Capital Brewing Co launched in the Canberra market last April, selling kegged beer made in Sydney by their own American brewer, Wade Hurley. At the launch, Capital partner Tom Hertel announced plans to shift production to Canberra following construction of a brewery in Fyshwick, Canberra.
Though originally scheduled for opening in late 2016, the brewery is now likely to be commissioned by late May 2017, said Capital’s Nick Hislop during a site visit today. However, the consumer launch will likely be some months later as production settles and Canberra’s cold winter ends.
The pictures show Capital Brewing’s location and give a glimpse of what promises to be an outstanding new beer venue.
Canberra’s Capital Brewing Co launched into the Canberra market in April this year. Ex-San Diego brewer Wade Hurley produced the beers in a Sydney brewery.
At the launch, owners Tom Hertel and Laurence Kain of Hippo Bar and Rich and Sam Coombes of Batlow Cider Co, said they expect to build a Canberra brewery later in the year.
Seven months later, the promise looks set to become reality with the pouring of the first concrete slab scheduled for Tuesday 15 November 2016.
Director of brewing operations, Nick Hislop, said Capital’s brewery and bar areas would occupy half of an existing 2,000 square metre building in Dairy Road Fyshwick. The initial fitting is to include three uni-tanks and a bright tank, with combined production capacity of 24 hectolitres, plus bottling and keg-filling facilities and a public tasting area.
Hislop says the opening is scheduled for February-March 2017. At that stage the brewery will include a public sales and tasting area with trucked-in food. Later plans include a kitchen and two beer gardens.
Capital Brewing Co currently offers six beers in outlets around Canberra:
Coast Ale – an easy drinking ‘California common’ style
Trail Pale Ale – a hybrid, like a hopped-up English Pale Ale, using English yeast and Australian hops
Evil Eye IPA – An approachable 5.8%-alcohol IPA using Topaz hops
First Tracks Stout – uses chocolate wheat malt, includes Barrio Collective (Braddon ACT) whole roasted beans in the boil and cold-brew coffee post-ferment
Spring Board – A seasonal American-style wheat beer, with orange and coriander, with honey as an adjunct, all fermented dry and highly carbonated. Dry and orangey, not estery.
White Cockatoo – A collaboration with Marrickville’s The Grifter Brewing Co. A wheat IPA using American yeast, Australian ingredients and American techniques, including double dry hopping with Galaxy and Topaz varieties
BentSpoke Brewing Co yesterday unveiled its second brewery and a high-speed canning line, located in Mitchell, a Canberra industrial suburb.
Brewer Richard Watkins says the new facility has the potential to brew six million litres a year – equivalent to 666 thousand nine-litre slabs – making it by far Canberra’s biggest brewery.
Until an on-site bar opens in mid-2017, the brewery’s output will be devoted to cans and kegs for distribution around Canberra.
Since opening in mid 2014, BentSpoke’s original brewpub, located in inner city Braddon, has produced around 300,000 litres of beer across about 50 styles. The beers have all been served on site from tap.
However, the opening of the larger Mitchell brewery, with its canning and keg-filling capacity, puts BentSpoke into the highly competitive wholesale beer business. It will fight for tap and shelf space against both mainstream and craft brewers, including Canberra locals Zierholz, Pact Beer Co and Capital Brewing Co.
Watkins says local retailers are keen to support local brewers and by launch date on 3 November, 11 outlets had signed up. These included Plonk, Prohibition, Ainslie Cellars, Curtin Cellars, Jim Murphy Fyshwick and Airport, Page Bottle-O, and the Woolworths-owned BWS stores at Calwell, Franklin and Mawson.
For the launch, Watkins released canned versions of two popular BentSpoke brews. Mid-strength (4.2% alcohol) Barley Griffin Canberra Pale Ale offers ultra fresh flavour with distinctive hops filling the mid palate and giving a vigorous, lingering bitterness. It’s streets ahead of most mid-strength brews. Crankshaft IPA, at 5.8% alcohol, delivers opulent malty character, citrusy hops flavour and thrilling bitterness – a delicious version of this popular, characterful USA West-Coast style.
Both come in 375ml aluminium cans with a pull-tab that completely detaches as it opens almost the entire diameter of the can.
Before commissioning the new brewery, Watkinson hired former James Squire brewer Mick Rance. “He’s a great brewer”, says Watkins, “and he’s got the technical skill to use the canning equipment. We have very low oxygen levels in our beer, as low as the big brewers, which is a big achievement”.
Watkins believes cans offer several advantages over bottles: they’re impervious to light, they don’t smash, and they’re light. The rip-top version he selected gives a wide, round opening that allows the drinker to see and smell the beer – a notable improvement over other pull-tabs. However, the tab detaches completely, leaving a sharp-edged, 50-cent-sized circle of aluminium to dispose of.
That’s a retrograde step in my opinion, reminiscent of the first detachable rip-tops of the 1970s. Discarded tabs from beer and soft drinks littered the ground everywhere. Some people even swallowed them after they’d been dropped into cans. After medical, environmental and public outcries, businesses eventually replaced them with tabs that remained attached. While people are unlikely to swallow the large new tabs, the fact that they detach from the can creates a litter problem, and leaves a loose end on a technology that otherwise benefits the consumer.
Grape and grain have been mixed before – for example in Saltram Pepperjack Ale, where Barossa shiraz juice provides a sugar boost for the fermentation. But it came as a complete surprise in March when BentSpoke brewer Richard Watkins and Wily Trout winemaker Will Bruce fomented the idea of combining hops with sauvignon blanc.
Watkins was to provide fresh hop flowers (from Rostrevor Farm, Ovens River) while Bruce was to allocate a ton of sauvignon blanc. As the de-stemmed grapes stirred into a natural ferment, Watkins committed his rare and precious hops.
For four months, skins, wine and hops fermented then slept together, begetting the quirkiest, most pungent fusion imaginable. Due for release in the next few months, most likely on tap at BentSpoke, the (as-yet-unfinished, un-named) sauvy-beer tastes delicious and dry, with whiffs of passionfruit and a grapefruit-like, tartness and bitterness.
Watch the Wily Trout and Bentspoke websites for the release date and visit again for my tasting note .
Cider and beer reviews
Napoleone Apple Cider (Yarra Valley, Victoria) 330ml $3.65 The Napoleone family grow grapes and fruit for their Punt Road and Airlie Bank wines and Napoleone ciders. They make beer too. Their basic apple cider – a delicate, dry style – shows the crunchy freshness the real real apples it was made from. The family makes several other pear and apple ciders.
Halvouston IPA (Scotland) 330ml $5.30 Halvouston claims to have used American hops since the 1980s, long before the hegemony of the USA west coast’s uber-hoppy IPAs. And an impressive wee drop it is, too: opulently malty, with strong citrus-like hops flavours (from four west coast varieties) and potent, lingering hops bitterness.
In 1998, at the dawning of the craft beer boom, Adelaide-based Coopers launched its first strong vintage ale – a potent beer built for medium-term cellaring. It remained an on-again, off-again project for a few years, but since 2006 Coopers have produced the beer annually, with minor variations to the style.
The 2016 release combines rich maltiness and fruitiness derived from Cooper’s ale yeast, with an assertive hops affect. While the hops contribute aroma and flavour, their biggest impact, to my taste, is in an intense bitterness that harmonises with the sweet malt flavours.
The strong malt and hops input, together with an alcohol content of 7.5 per-cent and bottle conditioning gives vintage ale the ability to age for several years. We keep all of the past vintages at Schloss Shanahan. Though the oldest are fading now, we enjoy tasting the young, hoppy, bitter young beers alongside the mellow, malty older ones.
Cooper’s Extra Strong Vintage Ale 2016 375ml 6-pack $25 We occassionally compare older releases of Cooper’s Vintage ale from the Schloss Shanahan cellars with the current release. Invariably we taste and enjoy the gradual shift, over time, from hops dominance to mellow, sweet, maltiness. The just-released 2016 vintage (7.5 per cent alcohol), shows a harmony of opulent malt flavours and intense, lingering hops bitterness.
BentSpoke Brewery’s Cluster 18 tastes as rich, warm. and harmonious as it looks, despite having an alcohol content of 18%. We visited the Braddon, Canberra, brewpub on a cold winter morning, savoured every drop of our 200ml glass (prudently, that’s the only size available) and quizzed brewer Richard Watkins. How does he achieve such high alcohol content in a natural ferment?
My first encounter with a beer of this strength wasn’t so happy. About 20 years back, during the Australian International Beer Awards, we judged Samuel Adams Triple Bock, an epic beer: obsidian black, viscous and around 18% alcohol. It poured like syrup, had no bubble and smelled and tasted like Vegemite.
The brewers in our ranks marvelled at the technical achievement, but few enjoyed drinking such a strange beast. Some suggested spreading it on toast.
Watkins shared his brewing secret. Quite simple in principle. Taking the lead from the brewers of Tooheys Dry, he added enzymes to convert non-fermentable carbs to fermentable sugars. After that, he said, a normal ale yeast completed the job.
More remarkable than the technical achievement, however, is the creative genius that can visualise such a potent, velvety beer and deliver it so deliciously.
Flavouring beer with spawn of the devil
Tuber melanosporum (the black Périogord truffle) is now produced in commercial quantities in the high, cool country in Canberra’s vicinity. The black tuber’s ability to ripen underground in mid winter led to its banning by the church during the Middle Ages. Who else but Satan could’ve devised such a wickedly sensuous food?
Brewer Richard Watkins first added it to a beer infuser ( the hopinator) at his original haunt, Canberra’s Wig & Pen, but continued the practice when he set up BentSpoke brewpub in the Canberra suburb of Braddon.
The latest batch, weighing in at 8.2% alcohol and served only in 320ml glasses, leads off with malty flavours, strongly suffused with tart and citrus tang of tangelo. When tasted on 4 July, the chocolate, coffee bean and truffle remained in the background – though past experience suggests these earthier flavours will come through several days after the infusion is laid down.
Almanac Beer Company Pumpkin Sour (San Jose, California) 375ml $19.80 Pumpkin Sour occupies a different beer universe than VB or Budweiser. A brown ale made from a tag team of yeasts and other microbes, then matured in bourbon and wine barrels, it hits the palate with a mighty eight per-cent alcohol and startling tart, sweet, sour flavours.
Founders Brewing Centennial IPA (Grand Rapids, Michigan) 355ml $4.70 The story of modern American India Pale Ale (IPA) is one of hops, hops and more hops, with sufficent sweet malt to absorb all that hoppy flavour and bitterness. The beers are best fresh and young as this one is – a fine example of opulent, luscious malt flavours balancing the delicious malt assault.
June 21 marked a black day for the Wig and Pen, Canberra’s oldest brewpub. “We’re launching a huge dark fest, featuring 10 dark beers”, says brewer Frazer Brown.
The exotic line up of malty winter warmers comprises four existing Wig and Pen favourites and six new brews, including a Pact and Pen collaborative porter.
Black beers signify sweet, malty richness, strong roasted-grain flavours – reminiscent of coffee, caramel and chocolate – and often accompanied by an elevated, warming alcohol content.
The line up includes traditional porter and stout styles, ranging from a thunder-in-the-brain Russian Imperial Stout (8.9 per cent alcohol) to a gentle, milk-coffee and chocolate-like London Porter (5.9 per cent). More exotic creations are Elephunk, a fusion between brown ale and IPA, and Bricks and Porter, a smoky Belgian porter style.
The Wig will offer all 10 beers for the first few days of Dark Fest, then a rotating set of five in the following weeks.
Brewcult Gingerbread Maniac 330ml (Derrimut, Victoria) $8 Keeping with today’s dark and warming theme, Brewcult offers something sweet, spicy and alcoholic (eight per cent). Cinnamon and vanilla join ginger in the brew, but ginger dominates the aroma and sweet, tangy palate. It finishes fresh and clean, with an aftertaste of dark chocolate and ginger.
Pact Beer Co Brickworks Brown Ale (Canberra) 330ml 6-pack $25 Pact’s new release could easily pass as a porter or stout with its deep brown-black colour and rich, warming aroma. The palate combines the chocolate- and coffee-bean-like flavours of roasted grain, cut with pleasantly tart and tangy hops, which give a fresh, clean dryness to the finish.
Canberra, look out for a slew of new winter beers from our local breweries.
One of the beers is an election special from Pact Beer Co – it surely had to happen and it could only happen in Canberra. Brewer Kevin Hingston created this beer just for the election and called it the Double Dissolution Disillusion Double Bitter. Try saying that quickly 10 times after a few pints.
In a pun filled email, Hingston writes, “We put the Double Dissolution Disillusion Double Bitter down today. It’s an English style double bitter – a labor of love with a liberal amount of green hops.”
The best bit? “We are calling it a double bitter, but that’s just an empty election promise – it’s actually a normal strength one,” Hingston says.
The election beer isn’t the only thing that Pact is putting out this winter. It will join the Brickworks, an American brown ale style which is being relaunched for the Canberra winter.
And you can also look out for three intriguing new beers at microbrewery BentSpoke in Braddon. Ever-inventive master brewer Richard Watkins has tapped several extraordinary winter beers ready for BentSpoke’s second birthday which is being celebrated this month.
Who needs wine when you can enjoy Cluster 18, an 18 per cent alcohol sextuplet IPA. Or grab a balloon of the Descent 16 – a 16 per cent alcohol imperial stout. These are beers with a flourish.
But if you’d like something a little more comforting and traditionally wintry, don’t despair. For less adventurous palates, Watkins has created Hot Off the Press, a hot, mulled, spiced cider.
Ask a committee for a horse and you get a camel. But what happens when you ask a committee of brewers for a special beer?
The delicious answer is Saison a Trois, a one-off variant on the French farmhouse ale style. Released for the Australian International Beer Awards in May, it was brewed collaboratively by the winners of the small, medium and large brewery categories of last year’s competition.
Chris Willcock (4 Pines Brewing Co), Matt Houghton (Boatrocker Brewing Co) and Marcus Cox (Thunder Road Brewing Company) set to work on 29 February to create the dark, malty, 6.5-per-cent-alcohol ale.
Despite the dark colour and high alcohol content, it remains light and refreshing, with a very clean, fresh aftertaste. Though it was consumed at the AIBA dinner and following GABS festival, organisers might consider offering next year’s collaborative brew to a wider audience.
Orkney Brewery Skull Splitter (Scotland) 330ml $7.50
Orkney’s “wee heavy” delivers the dessert-like richness of traditional, strong Scottish ale. Forget about hops and bitterness. This is all about rich, sweet malt flavours – including caramel- and –molasses-like characters – combined with a heady 8.5 per cent alcohol. It’s a delicious, harmonious, winter warmer – in fact, far from skull splitting.
Stone and Wood Stone Beer 2016 500ml $10 Each year Byron Bay’s Stone and Wood makes a stone beer by adding hot stones to the kettle. This intensifies malt flavours, partly through caramelisation caused by the heat. This year’s brew pours black as stout, with warming coffee- and chocolate-like aromas, sweet, malty palate and dry finish, with a pleasing espresso-like bitterness.