Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Melbourne, Australia
Visited: March 2019
Beer is a big deal in Australia, and craft beer is no exception. The history of beer in Australia is an interesting tale, which I’ve summarized below; followed by some information on three top breweries to check out if you’re lucky enough to make it to Melbourne for a pint.
There is a lot of excellent craft brewing happening in Melbourne, Australia, and we were lucky enough to sample a good amount of it during a recent visit to this fine city. I don’t know that I could ever choose a favorite, but we did find a few brewers who certainly standout in this sea of talented beer makers.
The history of beer in Australia dates all the way back to the 18th century, when Captain James Cook mapped the shores of the eastern coastline. Aboard his ship, rotten water had been fermented into beer to keep those aboard from dying of thirst during the latter part of their journey.
On land, beer soon bypassed rum as the country’s favorite drink and has not waned in popularity since. This may not sound like that big of a deal, but keep in mind that rum was once in such high demand here that it was accepted as currency.
Early English colonialist favored ales, of course, but over time Australians developed a taste for lager, which continues to be the top selling and most popular style of beer in the country. Beer is still categorized based on ABV as full-strength (4.8% ABV), mid-strength (3.5% ABV) and light, or low-strength (2.7% ABV).
The craft beer boom has shaken things up a bit with creative and experimental brewing, and the introduction of American and other foreign styles of beer with higher ABVs. For example, an American IPA generally has an ABV of 5%-8%.
At the turn of the 20th century, the federal government passed the Beer and Excise Act, with the intent of regulating the making and selling of beer. The act was enforced just after a recession hit the nation, forcing most breweries out of business. Some smaller brewers were able to merge and save their businesses, while others were bought up by larger brewers.
Craft brewers have become leaders in the hospitality industry all over the world. Here is just one corner of the Stomping Grounds large and inviting space in Collingwood.
The roots of Australia’s craft beer scene seem to have sprouted during the 1970s, when mammoth breweries began buying up the little guys. Though sales of mass-produced brews did not suffer during this monopolization of the market, there were brewers who desired something more than traditional beers could offer. It was also during this era that The Campaign for Real Ale took off in the U.K. and craft brewing began to gain momentum in the states; Australia soon followed suit.
In the 1980s, a pub in Fremantle, Australia called Sail & Anchor opened a microbrewery inside its walls. This is considered by many to be the first of its kind in the country. Soon more microbrewers sprung up and were received so well that they were quickly bought out by larger beer companies. This created a lull in craft brewing momentum until names like Little Creatures and Mountain Goat came on the scene in the early 2000s. Since then an onslaught of confident, experienced brewers have come on the scene and made giant strides in the brewing world.
Here is a look at three of the many excellent breweries brewing brainstorms and happy chilled beer experiences in Melbourne today.
Guy Greenstone (pictured above) founded Stomping Ground along with Steve Jeffares and Justin Joiner.
Stomping Ground has quickly grown into a sizeable operation since opening in 2016, with a new location at the Melbourne airport and another location opening soon in Morris Moor development in Moorabbin. Founders Steve Jeffares, Guy Greenstone and Justin Joiner all have strong backgrounds in beer and hospitality, and it shows. The Collingwood taproom is on par with the finest I have been to. They have also incorporated sustainability into their daily operations. Stomping Grounds cans beer, uses solar power, collects rainwater for the plants and passes spent grain onto a farmer named Charlie to feed his cattle.
The bar is beautiful and welcoming, with lots of warm touches, like big booths, lots of natural light, and plenty of beer on tap to choose from. If you are on the fence about sours, Passion Smash is a great beer to test the waters. This passion fruit sour is more subtle than your average sour, so it won’t blow out your palate like stronger sours can.
If you are open to trying something a little more out of the ordinary, the Hanging Rauch packs the same smoke found in a nice scotch or mezcal, and if you like beer that reminds you of other delicious adult beverages, be sure to try the Brick Tower barley wine. Aged in shiraz barrels, this barley wine delivers a sweet bourbon-like finish.
Fans of IPAs, lagers, porters and just about any other style of beer have a long list of excellent choices at the Stomping Grounds taproom.
Where to visit Stomping Grounds
100 Gipps St, Collingwood VIC 3066, Australia
Visit the website for more locations
Bartender Anne Marie pours a nicely chilled sample of the Rye Sour Ale from Hop Nation's Site Fermentation Project.
Hop Nation’s Jedi Juice NEIPA, was the first of their creations to bring them a flood of attention, and this brewery has continued to deliver since. Sam Hambour and Duncan Gibson started brewing together in 2014, eventually opening the Hop Nation taproom in Footscray in 2016.
The brewery has been hard at work since the doors opened, and a lot of beer has poured from their 15 taps. Along with the tried and true favorites like The Damned (New Zealand hop) pilsner and The Chop IPA, there have been limited releases, small batch treats, and even a few collaborations, including Hop Nation & Akasha East/West IPAS.
With their roots in winemaking, Sam and Duncan have also launched the Site Fermentation Project, a successful experiment in mixed-fermentation brewing. Styles have varied in the Site Fermentation Project, with sours being particularly popular, including the Rye Sour Ale, Red Rabbit Sour, and Gewert Golden Sour.
Where to visit Hop Nation
6/107-109 Whitehall St, Footscray VIC 3011, Australia
The Mullet Sour series, just one of many creations from the creative mind of Moon Dog master brewer Adrian McNulty.
Moon Dog has been making beer for more than a decade. Imaginative concoctions flow from 10 taps at Moon Dog, where the indoor atmosphere is very much that of a mancave. There is some nice covered outdoor seating as well and with the brewery located just a few doors down, tours are available on Thursday and Saturday.
They do make traditional beers but seem relatively fearless when it comes to exploration or creativity. Moon Dog Lager, Old Mate Pale Ale, Mack Daddy Dark Ale, and Beer Can Tropical Lager make up what they refer to as their core range.
We were in not too long after they had launched a line of sours with named derived from some of the world’s most well-known mullets. Melon DeGeneres (watermelon sour), Billy Ray Citrus (citrus sour) and David Boysenbowie (boysenberry sour) to name a few.
Where to visit Moon Dog
17 Duke Street, Abbotsford VIC 3207
Free brewery tours Thursdays 7pm and Saturdays 2:30pm