Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company
Craft brewers come from all sorts of different backgrounds but classical pianist Simon Walkenhorst and his opera singer wife Beth Williams are among the more exotic. Together, they started Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company from a shed on Beth’s parents’ property near Yarra Glen. The seeds for their new career direction were sown during their honeymoon spent travelling in the United Kingdom in 2000. ‘We discovered these wonderful old pubs in the Yorkshire dales serving real ales,’ says Walkenhorst. Once back home in Australia, he threw himself into home-brewing and the dream of opening a craft brewery in the Yarra Valley. When the first Hargreaves Hill beer came on line in late 2004, the couple had two small boys and was scratching out a living teaching music and performing. When I first met Walkenhorst he joked that theirs was a ‘nano brewery’ and, with a 350-litre batch size, it was certainly one of the smallest in the land. At first they concentrated on supplying their local area, mainly through local markets with a range that included a pale ale, porter and hefeweizen. In late 2007, the couple leased a restaurant and bar in the main street of Yarra Glen and developed it into a shopfront for their beers; new ‘limited batch’ brews – mainly stronger and hoppier varieties – appeared on tap in the bar to complement their core range. Hargreaves Hill ESB became the fourth regular brand. On 7 February 2009 – so-called ‘Black Saturday’ – bushfires almost completely destroyed the Hargreaves Hill Brewery and the home of Edd and Amanda Williams (Beth’s parents), who were extremely lucky to survive themselves. Offers of help immediately poured in from other Victorian breweries and the Walkenhorsts were able to continue their beer production at the likes of Mountain Goat, Red Hill and Mildura breweries. Within days of their devastating loss, they had negotiated to buy a 12-hectolitre brewing plant. As we went to press Simon Walkenhorst said they were looking for a venue in Lilydale to set up the brewery. ‘We’d essentially outgrown the Steels Creek site and we were looking at upgrading anyway,’ he said.
Generally flavoursome ales comprise the core range, alongside limited-edition brews that have included a Belgian abbey ale and a Celtic red ale.
Hargreaves Hill ESB
Behind the Label
The brewery takes its name from Hargreaves Hill, part of a craggy range that looms above the green shed where Walkenhorst once knocked out boutique batches of his beer. The Hill is within Kinglake National Park and what he calls ‘a fairly abstract graphic’ of its profile graces their labels. ‘Being in a wine region, we wanted it to connote a wine label rather than an obvious beery logo,’ he explains. A school friend who works as a graphic designer created the original concept and the different colours were used to differentiate the brands.
25 Bell Street, Yarra Glen 3775 Bar; restaurant; takeaway sales
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