Canberra's vibrant craft beer scene is getting more colourful with the launch of Capital Brewing Co - a new beer company that will bring a bit of southern California flair to the capital.
The new brewer joins our four existing players - the Wig and Pen, Zierholz, BentSpoke, and Pact Beer Co.
Capital is owned by Tom Hertel and Laurence Kain, who own Civic bar Hippo Co and previously owned Honky Tonks.
They began planning the brewery in June last year with Rich and Sam Coombes, who founded the Batlow Cider Co. The Coombes brothers supplied their cider to Honky Tonks and Hippo.
"The name is a reference to the area," Hertel says. "We grew up here and we love Canberra. It's a great place to live".
They've produced three beers so far - the Coast Ale, an IPA called Evil Eye Red and a Trail pale ale.
And they have plans to build their own brewery at Dairy Flat Road in Fyshwick in September or October this year.
Unlike brewpubs which sell most of their beer on site, Capital Brewing Co intends to produce and distribute beer with a distinct Canberra identity.
Hertel says they have been "gypsy brewing" at a couple of places in Sydney - renting out tanks and facilities so they can create their beers. "This isn't the same as contract brewing, where someone else brews from your recipe. We rent tanks and have total control," he says.
They are inspired by the San Diego craft beer scene and brought California brewer Wade Hurley on board to head their Canberra brewing team.
The beers being released on April 21 show a distinct California influence - strong, hoppy beer styles of the kind which are now being brewed globally.
Hertel describes their pale ale as having an American style, rich in malt and hops. The Evil Eye Red IPA ratchets up the malt and hops even more. And the Coast Ale, he says, provides lighter, easier drinking, "Like a California common. It's a beer you'd take down the coast."
The Batlow connection gives Capital Brewing Co access to a national distribution network, but more excitingly for drinkers, it also gives them direct access to one of the holy grails of brewing: a secure supply of hop flowers.
Rich Coombes says the Batlow Fruit Cooperative commenced hop growing a couple of years back. It was the first hop grower in NSW and received a NSW government grant to send its orchard manager Andrew Desprez on a study tour of US and New Zealand hop-growing regions.
Coombes says the cooperative harvested its second crop this year and, "Capital takes all of the US Cascade and Chinook varieties".
Like other brewers, says Coombes, Capital uses pelletised hops. But it also has access to Batlow's fresh hop flowers at harvest (used this year in the Eye Red IPA) and a year-round supply of dried hop flowers, preserved in a cold store at 2C.
Initially, Capital plans to sell kegged beer into the Canberra market, beginning with the launch on April 21. But they'll ramp up production when the Fyshwick brewery opens.
"It's a 1000-square-metre warehouse", says Hertel. "We'll have a large brewery, canning and bottling machines and a touch-and-feel tasting bar where people can watch the whole process."
Running the brewery with brewer Wade Hurley will be two other partners, Ian Stott and Nick Hislop, who have backgrounds in brewery, cider-making, and sustainability.
Hertel and Kain recently sold their Honky Tonks bar. However, they retain Hippo and Co and will offer the three new beers on tap there from April 21. They eventually expect other outlets to offer the beers.