DAY 360: Making beer at Mountain Goat

26 Aug

I DON’T drink beer, but upon arriving at Mountain Goat microbrewery in Richmond, I’m moved to admit a beery workforce is a happy workforce.

Sloshing around in hops slops and digging encrusted barley out of fermentation tanks with a cheerful industriousness hitherto only seen in Fraggle Rock, everyone’s relaxed and chipper – and then they get to go home smelling nice.

Cofounder Dave Bonighton is giving me a few lessons in beer making today. Dave went to economics school in the US for three years and travelled back via Europe, sampling the real ales of the UK and Belgium en route. Returning to the sparkling lagers of Australia – and a boring job – was something of a comedown. Inspired, he started making homebrews in a disused town hall in country Victoria and, after some scrambling for funding, he and business partner Cam established Mountain Goat.

Stare-off in front of the fermentation tanks.

One of the staff – they’re encouraged to experiment – is tinkering with using rye. A new success story is Seedy Goat – a coffee IPA. Another is experimenting with wine yeast, which is more tolerant to alcohol. Since alcohol’s a toxin, if you try and brew past eight per cent strength using normal beer yeast, it starts poisoning itself. Use a hardier yeast and you’ll end up with a thicker, stronger beer.

TASK ONE is to simultaneously sterilise one keg with caustic cleaner, while filling another with frothy nectar. Luckily, all I have to do is load the kegs up and press a couple of buttons, and a machine called Gunther (he’s from Germany… all the machinery have names here, like Bender and Patrick) does the grunt work. Only one of us screams when high-pressure beer slops comes shooting out of a nearby grate though.

TASK TWO is to measure the pressure and temperature. I fail at this task, as I’m not strong enough to work the gizmo.

TASK THREE is to test the pH and temperature of a random bottle with a probe. I succeed at this, and so does the beer, which clocks in at around 4pH.

Dave won’t go so far as far as to say his beer’s good for you, but it is preservative-free, with no stabilisers or head enhancers.

You can get your own free guided tour at 6.30pm on Wednesdays, or just drop into the bar for a pizza. And a beer.

Keeper? Probably not the career for me, but good to try.

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