Last Wednesday and Thursday saw yet another successful Victorian Microbrew Showcase being held in The Atrium of Melbourne’s Fed Square.
The bi-annual event, supported by the Victorian Association of Microbreweries Inc and Regional Development Victoria, is into its fourth year and, judging by the crowd numbers, continues to appeal to Victoria’s beer drinkers.
Beer lovers were able to sample the wares from more than 20 breweries and beer companies, with interest particularly keen in the products of two of Victoria’s newest producers.
Thunder Road Brewing Co has been one of the most anticipated arrivals in recent memory. Talk of a high tech new brewery in the inner Melbourne suburb of Brunswick East, the hiring of Marcus Cox from the well-respected 3 Ravens and the arrival of an American head brewer has ensured that speculation has been rife about what to expect from this start up.
And has that speculation been put to rest? Well, not really. What do we know? Firstly, that their debut release will be a pale lager, the Full Steam. A version of this was being poured at the showcase but, as the new brewery is not yet up and running, this batch was brewed on equipment at the University of Ballarat. The brew sits in similar territory to Stone & Wood’s pale lager and was well received by the thirsty crowd.
We also no know the name of the American brewer has a name – Mark ‘Harvey’ Kenney, but not much else.
Finally, there must some money in their marketing budget. Branded shirts seemed to be everywhere including, in what is quite possibly a first for an Australian microbrewery, on the backs of a bevy of attractive young ladies. These guys are definitely playing with a different rule-book. We should find out all in the new year. A commercial release is slated for March.
At the other end of the brewing spectrum is Dan Cunningham from Beacon Brewing, the Showcase’s other debutant. In his first foray into professional brewing Dan has recently taken over the lease for the brewery at Geelong’s Scottish Chief’s Tavern.
Having drawn one of the dreaded ‘sunny’ stalls at the showcase, Dan was keeping up the good humour while pouring two beers and doing his best to avoid sun-stroke. His two offerings were a 3.9% bitter ale and, in a co-production with Geelong coffee roaster Coffee Cartel, a coffee-infused version of the same beer. While it’s usual for coffee infused beers to be dark this one worked well regardless.
Dan’s beers are currently only available on tap in a few venues around Geelong.
While Thunder Road and Beacon may have been the new kids on the block there were plenty of other interesting offerings to keep the punters asking for more. Two quite different, but excellent, IPAs could be found at opposite ends of The Atrium. The Bridge Road Brewers team unveiled their subtle 2010 Galaxy IPA while up at the Holgate Brewhouse stand, their hop bomb Road Trip IPA was assaulting drinker’s palates with its huge American hop profile.
Across the way at the Matilda Bay stand the team were battling their draught system to dispense unfiltered versions of the Alpha Pale Ale and Dogbolter Dark Lager. And when we say unfiltered we mean spitting out chunks of hop pellet from the Alpha. A good indication of how brewers do tasting in the brewery we suppose.
Also on the ‘sneaky pour’ was a special stout. Brewed especially for the upcoming Australian National Homebrewers Conference, head brewer Scott Vincent said there is some chance we may see it in a wider release in the future. Fingers crossed on that one.
Other interesting offerings around the traps included Mountain Goat’s odds and sods brew called Bubble and Squeak and its Double Hightail, 2 Brothers The Chief marzen and James Brown Belgian strong ale, 3 Ravens delicious Rye and a triple choc porter from Mildura Brewery.
In other news, Scott Brandon from Bright Brewery showed us the flash designs for their 5 litre kegs (Why aren’t more breweries doing this?) and the good folk from the Tooborac Hotel and Brewery gave us a sneak peak at the labelling for their upcoming packaged product. It looks good.
There were some noticeable absentees from the Showcase this time around, Red Duck and Hargreaves Hill among them, but hopefully they will be back on board for March. Perhaps we will also see Mornington Peninsula Brewery make its debut appearance and maybe the newly breweried Temple?
And here are the winners from the People’s Choice Awards fresh off the wires:
Continuing Australia’s recent tradition of close elections, the the Best Brewery vote resulted in a tie between White Rabbit and Holgate, with Arctic Fox very close behind.
Best Wheat Beer: White Rabbit White Ale
Best Lager: Mildura Brewery Desert Premium Lager
Best Pale Ale: Hawthorn Brewing Premium Pale Ale
Best Dark Ale: Holgate Brewhouse Temptress
Best Stout: Grand Ridge Brewery Hatlifter Stout
Best Belgian: 2 Brothers Brewery James Brown Brown Ale
Best other/specialty: Southern Bay Brewing Co The Ranga Premium Red Ale
Australian Brews News is made possible through the generous support of: