A long time ago (relative to the current growth of Australia’s craft beer market), a galaxy hop, skip and jump away from Melbourne’s outer rim, Paul Holgate made the leap from humble but skilled home brewer to helping lead a rebellion against bland beer. That was back in 1999 when Paul established a commercial microbrewery, with his rebel base located in the family home’s shed at Woodend.
A hyperspace jump forward and Holgate Brewhouse has completed a millennium of brews. Dominated by Holgate’s popular core range of Pilsner, ESB, Temptress and the recently tweaked Mt Macedon Pale Ale, Holgate was producing a consistent yet forever evolving range of craft beers long before it was fashionable again. Along the way there have also been countless versions of speciality releases, from a Vienna Lager as red as the sunset sky on Tatooine, through to a pinot barrel aged quadrupel.
January 2013 marked the 1000th brew for Holgate Brewhouse. The brewery is now located in the their Wooden brewpub, a century old hotel previously known as Keatings/Commerical Hotel, which was acquired by the Holgate’s in 2002. After many more years of hard work and business gymnastics to secure investment, the brewery was recently up-sized with new tanks to keep up with production demands.
The inspiration for a beer to celebrate the milestone was initiated by a recent trip to the USA’s west coast for a beer conference, which included Paul and his Senior Brewer, American expat Ian Morgan.
Paul’s love of English style ales has shaped the malt-driven style of Holgate beers. When Ian joined the team in 2008 he brought with him a passion for America’s hoppy beers, which resulted in the introduction of Holgate’s Road Trip IPA. During their recent time in America, their enjoyment of the big hoppy American ales lead to a plan for crafting their own for batch #1000. It would be a one-off beer for the hop heads and Imperial IPA fans.
This week Holgate has released that beer, an American west coast inspired imperial India Pale Ale called ‘Millennium Falcon Emperical IPA’. The Star Wars pun draws from the beer’s status as the 1000th brew and the combination of hops that have been used: Millennium, Falconers Flight and Galaxy.
Along with the specifications of 10 per cent alcohol by volume and 100 International Bitterness Units (IBU), it’s hard think of a more appropriate beer to release for Holgate’s 1000 milestone.
The brewers aimed to keep the beer as pale as possible, which has been achieved. Millennium Falcon presents a rich but transparent pale amber appearance that defies the weight of its chewy body from the 100 IBU. Yes, this is a Wookiee of a beer, bold and chewy. This finely crafted big beer avoids the thick syrupiness that can detract from comparative beers of this style.
Millennium Falcon was launched in draught form at Village Melbourne last Friday afternoon and then at the Holgate Brewhouse on Monday. Tonight it’s Brisbane’s turn with a launch event at Archive in West End from 6:00pm. Kegs will soon be rolling out for tapping at other speciality beer venues from Melbourne to Brisbane.
The bottled version of Millennium Falcon also hits retail shelves this week and will sell for around $21. It is packaged in 500ml dark glass bottles from O-I’s Artisan beer bottle range, which the Holgate team uses for their high-end speciality releases, such as The Empress Imperial Mocha Porter.
“It’s a beer we recommend for sharing”, explained Ian Morgan.
The release also coincides with the re-release of Holgate’s ‘Hopinator’ American Double IPA, featuring a reworked recipe and now packaged in O-I’s regular 500ml craft beer bottle. Formally bottled in 330mls, all of Holgate’s seasonal beers are now released in 500ml, which they believe better suits the price point and drinking habits of their target market.
Ian explained that the majority of craft beer consumers tend to buy only one or two bottles of an individual beer, as opposed to a six pack or case of beers, whilst mix and matching with craft beers from other breweries. It’s a trend seen throughout the market as more brewers sell their special releases in either 4 packs or large bottles.
The new ‘Lando Kardashian’ from Moon Dog Brewing, a boozy 12% abv Belgian IPA (more reminiscent of a Belgian tripel with a upfront hop bitterness), has just been released in draught form around Melbourne. Lando Kardashian will be bottled in about three weeks time for distribution around Australia.
Also available in Australia’s craft beer bottle shops is ‘Wookiee IPA’, a collaboration between Denmark’s Amager Bryghus and Port Brewing in the USA. Wookiee is a 7.2% a American Westcoast IPA similar to Holgate’s Hopinator. I promise there’s not a Jar Jar Binks amongst these beers.