A New Brew
STORY AND PICTURES BY RICHARD CORNISH
The new Holgate Brewhouse is a complex machine of interconnected stainless steel tanks, tuns, pipes and hoppers. The purpose-built brewery in the heart of Woodend has been years in the planning and will allow the 20 year old craft brewery to expand production from the present 600 000 litres per annum to 5 millions litres within five years. The process has been slow. Deliberately so. Brewer Paul Holgate was keen to expand the business without killing the goose that laid the golden egg, in this case the inimitable authentic flavours of his range of beers. “Some small brewers get bigger by taking their product to contract brewers and, in doing so,” says the energetic beer maker, “they lose control of the process, their flavour. Their identity.”
The Holgate Brewhouse started as a backyard operation in 1999 when young scientists, husband and wife, Paul and Tasha Holgate began to brew beer in the back shed of their Woodend home. “There was not a huge online community back then,” says Paul. “So we did a lot of research reading books and much of the brewing information back then was all European.” Some of the first brews they made were in the European tradition including the pale straw coloured hefeweizen or wheat beer made in the Bavarian style. This beer is still being poured at the historic Holgate Brewhouse pub, the 1896 former Keating’s Commercial Hotel. The Holgates bought this grand old dame in 2002 and it stands next to the new factory and beer discovery centre. The old pub’s interior has great examples of interwar interiors including Arts and Crafts style lead lighting. Upstairs there is comfortable, modern spacious accommodation while downstairs is the dining room and bar.
Along the bar are 13 taps, fresh from the keg. Paul orders a tasting paddle of eight 90ml shots. This is very popular with visitors and costs $20. “I never have favourite beers and I never order a pint,” he explains. With his scientific background he prefers ordering smaller serves and ‘researching’ as many beers as possible instead of settling back into one he is comfortable with. He is recognised as a founding brewer of craft beers in Australia and, with his extensive understanding of brewing techniques and beer styles across the globe, is also a beer judge at competitions here and overseas.
While he has found a new generation of beer fans with his sour fruit beers, made in the Belgian style, it is the classic range of Holgate Brewhouse beers I love the best. For me the ESB or Extra Special Bitter style is my favourite. Slightly malty, barely prickling with gas with a mildly bitter hops finish, it reminded me of the great bitters of Northern England when I first tried them 16 years ago. Now when I drink ESB, it reminds me of all the great pints I have had in the pubs around Central Victoria – listening to blues at the Radio Springs Hotel, knocking back a glass at a pub in Castlemaine. Holgate’s beers are more than about quenching thirst. They create memories and a relationship with the beers themselves. Happy 20th Holgate Brewhouse.
Every month this year, Holgate Brewhouse is releasing a special birthday beer. To keep in contact visit holgatebrewhouse.com.au
79 High Street, Woodend; (03) 5427 2510, Daily 12pm-11pm