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  • Hamish Coates

Its not all about Beer


It’s not all about beer.

To be honest I’m not a writers behind, however for the sake of my own sanity I think I should attempt to write about some of my experiences so far.

As most of you following this will be aware, we are a fair way down the path to opening a production brewery on our family dairy farm. An idea was hatched late last year- we did some feasibilities and I’ve ploughed ahead with the implementation of it. To say it’s been easy wouldn’t be fair, however it’s probably (to this point) not been quite as difficult as one might expect. A whole lot of work, very little sleep and some arguments ensued, however for the most part everything has been relatively smooth. Our approvals went through with only minor changes necessary, probably the most difficult part and the area that has caused us by far the most trouble is the waste water system. Initially we wanted to re-use our waste water (all cleaning chemicals are neutralised by the end of cleaning cycles)…this is apparently something that is very difficult to fathom- who could possibly want to re-use perfectly good water? Long story short, we ended up capitulating and agreeing to a system which…well it’s a long story that may get me into some s*** (pardon the pun) so I best tell it in person. We have made every effort to be as environmentally friendly as possible; both during the build and moving into our production phase. This has included the install of an off-grid electrical system, supplying three phase power. It’s a beauty! We have no connection to the electrical grid whatsoever, just a massive battery bank and a small generator backup in case of failure. At every step we have tried to ensure maximum efficiency, including a few small changes to our brewery to ensure less power use (more on this in a later blog) Our liquor license has been conditionally approved- words can’t explain just how excited I was when I found this out. All we now require is final sign off on our build. We are so very close to that stage; just some finishing touches on the bathroom/toilet and lab and we are a go!

Our equipment has been very carefully sourced direct from a manufacturer in China: yes I would have loved to use local gear or even equipment from the US or Canada, however it is just too far outside our current budget. We have had a small delay on the manufacturing side- my fault as I made some late changes to the system design. The build should be complete mid-July and arrive in Australia late July or early August. Here’s hoping the process continues relatively smoothly.

Anyone following our Instagram/ Facebook feeds will see our latest Hop propagation efforts: subsequent to the latest post I have now nearly 600 rhizome cuttings from 12 varities. We are aiming for around 80% strike rate in the greenhouse which should give us a fairly good kick-start to this season. If anyone is interested in Hops and growing them in this region, please drop me a line. There is a plethora of information available however very little on our specific climate and I’m more than happy to share the little I’ve learned. All of our Hops are fertilised with compost from the dairy, with a carefully selected cover crop planted this season to add nitrogen and biomass back to the soil. We are making every effort to ensure that our hop production is sustainable, both for the environment and to our predicted brewing needs.

Our first barley crop is in the ground! LaTrobe and Bass varieties, planted in a couple of locations around the southwest. We will note the growth characteristics this season and use them to better our crops for next year. Our malt in the meantime is being produced in Dumbleyung by Organic and Biodynamic growers (and boutique maltsters) Keene Hills. The guys are legends and learning just as much as us while going through this journey. As I hope you can all appreciate; we are making every effort to grow everything ourselves- in the short term though we need a bit of help as there is a LOT to do. Our own malting plant is just being set up- we are repurposing an old milk vat by building in a false floor and forced heating element. This will enable us to make some very specific malts and beer profiles….watch this space! While all of this might sound fantastic, it’s amazing how easy it is to become caught up in what other people are doing, how other breweries are achieving things. While I firmly believe in keeping an eye on what’s happening around us, I’m trying to concentrate on what we are doing. This is because I firmly believe in what we are achieving here; a sustainable future for our brewing industry. This isn’t just an experiment, I’m confident that it’s possible to have a sustainable industry, where self-sufficiency in production is attainable on a craft scale. While I know many out there don’t believe me, or think there is too much work involved, I look to the end result: we have the ultimate control over all of our inputs. While this can be a little overwhelming, it is also the most exciting thing imaginable when you’re designing a recipe. While it’s true that I may currently be limited by some of my ingredients (but hell- 12 hop varieties isn’t something to turn your nose up at, right?), imagine the possibilities that exist as our rhizomes adapt to our climate. It’s well documented that even cloned hops (hops propagated via rhizomes are clones of the original) will take on the different characteristics depending on the region, climate, soil type, aspect, day length….the list of variables goes on! That’s not even considering the possibility of a hop breeding program somewhere along the way…

For me, the journey is just now starting to begin. I can’t thank those of you who have supported me through Founding memberships enough. It is this kind of support that keeps me going, when there doesn’t seem an end in sight, you provide me with that direction I need. To everyone who has been involved or donated their time during the build, from the bottom of my heart- thankyou. You have all contributed to something that I hope becomes an icon for quality, for sustainability and most importantly- it’s something we can all sit back and appreciate over a few brews. For now- Onwards and upwards peeps. It’s time to go put down some pilot brews! Watch this space. Hammer


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