In amongst the native bushland of Barongarook lies a vineyard with sprawling viridescent vines. At the centre of this idyllic setting is the Prickly Moses brewery where Luke Scott is head brewer.
Otway Estate quietly started in 1981 with the planting of Pinot and Chardonnay vines. The idea to establish a brewery came after visiting a successful winery with a microbrewery in Western Australia. About five years ago a purpose-built brewery, café, and function centre was completed, making Otway Estate the first combined winery and brewery in Victoria. The brewery was given the name Prickly Moses after the local wattle (acacia farnesiana) that adds its cheery yellow colour to the surrounding bushland every spring.
To begin the brewing operation, the estate’s owners flew Rob Whitham, a home brewing family friend, over from Western Australia whenever a brew was required. However, it didn’t take long before they needed a full time brewer. As a result, Luke Scott was the new head brewer at Otway Estate only six months after opening. Luke had spent time working at various jobs, including Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in Australia and Meantime Brewing in the UK. He was working at Hunter Beer before moving back to Victoria.
Luke explained that the 12 hectolitre brewery is kept very busy with the recent explosion in craft beer. To cope with increasing demand, fermenter capacity has been doubled over the past five years. Around 4000 litres of beer is brewed every week, with about half being bottled.
Hamish Spalding takes care of the packaging two days per week. That is, when he’s not looking after the vineyard or making cider. Bottling is done by hand, but bottle labels are applied by machine. The next plant upgrade will include an automatic bottling line, but that’s still some time off.
On the day that I visited, Sam Fuss was busy brewing one of Luke’s beers. Otway Estate is one of the breweries that she has been using to brew her own Old Salt Sea Breeze ale. After brewing her own beer, she then spends a full day brewing for Luke.
The vineyard used to buy extra fruit to make enough wine to sell through distributors, but that has changed with the new focus on beer. Now they only make wine from their own vines and this is sold purely through the café and cellar door. The cider range is being expanded to two styles. The original is Forbidden Fruit; while the new Draught Cider is an organic French Norman dry style.
Prickly Moses chainSAW was a one-off brew that Luke made for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, but it has been so popular that they have now made it a regular. Half the malt is wheat to give it a dry finish and is described by the brewer as the “ultimate cleansing ale”. The Stella (Ella) hop gives this cloudy ale an enjoyable tropical pineapple aroma.
A favourite of mine is the Saison from the Prickly Moses Reserve range. It is warming and yeasty with low tartness. The malt flavours are there with a lot of orange and couple of cherries thrown in for good measure.
Their overall best seller is Summer Ale, which is a Kölsch. It is light in colour, malt, and hops to make it very sessionable. Red Ale is an Irish red that is lovely in colder weather. It is malty with a slight roasty flavour and a sweet finish. Otway Ale is a floral and spicy golden ale with a dry bitter finish.
Otway Estate and Prickly Moses is a beautiful place to visit with some great beers to match. They are open Thursday to Monday from 10am to 3pm (until 5pm for beer sales) and for dinner on Saturdays. The address is 10 Hoveys Road, Barongarook, VIC, 3249.
For more information visit their website or call 03 5233 8515.