A Margaret River winemaker once told me he would constantly see people sitting in their cars consulting their Ray Jordan wine guide before walking through his cellar door. These days I keep an eye out for folks with a twinkle in their eye and a copy of the Beer Lover’s Guide to Australia.
Western Australia’s south-west is home to more than half a dozen award winning microbreweries and this year saw the launch of the South West Craft Beer Festival and plans are afoot for next year’s already. It appears that a passion for craft beer has stolen the heart of the Margaret River Wine Region.
One of the breweries working to spread the love is the Eagle Bay Brewing Company.
The Eagle Bay Brewing Company is owned and operated by the E’speissis siblings, Nick, Astrid and Adrian, and located on their family farm. When they say they are a “family business” it isn’t merely a smart marketing platform; Astrid and Adrian handle operations and the venue whilst Nick brews the beer.
Nick brings with him a decade’s worth of brewing experience with various Australian brewers such as Gage Roads and 4Pines and the five regular beers on the Eagle Bay line are testament to his abilities. A pale ale heads up the list, with a Vienna lager, Kolsch, mild ale and extra special bitter filling out the core range. One tap at the brewery is reserved for their single batch; a seasonal limited release of only 800 litres and, more often than not, it’s the only tap where you’ll find their special brew.
I was fortunate enough to visit Eagle Bay just before their recent American brown ale tank ran dry and the next single batch, a cacao stout, was just about ready. Timing really is everything.
Just to be a tease, and since it’s no longer available, I’m happy to report the American brown ale was dark and delicious. It was developed due to a friend of the brewers’ who expressed an interest in brewing. Nick encouraged her to choose a style and together they brewed the American brown ale using imported US Cascade and Zyphos hops. The result was a 5.6% abv ale with soft biscuity and nutty flavours, hints of toffee and a refreshing zip of hops.
The newly released batch, the cacao stout, represents a collaborative brew between Eagle Bay and Bahen & Co Chocolate, a local Margaret River company dedicated to making chocolate the old fashioned way. Josh Bahen from Bahen & Co Chocolate thought there could be potential in using cacao husks, a by-product of the chocolate making process, in a beer. Josh approached Nick with the idea for a chocolate stout and Nick couldn’t resist. If you’ve tasted Bahen & Co’s chocolate you’d understand why; it’s a loving slap of rich chocolate that displays the unique flavours of the cacao beans Josh brings in from all over the world.
The Eagle Bay Cacao Stout uses 60% Brazilian cacao husks and 40% Madagascan cacao husks thrown directly into the mash and the result showcases a beautiful balance of flavours. Rich dark fruits, hints of citrus and coffee reach out to you through lush chocolate and you soon realise you’ve fallen in love with another beer.
Not bad for a beer that is inspired by what is technically a waste product!
This limited release brew brings together two family owned businesses who pride themselves on supporting their local community and producing quality products in an environmentally friendly way. Falling honorably short of putting an end to world hunger, it’s a collaboration that makes you feel warm and fuzzy in both its background and the beer itself. It’s heart warming fruity notes, spices and, of course, rich chocolate is all in perfect balance and just begs for a second glass. Josh Bahen was even there on brewing day to help Nick – not that persuading someone into a brewery is a difficult task!
The Eagle Bay Cacao Stout has only just started pouring but plans for the next single batch have already started. Beer lovers can look forward to another collaboration but this time with The Pourhouse, a local craft beer loving venue that often showcases both local and international favourites. Keep an eagle eye (sorry, pun-tastic, I couldn’t resist!) out for the Eagle Bay/The Pourhouse Saison.
Along with planning for the popular single batch releases, the Eagle Bay team are also busy preparing to release their Kolsch and pale ale in 330ml brown bottles. The shape and label design have been approved, now it’s up to Nick to install the bottling line and start filling bottles. If we’ve all been very good we should see Eagle Bay 6 packs in beer loving bottle shops before Christmas, a present all craft beer lovers should look out for!
Here’s hoping for a few more happy beer drinkers heading down to the South West and leaving their Ray Jordan wine guides behind.