Such was the sense of adventure and joy afforded from our last trip down to Red Hill (for the launch of the Hop Harvest and the newly installed hand-pump tap), that it was with no hesitation or trepidation that Dave and I jumped on the opportunity to spend another Saturday morning making the lengthy trip down the Nepean Highway to one of Victoria's most aesthetically pleasing breweries. Laying unassumingly in the hills just inland from Mornington Peninsula's scenic coastline, surrounded by woodlands and boasting it's own hop farm, the Red Hill Brewery could almost claim to be situated right in the heart of "God's Country", or if not, certainly the well-kept backyard of some middle-shelved deity.
The Brewer's Secret Stash was a chance for punters to try Red Hill's ever increasing, always impressive collection of aged and limited edition ales in the one place, on tap, for one weekend only. Boasting a tap line-up including the Barrel-aged Imperial Stout, Temptation Ale, Weizenbock and the Christmas Ale as well as the promise of a beer-matched menu of gourmet treats, it was a red circle calender date for any beer lover with adequate transportation, or in our case, someone willing to drive us. (Thanks Tiff!)
If that wasn't already reason enough to fill a car with beer drinkers and head south, it also coincided with the much anticipated launch of the brewery's brand new India Black Ale, which would be pouring through the recently installed traditional beer engine, or hand pump. This launch, alone would have probably been enough to drag us down the coast, away from such city luxuries as mobile phone reception and all-day kebab vans, so the combination of the two was a well-pleasing bonus, if not a deal-clincher.
There is something quite exciting about finally arriving at the brewery. Whether it be the sight of the hop yards as you close in on the entrance, the first glimpse of the rustic, wooden brewhouse, giving a sense of arriving at an old farmhouse, the anticipation of having a range of quality craft beers to sample or just the relief of being able to stretch ones legs after a long drive, arrival at Red Hill is always met with a sense of occasion. The bar/restaurant has an eclectic country-pub-meets-city-beer-garden charm that plays on the brewery's surrounding gardens and farmlands, making it impossible not to feel welcomed and relaxed. An astute environment for the sampling
of quality beers.
We kicked of the session with a pint of hand-
drawn India Black Ale, a style of beer that has seen a surge in the local beer culture of late. But few breweries are giving drinkers the chance to try the style from the traditional hand pump, so we were keen to see the effect that reduced carbonation would have.
Brewers Simon and Tim had been given a little creative license, with this brew being a one-off specialty batch, and while the first taste was somewhat unassuming, it developed in depth and character with every subsequent drink. A balance of upfront bitterness and a rich, lingering malt
character makes this a particularly session-able ale, that could really be enjoyed on a cold wintry night or a balmy summers eve in equal measures. Certainly an excellent follow-up to my favourite Australian beer of 2011 so far, the Hop Harvest Ale. I also must offer thanks to Mr Dave Golding who allowed me to fulfill a long time dream of mine to hand draw my own beer via the traditional beer engine... cementing once and for all, any accusation that i am, in fact, a beer nerd.
We followed a couple of pints of the India Black Ale with the Imperial Stout, which was a particular favourite of both Dave and myself from 2010, as well as sampling the Christmas Ale and the Temptation. With the food-pairings on the special Secret Stash menu, and an abundance of fine ales in this beautiful surrounding, it was hard not to sit back and be content with one's lot in life... We weren't the only ones enjoying ourselves either. Beer lovers, families, couples and groups of mates filled the bar and restaurant, many of whom were sporting the "I found the Brewers Secret Stash" tankards that came ale-filled as part of the booking fee. We were also treated to a tour of the brewhouse and a rundown on the production process of some of the better known Red Hill beers. Sheer beerporn.
In summary, the Brewers Secret Stash really succeeded in showcasing the passion, diversity and quality from a brewery that has only been brewing since 2005, while the India Black Ale proved their adaptability to tackle new styles with their own unique flair.
All in all, a top day trip and the recent opening of the Mornington Peninsula Brewery not too far away has meant that you can really justify making the drive and spending a day down the coast, taking in some of Victoria's (if not Australia's) top beers.
With the brewhouse buzzing with the anticipation
of the impending Imperial Stout (we understand the brewers are quite excited by the progress so far), and a rumoured new Weizenbock recipe on the horizon, I can say without hesitation that it won't be too long at all before Dave and I load up the car again and make the trip south.
Thanks again must go to our official "blogtographer" Jeremy Daniell for accompanying us and taking photos of a quality beyond that which we can write. And thanks to Tiffany for driving us back.