microbrewery developments was the Clarendon Brewing Company which kicked off in 1985 at the Norman’s Winery at Clarendon in South Australia. Today there are about a dozen microbreweries operating in conjunction with wineries across the country, not to mention the many entirely separate breweries which operate within the various tourist-rich wine-making regions.
One of the many places today at which beer-brewing is carried on harmoniously with wine-making at the same site is the Hickinbotham Brewery at Dromana on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. The family-owned Hickinbotham Winery has been in operation for more than twenty years, but beer-making is a recent addition, the first Hix beers having been launched early in 2008.
Hix beers were initially produced using a 32-litre homebrew-style arrangement, but the brewery has expanded greatly since then. It currently has a 1200-litre mash tun, though only a 600-litre boiler, so two boils are required to make each batch of beer. The vineyard manager, Cameron Turner, doubles as the brewer. Turner was an adept homebrewer before applying for his job at the winery. Knowing of his future employer’s interest in making beer, he took samples of his homebrew to the interview, and is sure that these aided his cause. Andrew Hickinbotham subsequently gave Cameron the additional job of running the brewery.
Most Hix beer is sold at the winery through the on-site restaurant, dispensed directly from 800-litre tanks through fonts at the bar. There are four standards—namely pilsener, pale ale, brown ale, and Irish stout—and various seasonal brews. Bottling is a new initiative, and is done by hand, using 750mL wine bottles. Only the Pilsener (pictured) is available in this form at this stage, but it is intended to bottle other Hix styles in the future. If you can’t easily get to Dromana, a mail-order facility is available.
194 Nepean Highway,
Dromana, Vic., 3936
ph. 03 5981 0355
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