It all began on an unassuming Saturday in May, May 28th to be exact. The Women of Beer’s Twitter in-boxes all contained the same intriguing message from the gregarious Sam Fuss, head brewer at True South Brewery. The message was simply… “I’m thinking a girl’s day at the brewery might be in order?! BREW!”.
From here followed a flurry of emails, tweets, Facebook posts and, exactly 8 weeks to the day from that original post, the Women of Beer and other great beery folk converged at the True South Brewery and began work on their Belgian style Tripel.
Now, a lot had happened in those 8 short weeks, many of the emails bouncing around our group of women were to do with what style of beer we would brew. The early consensus amongst the group was that it should be a style we all love; something special with hints of womanly sophistication. We all agreed that it was not to be a ‘girly beer’, with one of the group, who shall remain anonymous, stating, “It shouldn’t be too wussy, and as long as there’s no f#[email protected]*ng fruit in it, I’ll be happy.”
It was to be a substantial beer with great flavour characteristics, which was also a reflection of the styles of beers we all enjoyed. A spiced Belgian tripel with decent alcohol warmth was nominated, seconded and agreed very early in our discussion, with a multitude of spices offered up as suggestions. Finally we agreed on a concoction of cassia bark, native pepperberry, grains of paradise and cardamon to add lift to our tripel.
Brewers Jayne Lewis of Two Birds Brewing, Sam Fuss of True South Brewery and Aine O’Hora from Matilda Bay Brewing Co worked together to create the brew recipe, gather ingredients from our very generous sponsors and fundamentally organise the technical components of what was required to brew this beer. Meanwhile, excise discussions, marketing plans, discussions with charities (it’s not easy to give money away when there is an association with alcohol… McGrath Foundation are our partner charity for any profits from the sale of this beer) and the press release were all tasked to the less ‘technical’ ladies of the group being Karen Golding from Red Hill Brewery, Beth Williams of Hargreaves Hill Brewery and myself.
What had seemed to have come around extremely quickly, our brew day was suddenly upon us. An early morning breakfast consisting of sliced baguette, goat’s cheese and chorizo cooked over the open spit was feasted on whilst enjoying the views from the deck of True South Brewery (there may have been some sneaky breakfast beers enjoyed too), which provided the setting for the final meeting of the minds before the big event. From then on, it was all hands to the pump. There was 263 kilograms of malt that needed to be milled and mashed in, which according to our timetable, was at 9am precisely.
By around 10:30am, the very keen and wonderfully familiar beer crew started to trickle into the brewery to observe the six Women of Beer co-coordinating the transfer of the wort to the kettle, the hosing out of the mash tun (Beth, we never know you were so flexible) and the shovelling of the spent grain into many a garbage bin (of course this job was given to us non-brewers!).
It was wonderful to have so much support on the day with both men and women alike enjoying the spectacles taking place within the brewery (although, there were a few quiet (male) murmurings of “how many women does it take to…”). Where possible, any female spectators were invited into the brewery where they were able to enjoy the incredible aromas from the hops and spices and get up close and personal to the steaming brewing equipment. True South Assistant Brewer, Brian had been specifically briefed that the brew day was girls only, so he was fantastic at explaining what needed to be done whilst being very careful not to touch anything in case any boy’s germs were left behind!
The brand new, and never used in Australia before, Amaris and Strisselspalt hop varieties were chosen for our tripel and our good friend Tiffany Waldron added these to the kettle during the boil. The spices had us all a little worried when, after crushing them down, we were rinsing out the spice bowl and the water turned the most incredible and intense….pink! Bugger, we may have just made an unintentional pink ‘girly’ beer… Thankfully, when the spices were added and then samples taken for gravity reads, our beer was still gloriously amber, phew!
It had now been a while between meals and the enticing aromas wafting down from the deck upstairs signalled it was time for lunch. Two long communal tables laden with freshly baked rolls (each different shaped roll was baked using a different beer), brightly coloured salads and foil-wrapped baked rosemary potatoes greeted us all. Outside, chef Mauro, had been overseeing an entire lamb and a whole pig cooked over hot coals on spit roasts. Chunks of meat were piled onto platters and the feast began. It was stupendous to say the least, an amazing and memorable meal for all who participated!
Before long, it was back to business with more cleaning and yeast pitching to be completed before our beer was left to create its magic. Everyone headed off, tired but energised in the knowledge that we had done it… an all girl brew. It’s amazing what a group of women can do in 8 short weeks!
Our beer, which is still to be named, will be launched on the 26th October at Josie Bones. It will be packaged in 750ml bottles and wax-sealed (by hand, by us!) and will hopefully be the first of many. It’s wonderful to witness a growing love of beer amongst women and I think our favourite quote of the day was from a lovely man who came along to offer his support. “Women who don’t drink beer suck”. Contentious? Probably… but who cares!