Recently Goodtimes was able to travel to Kalgoorlie, WA and that meant a visit to Beaten Track Brewing!
An article on Beaten Track Brewing was the first piece for Goodtimes and I was excited to finally get to the source. They are renowned for brewing alchemy 600 kilometres east of Perth, Australia. Along with the mad science Nick Galton-Fenzi and his partners also produce a massive range of classic beers that are true to style but have a little piece of Kalgoorlie in them.
I arrived by taxi to a semi-industrial area in Boulder, Kalgoorlie’s conjoined twin town. There is little to look at from the front with only a small sign highlighting the brewery. In fact my taxi driver kept trying to drop me at a questionable, run down pub a few hundred metres up the road that he assured me had beer and entertainment. This was not what I was here for!
Walking through the gate and down the gravel path there is a great alfresco area at the back that Nick has plans to build on. From there you can see the solid wood topped bar tables, ‘shed-like’ interior and main bar. Its a smallish space that could hold 50 people at a push.
Although most people in town I spoke with had heard of the brewery it seemed that few had ever been there. This Wednesday afternoon after five o’clock there was about 15 people enjoying tastings.
Due to local liquor regulations and alcohol based social problems in the town, Beaten Track have fought an uphill battle for ten years to be able to trade. As a result of the current laws they are only allowed to sell tastings over the bar (six generous serves for $20) and packaged bottles for take home consumption that are not on tap.
It’s an overly complicated method that completely misses the point in the health situation that faces many towns in Australia. This style of regulation penalises artisan producers and reduces the likelihood of educating responsible adults into discerning drinks. In some way this legislation may be playing the card that it’s trying not to deal by reducing the options to consumers.
People affected by these health issues are unlikely to hand out $12 for 640ml’s of a Raspberry Wheat beer. I’m not down playing the massive concerns surrounding this blanket legislation however it does severely limited small scale producers like Beaten Track Brewing to offer something different to the community. If anything it’s these very producers that contribute to the regional identity.
Most of the beers I sampled had some ingredients sourced from or produced in the local area. Local honey, house smoked wheat malt, hops grown on site (Yes, on site) and in the ‘it couldn’t get more local’ category, wild yeast are some of the local ingredients Nick and the team are weaving into their portfolio.
Back to the beer!
I sampled most of the current range, about 15 beers all up starting with the ‘Sandstone’ Summer Ale. This beer sells ten times more than every other beer in the range. It’s refreshing and at 4.7% ABV would be the perfect refreshment for a hot day in the mining town.
‘Hamelin Bay’ Hefeweizen and ‘Gibb River’ Rye Ale are part of the standard line up and are true to style with a little touch of Kalgoorlie in them.
The 6% ABV ‘Cigar Box’ Lager uses house smoked Wheat Malt in a Californian Common (Steam Ale) style. The initial impression is literally of a cigar box with toasted tobacco and wood aromas. This may be off-putting for some but the very approachable base style makes this quite an intriguing quencher.
Obama Honey Ale is the Beaten Track Brewing interpretation of the White House Honey Ale that US President Barack Obama tweeted out in 2012. This version uses locally sourced Honey and wheat. The honey creates a rich character rather than sweetening the beer. The QR Reader on the taphead and bottle links to the recipe. Nick noted that more of Beaten Tracks beers would be using this technology to engage with consumers.
The 6.4% ABV ‘Gunbarrel’ IPA is a more of an English take on the popular style. This lead into the Beaten Track ‘Youngs Scotch Ale’ which is the only Nitrogen carbonated beer in WA. Nitrogen brings a finer bead to beer, increasing the creamy mouthfeel. It’s exactly this detail that lifts this beer above what could be a heavier Amber ale. It’s on style and delicious.
At 4.1% ABV the Barrel Aged Wild Ale comes off as an interesting yet light quencher. Neither the oak or a sour character is upfront but the overall feel is refreshing. It’s almost like a Kalgoorlie Berliner-Weiss.
‘Cookie Monster’ (10% ABV) stems from a local homebrew club. An ANZAC Biscuit inspired beer stirred interest at a brew-share and the recipe owner was happy to share it with the Beaten Track crew. Not surprisingly yet surprisingly, it tastes like a beery ANZAC biscuit. Caramel, oats and Golden Syrup are all prominent with an assertive alcohol heat. It’s rich and sweet.
Later I tried the French Saison yeast version of ‘Cookie Monster’. This is one of the best beers I’ve tried this year. The French Saison yeast smooths out the richness by bringing complexity and dryness to the beer. The result of this is the alcohol comes forward but isn’t as hot. It acts as an anchor for all the other flavours. It’s brilliant brewing that I begged to be bottled!
There were many more beers sampled including a Smoked Helles, a West Coast Red, a Dopplebock and an Alt. It seemed every time my glass was empty there was another style of beer to sample being poured into it.
The takeaway bottled Reserve range includes excellent examples of a Barley Wine and a Russian Imperial Stout which uses Cascade hops that are grown on premise.
I recommend seeking out Beaten Track Brewing should you be in Kalgoorlie. The creativity and welcoming attitude of the team makes this an essential reason to visit.
If you are in Perth Beaten Track Brewing’s beers can be found at Mane Liquor, ReStore Leederville, International Beer Store Leederville and Cellarbrations Carlisle.