Lee Freedman and his three brothers have trained some of the greatest horses in Australian history: Subzero, Doriemus, Makybe Diva, Mummify. Until 2014, the family was based at Markdel, a 37-hectare site near Gunnamatta on the Mornington Peninsula.
Visit now and you’ll find hops, not horses. The property has been operating as St Andrews Beach Brewery since just before Christmas. There are six investors, including Michael Freedman, jockey Tommy Berry and cricketer David Warner. But the project really belongs to Andrew Purchase, who also built the original training track for the Freedmans in 2001.
“They’ve been good mates ever since,” says his son Tim Purchase, the brewery’s business development manager. “He saw the potential for what could be here, because he already knew what the infrastructure was.”
A lot of horse boxes, naturally. Sixteen of them have been converted into private booths named after champions (bookings essential) that flank the big, kid-friendly courtyard at the entrance. Keep going and you’ll reach the high-ceilinged bar and glassed-in brewhouse. The 180-patron space feels a little corporate, but when it’s full of happy drinkers you’ll barely notice.
Behind this main building, the former 1200-metre training track has been turned into an orchard with 8000 apple and pear trees. The team plans to make cider in four years’ time, once the trees start fruiting. It’s an elegant solution to local council requirements.
“It [the property] is considered a green wedge,” Tim says. “In five years’ time, 50 per cent of what we produce has to come from the property.”
A substantial kitchen garden packs tomatoes, carrots, radish, corn and herbs. There’s also a hectare of cluster hops, an old varietal that’s fallen out of favour in the rush for bolder strains such as Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic and Amarillo. When the hops flower in March they’ll be used in the 25-hectolitre brewhouse.
Right now it’s producing just four beers: a lager, pilsner, golden ale and pale ale. All were devised by Dermot O’Donnell, a master brewer who started his career in 1967 and later worked at Tooheys, CUB and Asahi, where he created the Cricketers Arms range.
Like Cricketers Arms, this initial group won’t excite routine beer drinkers. “The way he [O’Donnell] phrases it is ‘gateway craft’,” Tim says. “The main thing we wanted was for all our beers to be sessionable, so you can come down, have two or three and not get sick of them.”
A sessionable IPA will join the line-up next. Then a bigger IPA, a stout and whatever seasonals and one-offs O’Donnell and head brewer Matt Stitt feel like making.
Chef Jeff Young (ex-The Pantry in Brighton) oversees a broad menu of seafood, salads, pizzas and burgers. Beer food, for the most part. Grab an outdoor table, order a bunch of stuff and take in the salty air.
St Andrews Beach Brewery
160 Sandy Road, Fingal
(03) 5988 6854
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