The beer scene is alive and well in Australia, and a renewed focus on the finer aspects of brewing and new players was in vogue at the Winterlude Ballarat Beer Festival.
While traditional beer companies such as Carlton United struggle with industrial unrest and a decline in their sales, smaller up-and-coming companies are looking for ways to increase their output as aficionados sample their wares.
The winter version of the Ballarat Beer festival saw well over a dozen brewers from across the eastern states set up their beer taps and chilled kegs in the Mining Exchange to allow keen Ballarat punters to brave the cold and try a brew or two. Or three.
Beers such as ‘Golden Stout Time’ (tastes like a Golden Gaytime icecream, but in beer) and ‘Peated Scotch Ale’ (a beer with hints of Highland whiskey) proved highly popular with the crowds attending.
Ballarat Beer Festival director Ric Dexter says the concentration on bringing flavour to the fore in craft beers, and the lack of chemical taint, means the bespoke brewing realm has found favour with people tired of the ‘stock, standard consistent flavour’ of the corporate beer manufacturers.
“Basically they've got three ingredients: water, hops and malt. That’s what makes a beer,” says Mr Dexter.
“The craft brewers go for different flavours … different hops in one beer to another – richness, or a biscuity flavour, or caramels.”
For Craig Basford, from Adelaide’s Big Shed Brewing, a hobby in making home-brew was the catalyst for starting a business that’s been running for more than two years.
“Jason (Harris, business partner) and I had a good idea that got out of hand,” says Mr Basford. “We didn’t want to die wondering. We said we’d have a go – and here we are.”
Ballarat’s Athletic Club Brewery is based on Mair Street. Jack Perry says they are a community-based brewery. “We’re hoping to attract home-brewers from the Ballarat region to come down to try beers and spruik up their own recipes as well. They can come down and brew their own beers on the premises. We can bottle their brew, can it, keg it,” he said.
“We have our own taproom, and a restaurant next door to complement the beer.”
However you drink it: lager, ale, porter stout or pilsener, beer is looking good in Ballarat into the future.