Micro-brewery aims for the 'weird and wonderful'

A lifelong dream ... Boatrocker's new brewery.
A lifelong dream ... Boatrocker's new brewery. Photo: Supplied

One of Melbourne’s most popular micro-breweries has established its own operation, giving it the freedom to develop ‘‘weird and wonderful’’ brews.

Boatrocker has officially opened its own brewery in Braeside, in Melbourne’s south-east, four years after it created its first brew, the Alpha Queen, at a hire brewery near Geelong.

Co-founder Matt Houghton said having his own brewery had been a lifelong dream and although the operation remained ‘‘tiny’’, he and wife Andrea had ‘‘grand plans’’.

‘‘We’ll have a lot more flexibility now,’’ he says.

The emerging brand received its licence to operate earlier this year and has just recently opened the doors on its 500 square metre facility.

Houghton’s first preference for the brewery was in inner Melbourne, where competitors such as Mountain Goat, 3 Ravens and Moon Dog are based, but ever-increasing rents made that impossible.

One of the biggest investments the label has made is its ageing program, which uses a mix of 60 red and white french oak barrels. While the process is universally known as being an essential ingredient in the wine industry, ageing beer is a more specialty process largely restricted to Belgium.

‘‘It’s a real art of production,’’ says Houghton.

Although there are more than a dozen micro-breweries across Melbourne, Boatrocker has stood out after winning a gold medal at the Australian International Beer Awards with its second brew, Hoppbier.

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The label currently produces about half a million litres of beer a year, but with its own facility and control over production, Houghton says the label now has potential for growth and product development.

‘‘We’ll be able to produce lots more weird and wonderful brews such as sour beers and beers with big flavour.’’

He says the next big trend is beers with wild yeast and bacteria, which are more common overseas.

‘‘We want to start making ultra-hop beers; beers with flavour are what people want,’’ he said. ‘‘They’re sick of bland beers.’’

Despite the launch of its new brewery ushering in a new era, Houghton says anyone who thinks the micro-brewery industry is a licence to print money is wrong.

‘‘It’s been a constant struggle; we’re certainly not doing it for money.’’