Steel River Brewery
Every brewhouse has its own distinct personality – new ones are punched out in uniform fashion and pretty much look the same, but pre-loved ones tend to have a bit more character and, more often than not, a colourful narrative to match. That’s certainly the case with the twin-domed, copper brewhouse that currently drives Newcastle’s Steel River Brewery. I first spied it nearly twenty years ago as part of a short-lived brew-pub venture in South Brisbane called Kelly’s Café, but it had actually begun life making beer in South Africa. Steel River co-owner Ian Partland found it for sale on the internet a few years back and by then it had already passed through a couple of different sets of hands, earmarked for two separate brewing enterprises, neither of which ever got off the ground. At 64 hectolitres it’s at the larger end of the craft-brewing scale and Partland has added plenty of tank space to match his sizeable ambitions. ‘We’re not a craft brewery,’ he says. ‘We’re a mini-brewery compared to the big boys but we aspire to be the size of Boag’s.’ After launching a keg beer called Pig Iron into the local Newcastle market in late 2005, Partland is now concentrating on bottled beer and plans to build a bigger, faster bottling line next door to the existing brewery. Organic beers have become an increasing focus for the brewery with Burragumbilli Organic Lager (branded as Awaba for export markets) and Virgin Blonde (an organic low-carb lager) leading the way. The change of direction is paradoxical – to say the least – as Partland freely admits that his brewery sits above ‘Australia’s most toxic site’, courtesy of decades of BHP steel-making. Steel River Lager, Chopper Heavy and Platt’s Folly Lager are among their other products.
Lagers rule at Steel River, with the fruity, full-bodied Platt’s Folly a notch above the recent change of direction down the organic-lager path.
Platt’s Folly Old World Lager
Behind the Label
Newcastle’s first free settler, John Laurio Platt, was granted 2000 acres (800 hectares) of land in the 1820s; he chose a site on the Hunter River, but every enterprise he attempted was doomed to failure. He erected a windmill driven sawmill but there wasn’t enough wind and the ironbark was too tough to cut through. His efforts at wheat farming and coal mining met with a similar lack of success and, finally, his homestead burnt down. No wonder locals came to refer to his land as ‘Platt’s Folly’. Perhaps he should have tried his hand at brewing because Platt’s Folly Old World Lager may yet become the only success story to bear his name.
4 Laurio Place, Mayfield West 2304 Tours by appointmentcomments powered by Disqus