No longer just the domain of hobbyists and home brewers, the emerging craft beer industry has helped revolutionise modern drinking culture. Between the brewers themselves and an increasingly demanding and discerning consumer base who know their Pilsener from their Porter, we’re entering a relative golden age of craft beer. With approximately 400 breweries now dotted around Australia, competition has never been hotter, and one brewery quickly making a name for themselves is the Colonial Brewing Co.
Established in 2004 in the Margaret River, Colonial Brewing Co. recently broadened their brewing horizons by opening a second location in Port Melbourne in 2015 and tripling their production capacity in the process. They brought with them their love for craft beer, but more importantly the beers themselves, which are busy staking a claim as some of the best Australia has to offer.
We were invited to attend the launch of CBCO’s range of core craft beers at the Port Melbourne brewery last week, where we could sample the full selection with matching three-course menu from chef Lindsay Jamison.
We stayed at the Olsen Hotel on Melbourne’s famous Chapel St, a boutique hotel and accommodating tribute to Australian landscape artist John Olsen, whose artwork decorates its many walls and rooms. From there, it was a hop, skip and a jump to the brewery in the heart of Port Melbourne.
Speaking to the brewers on arrival, some of whom have made the journey from the Margaret River, and it’s clear they all share a genuine passion for craft beer and the brewing process. Each beer looks to honour and compliment the Australian lifestyle and is made to be enjoyed at the beach, barbeque and everywhere in between.
With their minimalist design and decision to go for cans over bottles, the CBCO craft range immediately stands out from the crowd. It’s a bold choice, but offers a more sustainable production process and a slew of taste-based benefits. They’ve also opted for the pioneering 360 lids, which transform the humble beer can into the perfect drinking vessel. It’s a ring pull that removes the entire top of the can, it’s the best drinking experience you’ll get this side of a pint glass. It’s even been dubbed the ‘lonely man can’ by the brewers, although the less said about that, the better.
First off is the Australian IPA, a one-of-a-kind craft beer that uses only home-grown hops. With a characteristic bitterness that’s punctuated by fruity flavours designed to evoke the sun and surf, it’s as patriotic as beers come.
Decked out in a design from Aussie artist Ian Mutch (who was on hand to add the same artwork to the wall of the brewery itself), the Small Ale has seemingly managed the impossible: a mid-strength beer that doesn’t skimp on taste. Brewed much like the IPA, with similar citrus and pine hints, it’s been pared down to 3.5 per cent for those looking for a lighter alternative.
Next is the Pale Ale, which combines the best of American and Australian hops into the tasty, Transpacific partnership of the beer world. Packed with passionfruit, pine and noticeable spice notes, it’s a heavyweight contender in what is a crowded pale ale market.
Whilst it seems tempting to opt straight for the aforementioned ales, it’s the Colonial Draught that’s arguably the pick of the bunch. An unsung hero, it’s a Kölsch ale that’s as evergreen as beers come, easy-drinking and enjoyable no matter the time of year.
All in all, it’s an impressive line-up and one that will continue to turn heads up and down the country. Having helped put Margaret River on the craft beer map, Colonial Beer Co. look set to enter the east coast as conquering heroes, and with beers like this, it’s easy to see why.