The breweries that put Your Margaret River Region on the map
Much like yeast fermenting in a brewery tank, the craft beer scene in our South West is bubbling away happily, alive with activity. New breweries are opening every few months and they’re working alongside well established ones to make the overall local brewing scene more vibrant than ever. One of the pioneers of this scene is Cowaramup Brewing Company who will celebrate their tenth birthday in December. It’s a milestone that makes Cowaramup Brewing one of the oldest breweries in the South West.
Jeremy, owner and brewer of Cowaramup Brewing, welcomes all new breweries and that’s the thing about the craft beer community – they’re a really friendly bunch.
“There’s room for plenty more,” says Jeremy. Aside from the obvious benefit of more great beer Jeremy says that another big positive that comes with new breweries opening is the challenge he feels personally to continually improve his own beer.
Not that there’s anything needed to improve his beers, his Cowaramup Pilsner is generally regarded as one of the best in Australia, they’ve even got the trophy to prove it having won the Champion Lager Trophy at the International Beer Awards in 2011. Exploring past the Pilsner, there’s their Hefeweizen, Lightsign Summer Ale, Special Pale Ale, India Pale Ale and Porter. An impressive range of beers given that Jeremy is working on one of the smallest brewhouses in the south west but we all know it’s not about size. First and foremost Jeremy is dedicated to quality and you can taste it in every magical sip of his Cowaramup beers.
You may have noticed craft beer trending in the direction of beers overflowing with hop character, that magical plant that provides beer with its bitterness and can impart significant flavour and aroma. Local examples like Feral Hop Hog, Mash CopyCat and Bootleg Speakeasy IPA are great examples of big hoppy beers but don’t expect to find such hop bombs in Cowaramup’s ales.
Jeremy, who hails from the UK, isn’t in the business of brewing hop monster beers with ballsy bitterness. His beers are more like a salute to the traditional and, unsurprisingly, there’s some English inspired as can be seen, or rather tasted in the Cowaramup India Pale Ale, brewed in the English style using English Bramling Cross hops that give the beer a very subtle blackcurrant character. Jeremy’s Special Pale Ale also features strong English inspiration with a backbone of Marris Otter malts and Goldings hops.
“It’s all about balance. Always,” Jeremy says of brewing great beer. Actually, he said a lot more than that but, as those who know Jeremy will know, he’s a man of many words. Jeremy will talk about beer with a big smile on his face for as long as you like and it means their brewery tours are invariably longer than originally planned but no-one has complained. The tours take small groups behind the scenes and into the brewhouse with Jeremy himself. Then there’s a walk through the brewery’s hop garden where they are growing a variety of hops and the tour concludes with a tasting paddle of Cowaramup’s beers and a platter which Jeremy expertly pairs his beers to. Dishes on the platter change seasonally to suit fresh produce and availability.
Images below: The hop garden
Though Cowaramup’s beers are not available in bottles so you can’t find them at your local bottle shop, you can take some beer away direct from the brewery in the form of growlers, 2lt glass vessels. Using a special counter pressure system to fill their growlers means that nasty oxygen, a bad thing for beer, is purged out with CO2 before the beer goes in and then it’s sealed for an oxygen free, fresh-as-if-from-the-keg growler of beer. They found that beer from their growler and counter pressure system would pour fresh and perfect even when opened three weeks later. Some customers have reported back to the brewery that they found great results after even longer, though how they managed to wait for so long to enjoy their beer is a bit of a mystery.
Cowaramup Brewing Company remains family owned and operated; they are one of the oldest breweries in the region and one of the smallest. Their annual beer dinner is a must-do on the south west event calendar, attracting a sell out crowd year after year. Meanwhile new traditions might be forming with the introduction of Movies in the Beer Garden happening every Sunday in March, showing a range of flicks to suit both little kids and big kids too (if you’ve ever wanted to see Star Wars at a brewery, this is your chance). Ideas on how to celebrate their tenth birthday are still being decided but there have been whispers of a special edition of one of their beers using hops from their garden.
Once upon a time it was wine that ruled the roost of the Margaret River region but it’s the growing craft brewing scene that is adding a noticeable flavour of hops and malt to the South West and breweries like Cowaramup Brewing Company have set a high standard for quality for those following in their footsteps.
Heroes of hops
Meet the breweries that have made the region a hot spot for a top drop.