Owner Alan Proctor started Billabong Brewing as Western Australia’s first brew-on-premise operation, where homebrewers come to make their own beer and bottle it, using professional equipment. In 2006 Proctor started producing a range of commercial beers under the Billabong label, including three gluten-free varieties, and soon announced his presence by carrying off a gold medal for his 4 Hop Ale at the 2007 Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA). The beer is actually made with eight separate hop additions featuring four different varieties – Pride of Ringwood, Golding, New Zealand Motueka and Cascade. Proctor says he started making gluten-free beers after a request from one of his brew-on-premise customers who was diagnosed as having coeliac disease. ‘We started researching how to make beer without using gluten around the same time we were going for our commercial brewing licence,’ he said. ‘Now we exist because of our award-winning gluten-free beers.’ Sorghum, buckwheat, millet, amaranth and rice are the grains employed by Proctor to make his Blonde, Ginger Beer and Apple Beer range of glutenfree beers. Recently, he has developed a gluten-free version of Billabong Australia’s Pale Ale, alongside the standard variety made from malted barley. Billabong beers are available on tap at a handful of Perth outlets, while the gluten-free range is distributed nationally; Proctor says the brew-on-premise side of his business is still important for the cash-flow and allows him to brew commercially, though still on a relatively modest scale. Billabong Porter won gold and was awarded Champion Porter at the 2008 AIBA.
The gluten-free beers are admirable examples but inevitably less flavoursome than the complex 4 Hop Ale and well balanced Porter.
Behind the Label
The Billabong labels feature different details from paintings by local artist Bob Booth. Born in Lincolnshire, England, Booth taught fine art before being ordained as an Anglican priest in 1983, and emigrating to Australia five years later. He has been painting full-time since 2003. His work covers a wide range of subjects including religious themes, landscapes and seascapes; his paintings have been exhibited in various galleries in places as far apart as Jersey, London, Strasbourg and Margaret River. The Sydney Opera House graces the Billabong Australia’s Pale Ale label, while the 4 Hop Ale one shows a colourful detail from a painting of a billabong.
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