Matilda Bay Brewing Company is celebrating its move to a new home in Port Melbourne with the release of a new beer and a bright future for their craft beer operation.
Last week a select group of print and social media writers, including the team from Australian Brews News, were treated to an exclusive tour of the new brewery along with lunch and plentiful helpings of the new Matilda Bay brew, I.G.P.
Described as an Australian cloudy ale, I.G.P stands for Itchy Green Pants, a common “occupational hazard” suffered by the brewers in their green work shorts as they sweat through the hot and heavy manual labour of brewing.
I.G.P continues the colourful naming trend of Matilda Bay beers, following on from the likes of Fat Yak, Dogbolter Beez Neez, Big Helga and Barking Duck.
A 30 IBU, sessional pale ale, which is likely to rouse comparisons with the popular Cooper’s Pale Ale, I.G.P is the first new beer to come out of the Port Melbourne location.
“The style is something that Neil (Whittorn) and I and the brewers spoke about doing for a while. It’s the kind of beer that we wanted to make for the new brewery”, explained head brewer, Scott Vincent.
“It uses everything we like, all Australian malts and Australian varieties of hops. We’re quite partial to our Bohemian Pilsner in that we like Saaz so we picked a Saazs hop in Australian Summer and we also used Australian Galaxy, which is a hop that we’re been wanting to use for a while.”
Filtered, with a yeast-back added on packaging, kegs of I.G.P will need to be flipped by venue operators to ensure the yeast is activated when the beer is tapped.
The yeast strain used in I.G.P is a personal favourite of Matilda Bay’s head brewer. Scott first acquired the strain from the culture collection at the former Tooth and Co’s Kent Brewery in Sydney, where he began his brewing career. He has since carried this yeast strain around with him and used it at breweries throughout the country.
The 4.7% abv is also a Scott Vincent signature brew spec.
“If anyone asks why I always make beers at 4.7%, it’s because I’m getting old and I can’t remember a lot of things, so I only make two styles of beer – 4.7% and the others,” laughed Scott.
There are no immediate plans to bottle I.G.P, with the draught beer to be tested on the market through selected venues first. The first kegs are expected to hit bars this week. If it finds favour with drinkers, a bottled version may be added to the Matilda Bay line up, the first that will need to be rolled before popping the lid.
“It’s a bit tongue in check,” noted Brand Manager Jamie Fox of the I.G.P name, “but the beer backs itself up and it will be a great entry beer into our portfolio of beers for a lot of consumers.”
The new Port Melbourne home of the Matilda Bay garage brewery will mark a fresh era of creative operation and promotion for the craft beer arm of Carlton United Brewers. With positive support recently provided by new owners, SABMiller, Matilda Bay now has a platform to share their full portfolio of brews and interact directly with Melbourne locals and visitors from all over.
The opportunity for consumers to directly connect with the brewery is something that has been missing from Matilda Bay since their move out of Fremantle during the 1990s. Following the rapid rise in craft beer brewery bars around Melbourne over the last decade, the type of venue and experience that the Port Melbourne brewery will offer is something that many craft beer fans have been itching for from Matilda Bay for a long time.
The 2,000 square metre warehouse located on Bertie Street, just outside of Melbourne city, comfortably accommodates the brewhouse formally installed at the Dandenong brewery along with a few new additions to the brewing systems. The isolated Dandenong facility, which had housed the Matilda Bay garage brewery since 2005, was closed to public access and had always been considered something of a temporary home by the brewers. Now in Port Melbourne, their brewery will have a custom built bar open to the public that will showcase the Matilda Bay brewery, beers and people.
The brewery bar will primarily be a sit down affair, with an initial capacity of 30-50 people. Visitors will be able to sample the full range of Matilda Bay beers, as well as some special releases over shared food and conversation with the brewers. Expected to be ready for the public by mid to late March, the opening hours are likely to be 9am to 7pm, with a later closing time on Friday nights and some weekend trade.
“We’re creating a cellar door experience”, explained Jamie Fox.
“We’ll open 6 days a week, you can come in and do a brewery tour, drink beers from the entire Matilda Bay range with some food, and buy some take-aways. We’ll probably play around with growlers down the track too. We also have a coffee machine and roaster that we’ll be playing around with.”
For beer lovers everywhere, the key attraction of the Port Melbourne bar will be opportunity to taste experimental and special brewery-only releases from the Matilda Bay team. Several taps will pour beers directly from the bright beer tanks, providing a unique way of experiencing Matilda Bay beers. The bar may also allow small batches our old favourites to return. Neil Whittorn hopes that the highly regarded Barking Duck saison will be one of the first back catalogue beers to be pouring for visitors to the brewery’s bar.
Managing the bar is Barney Matthews, a familiar face around the Melbourne beer scene. Barney has previously managed the bars at Beer De Luxe and the Belgian Beer Café and he is also a co-founder of Good Beer Week. Barney’s wealth of experience with serving beers across all styles from all over the globe will ensure that the brewery bar provides the optimum sensory experience for enjoying their beers in the right glassware and paired with good “easy” beer food.
It has been a long journey for Matilda Bay Brewing Company since their birth at the Sail and Anchor Hotel in Fremantle, Western Australia. The company has had many homes and several owners, but it is a rich history that they proudly declare. The employees may ultimately answer to the Fosters executives but the Port Melbourne brewery experience will help illuminate that there is still much heart and character in the Matilda Bay operation. Most importantly to the craft beer community, the brewers can once again connect with the drinkers.