Bootleg Brewery — a Margaret River original

Margaret River’s Bootleg Brewery (the oldest of six in the area) bills itself as “an oasis of beer in a desert of wine”. And like the local wineries, it’s set in the magnificent bush landscape, offering its products in a distinctly cellar-door setting.

Brewer Michael Brookes says the bit he loves about his job is introducing people to “different styles of beer in a beautiful environment” – in this case a tame patch in the scrub, complete with lake, offering a tasting tray ($12) or individual beers brewed on site, and food served inside or on the lawns sprawling between the brew house and lake.

Thomas Reynolds founded Bootleg in 1994 and Brookes took over brewing in 1998. The beers win medals consistently, and on the day we visit the entire range seems exciting – Sou ‘West Wheat, Hefe Wheat, Tom’s Amber Ale, Wils Pils, Settlers Pale Ale, Moses Extra Special Bitter and Raging Bull.

While they’ll never taste better than they do on site (Bootleg’s a must-visit if you’re in Margaret River), the packaged versions now make their way to the east coast, including Canberra, under a new distribution arrangement with Australian Boutique Beverages.

Bootleg Brewery Sou’West Wheat 6-pack $19.50

You might call this the spaetlese riesling of beers – a delicate, ultra-fresh ale featuring the subtlety and zesty acidity of wheat and herbal and floral high notes (but not the bitterness) of Hersbrucker and Willamette hops. A gentle kiss of residual sugar sits well with the beer’s acidity and herbal hops.

Bootleg Brewery Raging Bull 6-pack $22

It’s dark and alcoholic (7.1 per cent), but the alcohol doesn’t intrude on the luxuriously malty, coffee-like flavour and smooth, verging on syrup-rich, palate. Pride of Ringwood hops offset the great richness and sweetness of the palate to some extent – perhaps explaining why the finish is so sweet, but not at all cloying.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010