For example, I spent around a week in Melbourne a few years ago. If all I knew about Melbourne was from what I saw I that trip then I would describe it as being filled with an airport, a hotel, craft beer bars, craft beer tasting events, craft beer festivals, Thai cultural festivals [1] and not enough sleep.

It was on that trip where I got my very first glimpse of some of the most distinctive tap handles in the world – brightly coloured goat head silhouettes with huge arcing horns. Now, I’m near sighted and colour blind but they still leapt out at me from behind a crowded bar.  They were the trademark taps of Mountain Goat Brewery, a local Melbourne success story.  From memory, I had their flagship Hightail Amber Ale and a Pale Ale which does not appear to be made regularly these days. They were distinctly tasty beers which were adored by the Melbourne beer crowds. 

Mountain Goat brews have made very sporadic appearances in New Zealand since then but last week announced a strong move into the Kiwi beer market.  Owner and co-founder Cam Hines said “we are wrapped to be shipping some Goat over your way. There’s some ripping beer coming out of New Zealand and it’s a thrill for us to see our beer sitting in New Zealand fridges next to Kiwi brands.” 

At this point, it’s probably wise to step back and tell the story of Mountain Goat Brewery as it is a cracking yarn by any standard. In the early 1990s, Dave Bonighton was a keen young homebrewer cranking out near weekly brews in his Melbourne backyard.

His friend Cam Hines, whom we heard from earlier, was on his Big OE backpacking through Canada. He says “When I turned up in Vancouver [2] a friend took me out to some local bars serving a host of local microbrews on tap.  I just suddenly got the picture and realised what Dave was striving for back home.  My perception of beer got turned upside down right then and there.  So I sent Dave a postcard that said something like ‘Dave, we gotta talk, we need to start a microbrewery in Melbourne…’” 

Of course, it takes more than a visionary postcard to start a microbrewery from scratch, particularly given the Australian craft beer scene back then was still in its infancy (at best).  After a couple of years of making plans, raising money and battling bureaucracy, they started making seriously good beer. The Mountain Goat boys opened the brewery in 1996 and launched their first commercial beer in 1997. It is fair to say they haven’t looked back since.

The Crafty Pint hails Cam and Dave as “two true trailblazers of the craft beer revolution” saying “at a time when microbreweries had almost disappeared from the Australian landscape, they began a guerrilla fightback against the mundanity of commercial beers.”  The first shipment went to around three establishments but Mountain Goat has grown steadily over the years. [3]

The now relatively sizable brewery is in Richmond (inner Melbourne) and is a hugely popular drinking hole in the weekends. Mountain Goat is still independently owned, [4] and the founders are still very hands on. They would have been greatly relieved at the comparatively recent arrival of a small automated bottling plant after hand filling, capping and labelling more than 2 million bottles over the years. 

Just like Malthouse, their Richmond brewery bar has its own Hopinator which is called Randy. [5] It has been described by Crafty Pint as “a Heath Robinson-esque machine that’s filled with fresh hops, fruit, coffee beans (well, anything really) that add a last minute hit of added flavour to your beer.”  The Malthouse Hopinator – The Modus Hopperandus – is probably more Doctor Who then Heath Robinson [6] but the purpose is exactly the same. 

Malthouse has just taken a big shipment of all four Mountain Goat naturally brewed beers currently available in New Zealand. That list is headlined by the Mountain Goat Hightail Amber Ale (4.5%).  This smooth English inspired ale balances a firm malt body (caramel) with floral, spicy hop notes. It is the beer that really helped launch Mountain Goat.

A much more recent addition is the Mountain Goat Steam Ale (4.5%). This certified organic ale is a rare example of a Steam beer, in this case an ale which is fermented cool with a “slap” of wheat. [7] The use of Cascade and Citra hops create a distinctive beer which is grassy, zesty and crisp. The brewers even call it “zippy”.  Very few Australasian breweries even attempt to make a Steam Beer and this is definitely the most famous Australian example. 

The Mountain Goat IPA (6.2%) was one of their Rare Breed Limited Edition beers but it proved so popular it was added to the permanent range.  This is yet more proof that big Pale Ales are so hot right now. Goat IPA (GIPA to its friends) is certainly a big beer – 6.2% ABV, 65 IBUs and dry hopped with Galaxy (AUS), Citra (USA) and Motueka (NZ) hops, but there is also plenty of malt.  I’ve seen it described “malt rich, big hops, in balance” – I like that. It might not just be the hopheads who enjoy this one…

Finally, there is the return of Mountain Goat Rare Breed Fancy Pants (5.2%) which the brewers describe as a “serious beer” with a “stupid name”.  It’s a balanced Amber Ale with plenty of crystal malt and Galaxy hops flowers in the hopback for a final jolt of flavour. While it may be hard to order with a completely straight face, this beer has notes of citrus, caramel, toffee and a whiff of grass. Fancy Pants was first brewed in the 1990s but this is its first time in bottles.

Next time, we drink a pint of tears wept at the relentless tyranny of advancing years.

[1] By way of explanation – I had to walk through the festival to get to the Beer DeLuxe which is a truly fabulous bar. While the rows of chanting monks at the festival did little for me, the Thai kick boxing tournament was exceptionally brutal for a Sunday morning.

[2] I keep hearing stories like this. I think Vancouver must be the Wellington of Canada.

[3] Appropriately enough, Melbourne’s city motto is “Vires acquirit eundo” which means “She gathers strength as she goes.”  It sounds better in Latin.

[4] According to noted market observer – Wikipedia – there are thought to be around a dozen shareholders, mainly friends and family of the founders.

[5] The brewery’s love of goat related puns and allusions has not diminished in the slightest since the first bottle was sold.

[6] Heath Robinson was English artist who was famous for drawing “unnecessarily complex and implausible contraptions”.  He was pretty much the English equivalent of Rube Goldberg.

[7] This is a legitimate brewing term – or at least it should be.


Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine


Mountain Goat Brewery –

Mountain Goat Brewery on Facebook –

Crafty Pint on Mountain Goat –

Malthouse Facebook –

Malthouse Twitter –!/malthouse

Malthouse Taps on Twitter –!/MalthouseTaps

Neil Miller on Twitter –!/beerlytweeting

Beer and Brewer Magazine –