The magical property of yeasts to impart flavour and, as a bonus, convert sugar to alcohol is well known on the Granite Belt where winemakers have been fermenting for many years.
However, beverage producers Geoff and Dee are working their yeasts with a variety of grains and hops to produce Pilsner rather than Pinot. As Geoff will tell you, brewing is as ancient an art as winemaking (if not older) with the earliest evidence dating back 7000 years.
Geoff and Dee’s treechange from Brisbane was more recent. In 2009, they purchased the restaurant and accommodation, Happy Valley, just outside Stanthorpe. “We wanted to give the kids, Erinn (9) and Lachlan (7), a freer lifestyle,” says Dee, “and both Geoff and I prefer the bush. Our children love the freedom and have already worn out two bikes.”
When a guest one day mentioned there was plenty of Granite Belt wine to taste but no locally brewed beer, Geoff, who had already thought about a brewery, decided to have a go.
While he had put down a few homebrews with his father, a commercial operation was a step beyond that and required a substantial commitment of many resources. It was a significant challenge with a brewhouse to build, equipment to buy, an awful lot to learn, and their hands already full enough with Happy Valley, children and more. Fortunately, help was at hand with dad Mike, and a friend, Graeme Lamb, who had owned and operated a brewery in Western Australia. The willingness of these two to assist with work, impart knowledge and share their skills was invaluable.
In Spring 2012, the brewery opened for business but there is still much to be done. Geoff and Dee handbottle at the moment but a commercial bottling machine has been ordered which will enable production to increase and online and wholesale orders to become possible. This couple do not stop dreaming and have the drive and energy to turn dreams to reality.
“We opened with four beers on tap,” says Geoff, whose passion is obvious as he talks. “We went for bitter ales because we had a few stints in the UK and enjoyed the variety on offer there. We would really like to produce seasonal beers such as a Winter ale that’s brewed stronger, richer and more full-bodied – a beer that would taste great alongside a roaring fire. We now produce a Kolsch, a Pilsner, a Porter, pale ale, wheat beer, and Irish red ale (known fondly as IRA) which is shaping up as the favourite.” Dee laughingly interrupts, “We had to have Irish ale with my background. Dee is short for Dympna ¬ a 7th Century Irish Saint whose patronage includes mental and neurological disorders. Isn’t that an appropriate name for someone crazy enough to commence a brewery?” Crazy? One would be crazy not to come and try a glass or three, have a wander through a very impressive brewery, and reflect on an ancient skill.
Words by Christopher Desgrand | Images by Cory Rossiter