Sponsored by Beer The Beautiful Truth
They say variety is the spice of life, and for beer lovers in Australia and across the world, the word ‘variety’ doesn’t quite do the beer market justice. These days we are inundated with innovative styles and intriguing tastes. Brewers continue to push the boundaries, winning the hearts of new customers and maintaining the loyalty of their most devout drinkers. We are constantly spoilt for choice from the major producers all the way down to the smallest craft brewers.
In a quest to find out more about evolution of the Australian beer landscape and the undeniable link between choice and taste, we travelled to Little Creatures Brewery in Geelong for a tour and a chat with Head Brewer Warren Pawsey, touching on trends in taste and consistency in the brewing process – which happens to include a great range of beers that are 99.9% sugar free on average and preservative free.
Being inside the Little Creatures venue was a far cry from the last two brewery tours I’d done, one a single vat operation in the basement of a Manchester pub and another commercial size operation in the Peaks District. With output differing astronomically between the three breweries I’d recently stepped foot in, I was keen to get Warren’s view on how what linked the three operations of vastly different scale.
“Essentially it’s about passion, no matter how big your brewery is, a passion for creating the beer and the ingredients that go into it.”
There’s a common misconception that larger scale brewers lose that passion as they grow, when in fact the successful brewers are under even more pressure to keep the beer that gave them that success, consistent.
“If you make a well balanced beer that tastes good, and people like it, naturally there will be repeat sales and more demand, and your business will grow” says Warren. “You need to avoid the size issue and ask, is the brewer passionate?”
We continued our chat as we toured the facility, diving into the more technical aspects of production. The brewing process begins with milling the malted roasted barley, causing the barley to crack and release the starches and proteins. The malt is then added to hot water in large steel vats where the starch converts into natural sugar, later becoming alcohol with the introduction of yeast. The resulting mash is then separated from the grain into a sugar rich liquid called the wort.
It’s not until the wort enters the kettle and hops are introduced does the process become really interesting. Warren informs me that hops are in particularly high demand, especially Australian hops, and that he or a representative from the brewery travel to the United States every year to inspect hop varieties. The type of hops, as well as how early or how late they are added to the wort will shape the characteristics of the final product by releasing essential oils and resins. Typically Little Creatures will add one or a combination of over twenty varieties of hops late in the boiling process to guarantee aroma and taste. Further experimentation through other natural ingredients such as natural cane sugar, honey, spices or fruits can also add spice to the mixture. No preservatives are added at any stage.
After the magical mixture has cooled the fermentation process begins. Yeast is introduced and works to break down the sugar into alcohol, producing carbon dioxide and flavour.
When almost all of the sugars are gone, the brew is cooled and conditioned to develop the flavour further, before a final filtering and packaging.
While Fremantle remains the spiritual home of Little Creatures, it’s the Geelong site that supplies the East Coast volume for the Australian market, ensuring they get the freshest beer possible. The majority of the volume comes from Little Creatures hero beers, specifically their Pale Ale and Bright Ale, and consistency is maintained with quarterly blind tastings with all the brewers across the country.
Little Creatures are still passionate brewers looking to please their loyal customer base with taste and consistency and entice new ones with exotic varieties, seasonal releases and Single Batches. It only takes a visit to the White Rabbit Barrel Room and a post tour sample to realise just how innovative their approach is.
“There are lots of brewers doing excellent lager in this country, and America, but the public are looking for something different. In the future, we’re going to see more diversity. People’s tastes have evolved, and they will explore new styles. We’ve experimented with a lot of hop based flavours in the past, but not smoked or sour.”
My inspection of the barrels ageing in the Barrel Room and the tasting that followed, confirmed Warren’s statements. It’s clear that Little Creatures are moving in an exciting direction, pushing refined and integrated flavours that other brewers in Australia will undoubtedly follow.
Chatting with Warren, and touring the Little Creatures brewery, helped me understand the brewing process and the importance of quality natural ingredients that make up some of my favourite beers.
For more information about the brewing process and a list of beers that are on average 99.9% sugar-free and preservative free beers Warren is brewing in Geelong, head to Beer The Beautiful Truth.