Wandering the inner-sanctum of some of Melbourne’s finest microbreweries, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in an episode of AMC's critically acclaimed series Breaking Bad, albeit with a more socially responsible agenda in mind. There’s stainless steel everywhere and gatherings of vast tanks, vaults, kettles and automatic production lines.
An extended wooden bar lined with 30 taps sits at Thunder Road Brewing Company, while Kooinda Boutique Brewery currently uses a production line apparatus once belonging to Mountain Goat, arguably the microbrewery forefathers of the early 90s alongside Grand Ridge Brewery in Mirboo North, West Gippsland.
No additives, no preservatives, no chemicals – that’s the motto at Thunder Road, Kooinda and other craft breweries such as The 3 Ravens Brewing Company and Hawthorn Brewing Company.
“Our beer is as close to natural as you can possibly get,” says Kooinda head brewer Jamie Cox as we wander around the Heidelberg West operating plant he runs with partner Mick Opie.
All microbreweries follow a similar, daily routine of fermenting the freshest available hops, barley and yeast in 800–1200 litre batches for a week, or weeks on end. Gravity readings are taken and time is spent ‘crashing’ the mix to drop the yeast out of suspension.
Dextrose blends are prepared, the gargantuan kettle is cleaned and the beer is mixed on through. Then they bottle, label and send it around town, and we go about consuming vast quantities of these miraculous beers at some of Melbourne’s leading watering holes.
Then it’s time for trial batches, tweaks, and a general striving for perfection. From all reports, supply and demand is currently sky-high. “It’s pretty out of control,” says Cox.
“We’ve sold out of Kooinda American Pale Ale at the moment, having just sent three pallets, or 238 slabs, up to the Toowoomba Flower Show…they drank that in 18 hours!”
Aside from Kooinda’s famed citrusy, caramel-esque traditional American Pale Ale, their coriander and sweet orange peel flavoured Belgian Witbier, Black IPA and Valhalla Golden Ale are of equal quality.
Currently brewing 800 litres of handcrafted beer, Kooinda beverages can be found at Penny Blue, Riverland, Biero and The Raccoon Club in Preston. They also distribute to the wider regions of Australia, and internationally, with 1100 litres recently exported to Malaysia.
With counter sales direct to the public on the cards, Kooinda will also soon be able to serve alcohol on the premises from an operational bar that will cater for after work drinks and small events.
You can catch up with the Kooinda lads when they next put on one of their Saturday Session: Lunch with Kooinda Boutique Brewery days. Check the website or their Facebook page for updates and additional events.
Thunder Road may be the 1958 film starring Robert Mitchum – and the track that opens Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 definitive record Born To Run – but the Thunder Road Brewing Company has built its name on the back of the 1860’s Australian brewery, Thunder and Co and is a Victorian heritage loving Brunswick-based brewhouse.
From collectables, photo gallery prints and literature on the untold story of Victorian microbrewing, Trades and Events team member Justin Trail leads Broadsheet through the brewery’s bluestone cottage that houses Thunder Road founder and Australian and American craft beer historian Philip Withers’ many obsessions.
“Effectively people can book the space and become a part of it and research or purchase brewing books,” he says. “The ‘Dining Room’ can be booked out for meetings, beer and food tastings too.”
Dedicated to supplying the public with superlative liquids, Thunder Road employ US native Mark ‘Harvey’ Kenney, a qualified scientist and biochemist with a Master Brewing Certificate from UC Davis, California’s preeminent public research university.
‘Harvey’ and the “lady in the white coat” whom the plant’s Assistant Brewer, Marcus Cox [former Head Brewer at 3 Ravens] playfully points out, spend considerable time analysing the yield in the plant's custom-built laboratory.
“We put consistent mechanisms in place for testing the beer’s quality and so ‘Harvey’ and our quality officer undertake microbiological assessments right here,” Cox explains.
Rather than being “farmed out to a third-party”, this in-house testing procedure is one of many aspects that underpin Thunder Road’s rigorously professional approach.
With all the ingredients sourced locally and from around Victoria, Thunder Road stock their beer at Beer Deluxe, Cookie, the Cherry Tree Hotel in Richmond, Terminus in Clifton Hill and St Kilda’s Newmarket Hotel, to name a handful.
Along with their recent State Of Design presence and Federation Square Victorian Microbreweries Showcase (which unearthed Thunder Road Brewing Company’s delectable Full Steam Pale Lager), the team are currently brewing Brunswick Bitter.
This particular tipple was officially launched to the public yesterday (Sunday October 30) as part of the Thunder Road Family Day. Meanwhile, Hawthorn Brewing Co is once again sponsoring the Anglicare Victoria event ‘Dinner with the Angels’ on Tuesday November 22. To book a seat, simply hit the link.
3 Ravens Brewery
1 Theobald Street, (corner Matisi Street) Thornbury
(03) 9495 1026