Breweries pop up in some rather exotic locations but this is the first I’ve encountered in a former cinema. Once known as the Astor Theatre, the main building is a lovely example of Art Deco architecture, which has been reinvigorated into a brewery and bar that is part of a bustling hospitality precinct based around the Grand Hotel and Stefano’s – a leading fine dining restaurant run by high-profile chef Stefano de Pieri. The brewery, hotel complex and eateries were developed by de Pieri’s father-in-law, Don Carazza, who began his working life as a bellhop at the Grand Hotel. The brewery came on-line in 2004 and, in more recent times, has been the base for a contract brewing company run by Brian Watson, who boasts extensive and varied brewing experience including with both DB Breweries and Monteiths (New Zealand), St Arnou (Australia) and Australian Independent Breweries, as well as commissioning several new microbreweries in countries as diverse as Ireland and Hawaii. While Mildura is carving out a reputation as a hub for fresh produce, all the beers maintain a strong sense of the region’s particular charms. Murray Honey Wheat uses local orange blossom honey; Desert Premium Lager, Storm and Sun Light reflect the Sunraysia connections, as does Mallee Bull. A recent seasonal beer is curiously named Non-Toxic but relates to the long-running opposition to a proposed toxic waste dump in the region. The mid-strength beer is made with local organic sultanas, dried muscatels and oranges. ‘These very products could have been jeopardised had the dump gone ahead,’ the brewery’s website explains.
Fairly mainstream regular brews that aim for drinkability above character are typical, though the seasonal releases have more interest, generally.
Mildura Brewery Mallee Bull
Behind the Label
As fit as a Mallee bull,’ is a great old Australian expression, perhaps suggesting that any beast which can survive in an area where the only vegetation is a rugged type of gum tree, is one tough animal. As you might expect, Mallee Bull has a slightly higher level of alcohol (5.6% abv) and a malt-dominated palate with toffee, caramel and grainy notes, and finishes only moderately hopped. Labelled ‘heavy’, it’s not quite as thickset as the dark, silhouetted bovine pictured, but it is no weakling either.
20 Langtree Avenue, Mildura 3500 Tours by appointment; bar; restaurantcomments powered by Disqus