Today, the town has a population of just over 3,000 serviced by substantially fewer bars but has successfully re-invented itself as a popular tourist destination.  More importantly however, it is the location of the Bridge Road Brewery.

This multi-award winning small brewery was founded by Ben Kraus who apparently gained the inspiration while spending time in his dad’s back shed.  The brewery, bar and pizza kitchen are located in a 150 year old coach house with stables, tucked in behind the town centre.  Anywhere from eight to twelve beers will be offer at any given time, mostly specialist ales.

The brewery logo is a man in a battered iron helmet.  While this figure is probably instantly familiar to Australians, it can take a while for the Kiwi mind to figure out that it is, of course, Ned Kelly.  The iconic outlaw spent some time in the Beechworth Prison during the 1870s and the town has an extensive museum devoted to him. 

Beechworth’s historic connection with Ned Kelly goes some way towards explaining Bridge Road’s rather unusual Twitter handle – @nakedned – but still doesn’t quite explain it entirely…  After all, the Kelly Gang were most famous for wearing armour, not running around in the all together.

Still, that debate will be happily left to the historians.  The purpose of this post is to talk about the beer.  Four Bridge Road products will be arriving at Malthouse on Monday 7 July 2010. *  I recall being particularly impressed by the Bridge Road selection when I first tried them at the 2009 Beer and Brewer Expo in Melbourne – though I will have to confess that I was one of those New Zealanders who did not get the Ned Kelly iconography initially.

Now, however, I do and thanks to Wikipedia I know more about Ned Kelly than ever before.  I was particularly intrigued to learn that his suit of armour was the only one which had a flap of metal on the back.  That is indicative of a man who does not want his gang to run away, but wants to keep that option open for himself.

I have to say that if I had been asked to select four Bridge Road beers, I would also have picked these four.

First up is Beechworth Pale Ale (4.8%), the flagship beer of the range.  It is based on the American Pale Ale style discussed so fervently in recent posts and uses American and New Zealand both in the boil and for dry hopping.  It is tweaked for each hop harvest but always bursts with aromatic hops.  

Their Bling India Pale (5.8%) is a take on the more traditional India Pale Ale genre.  As you might expect from a beer named ‘Bling’, this is a huge beer with “all the bells and whistles” – big chewy malts, massive fresh hops, plenty of body.   

The next two beers are from their Chevalier brand.  Like an increasing number of craft breweries, Bridge Road put some of their more unusual and specialist brews under a separate brand.  There is also a strong connection between Ned Kelly and Chevalier.  Chevalier is effectively the French word for knight, a profession which is also well known for their use of metal headgear.

Based on the traditional farmhouse ales of the Low Countries, the Biere De Garde (7.5%) is the biggest seller in the Chevalier range.  It is an authentically complicated brew with notes of toffee, dried fruits, spices, sugar and earthy yeasts.

The Saison (6.0%) is a similarly rare farmhouse style which originated in Belgium.  It pours a pale gold with plenty of esters and phenolics producing a tart, dry and acidic beer which is utterly quenching and captivating. 

I was impressed that Bridge Road was prepared to make the Biere de Garde and Saison quite so authentic.  These styles of beer are often described as having a touch of the barnyard about them.  The temptation for brewers is to ‘clean that up’ in order to appeal to more drinkers.  For me, that barnyard funk is precisely what makes these styles so special. 

Contrary to popular belief, my beer research does involve more than repeatedly sampling the products under discussion.  I do spend quite a lot of time sifting through websites and even real books looking for information and inspiration.  Too many sites these days are incredibly corporate and talk solely of ‘brands’ and ‘values’ rather than ‘ingredients’ and ‘flavour’.  Craft beer people though still generally have a sense of humour as demonstrated by this event advertised at the Bridge Road Brewery:

Don’t miss out on this closed door event at the brewery – digital slot car fanatics and drunken amateurs will team up to see who’s the king of coach house this coming Saturday at the brewery (August 8th 7pm). **

So, Bridge Road is arriving Monday, Tuatara APA is back on right now and plenty more brew news next week.  If you don’t want to wait that long, then you can always follow Malthouse on Twitter or become a fan *** on Facebook.

* No pressure courier dudes…
** Unless you are Doctor Who, you missed it
*** This may have been re-named “like” – which just sounds weird.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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