After three great days in Victoria’s High Country, it was time to move on. Our next destination was the capital of Victoria, Melbourne. There we would part with Ute and Wolfie who were flying home to Germany the next day. We had heard that Australia’s second largest city had a better beer culture than Sydney and it was time to find out for ourselves.
Our first stop was Three Ravens Brewing Co. in the northeast Melbourne suburb of Thornbury. With Merideth diligently navigating, we successfully negotiated the congested city streets and found the brewery in a industrial park. Stooping to get under the partially raised warehouse door, I searched around for my contact, Marcus. The Three Ravens brewer, Marcus graciously took time out of his busy schedule to fit into ours.
Three Ravens began as a lunchtime homebrewing hobby for several guys at an engineering firm and eventually blossomed into a full fledged production brewery. In business for six years, Three Ravens has a wall full of brewery awards to mark their success.
Beginning with the now ubiquitous Wheat beer, in this case a Wit, we were treated to seven brews that constituted the most solid lineup of beers we had tried to date in Australia.
The highlights for us were the Golden Ale, 55, an American-style Pale Ale, USB (Über Special Bitter) and Dark, a Rauchbier.
I never expected to try a smoked beer on our trip to Australia. Our group that split on the world famous Schlenkerla in Bamberg (the other three against me) agreed that Dark had the right amount smoke to please all of us. Very satisfied with with our introduction to Melbourne beer, we left Marcus to continue on with his day while we headed to the city centre.
Central Melbourne was hot and humid this Wednesday afternoon. Abuzz with all manner of people, tourists wandered about while Melbourn-ites scurried to and from work. Finding our hotel, we had just enough time to check email and get organized before it was time head to our next brewery. Catching a tram to the eastern suburb of Richmond, we were on our way to Mountain Goat Brewery.
Wednesday was one of the two days, the other being Friday, that Mountain Goat’s tasting room is open. Opening the heavy door, we walked into the tasting room (a large warehouse space) to be confronted by a what looked like an office holiday party. But it was no ordinary office holiday party, it was a costume party with a multi-cultural theme. No one told me to bring a costume to Australia!
After the initial shock subsided, we ordered a taster set and found a seat on the fringes of the party. We tried to guess which country people represented as we sampled the beer.
There were four beers in our sample tray but I will focus on two. The first was Steam Ale. This brew was the reverse of what we know as a California Common. Instead of being Lager fermented at Ale temperatures, Goat’s Steam is an Ale fermented at Lager temperatures. A very nice beer.
Then there was Randy, the Steam Ale passed through their version of a Randall. The only other time we have seen such a device was at Trinity in Colorado Springs. Sitting proudly on the bar, Goat’s Randall was much more impressive. Most impressive was the giant wrench uses to unscrew the top. Filled with Riwaka hops, a New Zealand variety of Saaz lineage, the nice Steam Ale was transformed into maybe the beer of the trip. As a hophead, to have little hop floaty bits suspended in my brew was a dream come true.
I could have spent all night at the Goat drinking Randy and trying to figure out the country the woman with the duck bill was portraying. But I had forgotten Scrabble and we had to meet back up with Ute and Wolfie and some of their friends. Meeting up with them at the Fitzroy Pinnacle, we would spend the evening drinking Goat’s Steam Ale. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a Randall.
Postscript: Down the street from the Goat Brewery is the Royston. A dive-ish bar that has Aussie craft beer on tap, it looked like a cool place to hang out. Unfortunately, there tap system was on the fritz during our visit. Our next time in Melbourne, we will be definitely going back to the Goat, and hopefully everything will be operational at the Royston.