West inspires the rest

Australia’s craft brewing industry owes much to the west. The comparatively large-scale success of Matilda Bay, and later Little Creatures, fanned widespread consumer interest in beers very different from mainstream styles.

Matilda Bay’s Redback popularised the highly distinctive flavours of wheat beer to a lager-quaffing nation. And Little Creatures spread the gospel of highly aromatic, late-hopped ale.

The fact that both operations sold out, or partly sold out, to Australia’s two big brewers, doesn’t diminish their contribution to our varied beer scene. Matilda Bay, now owned by Foster’s, continues to make distinctive brews and distribute them widely. And Little Creatures, partly owned by Lion Nathan (itself wholly owned by Japan’s Kirin), continues to excite with its compact range, still brewed at the orginal Fremantle site.

But the Western Australian brewing scene isn’t limited to these two larger operators.

There’s Gage Roads, partly owned by Woolworths, and nationally distributed. But perhaps more excitingly for tourists, there’s now a flourishing of small regional operators in Bridgetown, Bunbury, Capel, Donnybrook, Dunsborough, Fremantle, Ferguson Valley, Pemberton, Perth, Margaret River, Mindarie, Myalup, North Fremantle and the Swan Valley – note the crossover with wine producing regions.

We’ll report back on some of these brewers over the next few weeks as we visit tour the southwest.

Copyright © Chris Shananan 2010