Ballarat beer lovers rejoice! The Athletic Club Brewery is opening its doors. Tim Stevens reports.
If there’s ever a time when you’ve earned a beer, it’s after being delayed over a year in getting your brewery opened. Ballarat based Athletic Club Brewery have finally earned a tick in every box to brew their delicious malty goodness (and I can attest they are all delicious) and will host their official opening this weekend.
It’s been a long journey for owner Peter Parry and has team, who have worked hard to bring this brewery and bar to life, but after an 18-month struggle with council red tape, Parry has been given the green light to open his Athletic Club brewery in Ballarat. It’s located in the centre of town, close to the train station – convenient for any Melbourne beer lovers wanting to escape the big smoke.
Parry says the delay to getting started was due to problems with getting a permit to operate a brewery – even though the former Rebellion Brewery had operated in the same spot for four years.
Parry applied for the brewery permit in February 2015, but the council said it was illegal to operate in that part of town. “They said, ‘You manufacture stuff’,” explains Parry. “I said ‘so does the coffee shop across the road’.”
He says the arguments went back and forth until Christmas, at which point he sought legal advice and was told he had a strong case, and advised the council he intended to take the matter to court.
“Two days later they said to come in and apply for a permit,” says Parry.
For those who visited Rebellion Brewery, don’t expect to see the same brewery setup.
“We got the building in February or March last year and it was an empty shell, so everything is brand new, we’ve had to put in the cool rooms, the cellar, and even the brew deck,” Parry explains.
The bar has eight taps and a large glass window with a view of the brew deck to allow patrons to watch the beer-making process while enjoying a drink.
Parry says that as well as their own beer, they will also have taps pouring beer from other breweries. “We’d like to think we could fill up the eight taps, but at times we’ll have guest breweries all ready to come along,” he said.
Parry, who has a fondness for dark beers and stouts, says head brewer Craig Blackmore’s Baltic Porter is to die for, so keep an eye out for that one.
All the beers are preservative and additive free, which is not only healthier, but is designed to cut down the hangovers (drinking without getting a hangover? Sign me up!)
What makes Athletic Club Brewery really unique is Parry’s interest in educating drinkers about beer and the brewing process.
They have the ability to alter the temperature on some of the taps, so they can pour a beer really cold and one a little bit warmer, so people can compare the differences and pick out flavours.
“What we wanted to do was give them a whole pile of different taste experiences, so we can say well this is a malt-driven beer or a hop-driven beer. A lot of people don’t understand the reason behind that and that’s why we wanted to do that,” he says.
“We might have Hop Month, or something like that, where we have four beers that have an identical malt bill but have four different types of hops in them, so people can say this is Galaxy [hops], this is Mosaic, this is Pride of Ringwood, this is whatever.”
Parry is also offering beer drinkers the chance to come in and make their own beer on their facilities. They cater to all levels of beer drinkers, whether you drink Carlton Draught or Chimay, they can help you make a beer to suit your tastes. Firstly, they will help you choose a style, so that the recipe and ingredients are ready to go when you arrive to make your own 50-litre batch.
Parry explains: “We develop up the wort, [the customers] put in the specialty grains, chuck in the hops, we look after it, ferment it and they come back and bottle it or can (375ml or 500ml) it, or take it away in a keg if they want it to be. The benefit for them is they don’t have to worry about fermentation afterwards, they don’t have to worry about carbonation, we’ve done all that process for them, it’s ready-to-drink beer, they can just take the top off the can and away they go.
“It’s a more consistent product for people and it’s reasonably inexpensive – if they’ve got their own stubbies they’ll get six slabs for around the $30 mark for a 4.5% beer for a slab, but they have to supply their own bottles for that, or we can sell them bottles and that adds to the cost.”
Head brewer Craig Blackmore adds: “If they want to come in and put their own labels on their own brew, we can help out with that, we can help out with custom labels or custom artwork.”
The question remains: what’s with the name?
Parry explains: “Over the years I have been involved in many Ballarat community sports clubs – it’s the backbone of our community. While the name pays homage to Ballarat’s rich sporting heritage, it is the essence of a sports club – that of shared passion and a sense of community – that really encapsulates what the Athletic Club Brewery is all about.”
The brewery will have its official launch on Friday November 25.
Athletic Club Brewery
47 Mair St E, Ballarat Central
Words and photos by Tim Stevens