BEETROOT, lemongrass, fennel and even pickled cucumber … it seems you can make a beer from pretty much anything these days if you can find a friend who's willing to test the unique brews.
Loop Growers’ Phil Garozzo and Alice Star have done just that, thanks to a coordinated effort with Newstead Brewing Co.
The Draper farm is notable for its ‘loop’ philosophy – working with restaurants and cafes to compost discarded organic material, which is then utilised to develop produce supplied to the same venues.
Newstead Brewing Co CEO Mark Howes says he found out about the farm through mutual friends and began sending some a portion of the distillery's spent grain to be treated the soil.
“We got talking more and more … I really admired what they were doing here and wanted to get on board,” Mark recalls.
So, at the two brewery locations, they started taking produce for use in the kitchens, and the idea to use more of the produce to make a beer naturally followed.
Mark says it fits with their culture, which is based on community connections.
The first beer was made about 12 months ago, a beetroot bitter, followed in December by a lemongrass XPL and a fennel brew.
So, how have they been received by punters? “It’s been pretty confused feedback,” Mark says smiling. “It’s challenged people. It’s definitely filled the brief.
“Everyone’s not sure about vegetable beer, but it’s really refreshing and tasty.”
Mark says the pink beetroot beer grabbed attention and the lemongrass beer’s strong flavour was a hit with customers.
“Fennel seems to polarise people. They either love it or hate it,” he says.
“I think people are catching on to what we’re trying to achieve and like the story.”
Mark says Newstead Brewing Co was promoted to step things up a notch from the fennel beer. They obtained a farm plot, which was used to grow the fennel they needed to make the beer.
This has been an opportunity for Phil and Alice to crack down on Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA). It is where the community shares the financial burden by paying for growing a crop in a section of the farm.For the beer they produced 50 kg of fennel and additional fennel for use in the kitchens of the brewery.
Although making beer wasn't on their radar when they began, they 're convinced that almost anything can be used to produce new and exciting flavours in the brewing process.
“We’re giving it a go. We’re definitely pushing the limits at the moment, making a pickled (cucumber) beer,” Alice says, laughing.
“We appreciate the confidence of the brewers who are willing to take the risk, that’s the exciting part and consumers are enjoying the ride as well.”
Pickled at the brewery, the cucumbers grown for the next beer will be brewed into a briny, salty beer using desalinated water supplied by SEQ Water under the watchful eye of the head brewer Simeon Bonetti.The particular brew is being formulated and will be ready by the end of February for the Queensland Beer Awards. It will be commercially available from mid to late March, but is expected to sell quickly.
Mark says he’d love to see more of this in the beer industry, which uses “pretty resource-intensive processes”. “It’s a burden on society and resources, so anything we can do as a company in terms of sustainability I think is really important,” he says.
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