Last week me, Eddie, Govs and brewer Toshi headed down to Melbourne on a Recon Mission to learn more about Barrel Aged beers. Next year we will be launching our own barrel aged brewing program, and we wanted to get some insights from the people who are doing it well now.
In this post I’ll go through where we visited and some of the highlights, for any readers that are planning a trip down.
We messaged a bunch of breweries before the trip and we tried to get to all the ones who were able to have us, but we also dropped into a few unannounced when we knew their taprooms would be open.
Day 1 Stomping Ground and Bodriggy
We arrived in Melbourne in the afternoon and wanted to squeeze in a few brewery visits on day 1 to warm things up.
Every Melbourne Trip that I can recall, we have always gone to Stomping Ground first. It’s an epic brewpub, arguably Australia’s best with great beer, great food and an amazing fit out and atmosphere. It also helps that the founders are deadset legends and we were lucky enough to be given the full tour by Guy and Steve (2 of the 3) for an hour or so (pictured in the featured image above).
Not just a great brewpub, Stomping Ground is a super fast growing craft beer brand with many retail and tap outlets around Melbourne. You don’t have to go too far to get a Stomping Ground beer, and the brewery is loaded with tanks and is constantly being upgraded. On our visit they were in the process of installing larger tanks in the brewhouse and had just commissioned a new 6 head canning machine.
They’ve also got a growing number of barrels there which they’ve been experimenting with as part of their Into The Woods Range. We were able to check them out and pick the boys brains for tips on sourcing barrels and managing the program, as well as try some of the beers. You can buy them in bottles for takeaway or pay corkage and have onsite (we did both).
A Melbourne beer trip is not complete without a visit to Stomping Ground, and with their Moorabbin and Airport sites due to open early 2020, it’s going to be easier than ever.
We’d heard a lot about Bodriggy since opening and being around the corner from Stomping Ground, it made sense to drop in next. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s a huge, supremely designed venue and stands out from other brewpubs in particular due to an amazing food offering. On top of all of that, the beers were tasting excellent.
This wasn’t on our list for barrel aged beers, but we had to drop in to see what the fuss was all about. They also have a really nice looking and quite big brewery in there, not your typical brewpub that’s for sure.
We were able to catch up with our friend Ben who is brewing there and enjoyed a bunch of their beers. We’d highly recommend visiting, and make sure you go at dinner time and get into the amazing food.
Day 2 – 8 breweries
Our first full day we lined up a hectic schedule which resulted in us visiting 8 breweries on an epic day-long tour down the coast to Dandenong, Mornington and back.
The guys at Hop nation have always been great to us, so we were excited to go in again and catch up with Sam as our first stop on day 2. He was generous enough to give us a taste of a bunch of their barrel project beers, and a tour of their brewery and barrel aging storage facility.
While they are well known for some of their normal beers like Jedi Juice, they have a damn solid barrel program going there under their Site Fermentation brand. They have 2 foeders (big arse wooden tanks) and over 100 barrels and are making some outstanding beers. My favourite was the Malbec mixed ferment, but all of them were tasting amazing.
We were able to pick up a lot of tips and ideas for barrel aging our own beers, and contacts for sourcing foeders and barrels. If you get a chance to try any of their Site Ferment beers, I’d highly recommend them and while the taproom wasn’t open when we were there, it does open on weekends and looks like it would be an epic spot for a beer.
Boatrocker was high on our list and has a great reputation for doing barrel aged beers. They also have a still out there for making Gin and and Matt the co-founder and brewer was even able to give us a try of some distilled beers he was playing around with.
The site is awesome and there are barrels as far as you can see. Matt was super generous with his time and showed us around, let us try some of the beers and gave us lots of tips on what equipment they were working with and a bunch of little hacks for storing and managing barrel aged beers.
The fridge was loaded with a range of sours and barrel aged beers so we bought a bunch of takeaways to share with the team as well. It’s a bit of a way out of town, which is why we hadn’t visited before, but we’re glad we did and we’d highly recommend it. The taproom wasn’t open but it looks like a great spot to sit among the barrels or out in the outdoor section and enjoy some supreme beers.
Wolf of the Willows
Wolf of the Willows are in the process of building a new brewery and luckily for us, it happens to be just around the corner from Boatrocker. When we got there, they were deep into the construction of the brewery and taproom but founders Scott and Renae took the time to show us around and give us some beers. The taproom is going to be awesome and their beers are always great. They even have a few barrels in there and are working towards doing an event during good beer week on barrel aged beers.
The taproom is due to open early in 2020 and we’ll be back there a few months later at the start of Good Beer week for the event. These guys are absolute legends, and the taproom looks like it will be a great spot for a beer when it opens.
Mornington 1 and 2
After Wolf we headed down to Mornington and checked out both of the Mornington breweries. We stopped for a pizza and a beer at their original brewpub which was a nice cosy spot. It was cool to drink beer at a brewery who’s beers we’ve enjoyed for so many years. They are also doing barrel aged beers but we weren’t really able to dig into that too much at the time, we were happy to eat pizza and drink the beers we’ve enjoyed for many years.
We were also able to get a tour from one of the brewers Jake, of the new larger site just around the corner. It’s a decent size setup and the 3.5% raspberry sour was a nice way to cleanse the palate after a solid feed.
On the way back to Melbourne we broke up the drive by popping into Dainton in Carrum Downs. It’s a pretty epic setup there with loads of beers on tap and a big open taproom with pizzas on offer from the wood-fired oven. We enjoyed some of the more experimental beers and the old classics like the Red Eye Rye, one of the beers that got us excited about craft beer back in the day.
It was only a quick stop but it did look like there were some decent size barrels out the back and Dainton always have interesting beers coming out on a regular basis. It was great to see the taproom cranking on a Thursday afternoon, it’s obviously a popular spot with the locals and well worth a visit if you get down that way.
On the way back to the city Merrick from The Mill in Collingwood messaged us and invited us to come and try one of the last 4 bottles of their 2018 Starwood Whisky Barrel Aged Stout. Of course we did and it as well as their other beers were tasting great.
They only have a couple of barrels there but they were making great beer with a limited quantity and it’s a nice little bar as well in an awesome location in Collingwood. We’re looking forward to tasting anything else that comes out of those barrels.
Molly Rose was just around the corner and is the new kid on the block in Collingwood. They specialise in barrel aged beers and sours in particular. Nic the head brewer and founder wasn’t around, but he heard we were dropping in and generously lined up the bar manager to give us a look around and a shout us few beers.
It’s an awesome little venue and the beers were outstanding. The crowd favourite was the Gator Ale, an easy drinking zesty sour but all the beers were delicious.
The taproom had a really nice unique feel to it as well. We would definitely highly recommend dropping in when you are down that way.
Day 3 – 3 Ravens, Moon Dog & Future Mountain
Day 3 didn’t have the quantity of our second day (8 breweries, plus a few bars I didn’t mention), but what it lacked in numbers it made up for in quality.
This was our first visit to 3 Ravens after enjoying their beers a lot over the last few years, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a really cool brewery and taproom, with a very unique dive bar feel. It was closed when we were there but I bet it absolutely cranks when it’s open.
The brewers turned on the taps for us and gave us samples of the core lineup and limiteds like their Strawberries & Cream Milkshake IPA, which were all tasting great. They even cracked a few bottles of the barrel aged beers and mixed ferment beers which were absolutely outstanding. I think some were unreleased so I better not mention the specific beers but they were very good. The brewery is well worth a visit and if you see any of the 3 Ravens bottled barrel aged beers, grab them! It’s also walking distance to Moon Dog World too so it’s a no brainer to visit both.
Moon Dog World
We were of course super excited to go to Moon Dog World after hearing about this completely bonkers taproom for some time.
Moon Dog was one of the first brewpubs we went to in Melbourne, and one that inspired us to open our brewery on the Gold Coast. The old brewery in Abbotsford was awesome but there is nothing that will prepare you for the new Moon Dog World.
We always feel like we’ve made a big step up between Black Hops HQ in Burleigh and Black Hops II in Biggera Waters, but these guys make that jump look miniscule. The Moon Dog World taproom is bigger than our entire brewery at Black Hops II. It’s bigger than most breweries I can think of.
It’s the biggest taproom I’ve ever been to and that includes some monsters in the U.S.A. like Ballast Point, Stone, Odells, New Belgium etc. It has a goddamn lagoon, a waterfall, a rainforest, a giant beer garden and various layers of perched balconies. It’s completely insane. The food was great, the beers were on point and they even had some guest taps from other breweries. It was around lunchtime on Friday and it was filling up, but it’s hard to tell how many people are in a venue of that size, it’s absolutely huge.
The brewery isn’t commissioned yet but through the glass at the end of the taproom you can see the brewery and the plans for the production side once it’s up and running. When we visited, the brew house tanks were in place and they are seriously big. I can’t recall seeing a brewhouse that big in Australia. I’m guessing Coopers and maybe Tribe is that big or bigger but no one else that I can think of would have a brewery that big.
It was inspiring to see what they have done and how far they have come from the original site, and I would absolutely highly recommend stopping reading this article and going there right now.
Our last stop before heading to the airport was Future Mountain, a new brewery and taproom in Reservoir on the way (ish) to the airport. One of the co-founders Shane showed us around and hooked us up with a range of their beers. The taproom is beautiful, nice and simple, clean, spacious and elegant. Both co-founders have experience brewing for some of Melbourne’s best breweries, so we weren’t surprised to find the beers were outstanding.
The golden sour was my favourite and the other boys liked the feijoa sour so much they bought about 5 bottles of it. The Strawberry Wheat was another stand out. Actually all the beers were great. It’s not exactly on the way to the airport but it’s a small detour, and is also in the direction of Carwyn Cellars, so it’s well worth heading that direction on the way back home.
It was an awesome trip and so good to see all the great stuff going on down there, particularly with barrel aged beers and it’s always a pleasure to be treated so well in this industry. Thanks to everyone who hosted us and we can’t wait to return the favour when we get our barrel program up and running next year. Watch this space!