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Hodfellows Brewery Geebung

June 2023 – two steps forward one back

Two steps forward and one step back

Greetings all,

Firstly I’d like to say that I am acutely aware that it has been too long since my last correspondence. The pressures of juggling work, kids (evidence of their involvement below) and brewery setup have been immense, however I am pleased to announce that we have formally begun to run what I am considering ‘trial’ batches through the system and starting to test the process! This has not been without its fair share of surprises, challenges and a rather disappointing first experience. This is – however, to be expected – with each trial we have learned a number of lessons which we have applied to the next batch – resolving some issues only to encounter others – but it’s an iterative process and we are getting there.

The first beer that we attempted was a typically bavarian style pilsener. Everything was going beautifully – better than I expected actually, up until the point that we tried to start lautering (filtering) the wort. Long story short – we lost about 13 hours of our lives and ended up making the decision to dump the batch. Quite a disheartening experience – but I knew that at that point there was no saving it. We made changes to the next batch, only to find that we had an airlock in our heating system, which we didn’t find on the previous batch because it never made it that far. This was less of a problem though – it just meant that it took a very long time to reach the required temperatures, but we got there in the end.

Having said all that – we have also had some wins. As of writing this we have approximately 5x 500L trial batches in vessels, which have proven to be great learning experiences. There has been quite a few things that I’ve had to figure out on the fly, but ultimately my experience in using the equipment so far has filled me with enthusiasm – there are still unknowns and undoubtedly some hard lessons to come, but I am confident that given time to dial in our processes that we will be able to produce some exceptional product.

I have mentioned previously that Hodfellows is focussing more on European styles, with a focus primarily on lagers. It’s no secret that lagers typically get a bad wrap in craft beer circles – and perhaps on the whole, at least in Australia, this reputation may be deserved. So why would we focus on producing lager styles?
The answer to this question is that, in my opinion, we in Australia have been sold a lie. It is absolutely true that mass produced macro lagers are truly less than inspiring beers, I can’t argue with that. But imagine this – back in 2011, I’d been all-grain brewing for about 5 years at this point, and was firmly of the opinion that lagers were garbage, and ales were the go. The pale ales, amber ales, stouts etc. that I was making were great, and the thought of producing a lager – well…why would one bother?

In September of that year my wife and I headed to Europe – and whilst in Prague we stayed at a small, very old brewery named ‘U Medvidku’. I was so excited, we’d booked the accommodation online, and I couldn’t wait. We checked into the accommodation, then headed to the bar. You can imagine my disappointment when finding out that the brewery produced only lagers. But then I tried them. And they were absolutely fantastic. And this experience was mirrored all throughout our various travels. The beers in Germany – fantastic…lagers. The beers throughout the Czech republic, also fantastic, typically lagers. The beer in Belgium….well they were typically ales…but you get the idea. What was interesting was that these beers bore no resemblance to a macro lager here, rather they had plenty of flavour, but were superbly balanced, hoppy but not overpowering, spicy but restrained. Able to be easily consumed by the liter. I had to revisit my ideas of what beer was, and what good beer is.

So this is why I think the ‘lager is boring’ is a lie, or at the very least a misconception. And to be honest I would not have believed it to be otherwise had I not experienced it myself. I don’t expect everyone in the craft beer community to just take me at my word, so I need to show them. The world of lager is huge – styles such as Bock, Helles, Pilsner, schwarzbier, Dunkel, Rauchbier, Tmave, Pivo – the list goes on, and these styles are well under-represented here. This is why we’re going to make lagers – not just as the ‘macro -beer lover’s offering’, but to be what they should be – beers which are exceptional in their own right.

We also have apparently over 1000 followers on Facebook – which is wild. Thank you all so much for the interest and support – it is taking longer than we expected and has been difficult, but each week we make progress, and lastly thank you for your patience. We get a fair few messages asking about when we’re opening – and the truth is that we can’t accurately answer that question – we are still working with council to find a solution, but rest assured we will let you all know.

On a side note – we have been putting together a ‘Pozible’ fundraising campaign which will launch in the coming weeks. This will include some great deals for our supporters, and be a big help throughout this protracted set-up process. I’d like to encourage anyone who is interested to take a look at this when it is comes out to help support this project, we’ll be announcing it soon so keep an eye out!

Head Brewer

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