This article was contributed by Leroy Wilson of Tourism Media.
Craft beer aficionados will happily spend hours discussing the sometimes weird and wonderful ingredients that go into their favourite brews. But what about the ingredients that go into a great craft brewery?
Craft breweries require space for all those big shiny kettles, fermenters, cold rooms and tasting areas. Add in a kitchen area and perhaps a canning line, and that cute ‘lil corner store with a ‘for lease’ sign just ain’t gonna cut it. Which is why old warehouses, factories and machinery sheds are so popular with craft brewery start-ups. Not only do these spaces offer blank canvases, they also offer room to expand. When the brewers move in, however, they sometimes find more than just cobwebs, dust and a rusty filing cabinet. Many of our favourite watering holes have great stories to tell.
In my hometown of Brisbane, Ballistic Beer Co. has taken up residence in the outer suburb of Salisbury, an area with an explosive past. Throughout the dark days of the Second World War, Salisbury was the centre of Australia’s munitions production, its factories pumping out bullets, grenades, mines and high explosives. When Ballistic’s founders moved into their premises in 2016, the munitions-making equipment was long gone, replaced by thousands of worn out car tires. Once the tires were hauled away at great expense, a question remained: what to name their fledgling brewery? As soon as the owners learnt of Salisbury’s history, the name Ballistic dropped and the distinctive keg-bomb logo was born.
You’ll find such stories wherever you find good craft beer brewed. Another of my favourite Brisbane craft-beer hangs, Green Beacon, served for decades as a council bus depot. In Melbourne, Mountain Goat’s HQ was both a tannery and condom factory in past incarnations, while Moon Dog Brewing’s Oasis Ballroom served as a mysterious decadent party space for one of the tech giants before the dot-com bubble burst in 2000.
Across the Pacific where the craft beer boom began, you’ll find even more stories. Minneapolis’ Able Brewery was once a General Electric manufacturing plant, lighting up the nation with the first Edison light bulbs. In Michigan City, The Shoreline Brewery took up residence in a 150-year-old ‘pink brick’ that saw stints as a golf ball factory and a camera manufacturing plant.
Like Ballistic, many craft brewers embrace their brewery’s former lives. Housed in an old San Francisco coffee roastery, Anchor Brewing celebrate their Art Deco building’s aromatic past with a fine coffee porter. Further north in British Columbia, Red Arrow’s streamlined graphics hark back to the days when the brewery building housed a custom Harley Davidson shop.
While many breweries give a passing nod to the ancestry of their bricks and mortar, others truly revel in it. Florida’s American Icon Brewery recently took up residency in the Vero Beach diesel plant. In a spectacular 6-million-dollar renovation, Icon ingeniously retrofitted the gargantuan diesel engine with beer taps, creating a centrepiece to a brewery where the building is every bit as important as the beer itself.
And sometimes it just gets plain weird. Deep in LA’s industrial district, the Ohana Brewing Company took up residence in a former crematorium. When it came time to set up the brew kettle, it seemed only logical to place it in the spot where the crematorium furnace once stood, adding a new twist to the term ‘smoked beer’!
Check out Expedia’s Kegs of Glory campaign to get the story on some of Melbourne and Brisbane’s best breweries. And whether you’re at your favourite beer hang, or working your happy way through some of the thousands of craft breweries popping up worldwide, ask the bartender about the former life of the walls around you. Besides downing a few great craft beers, chances are you’ll get to sample a little history as well.