Brewery Visit – Byron Bay Brewery

The Pale Ale

It has been quiet around here of late. You see I’ve dropped out of society and like many people before me headed to the hippie enclave of Byron Bay.
Now we all know of the famous brewery in Byron, Stone and Wood who make the most popular beer for craft beer people in Australia with the Pacific Ale, are located there somewhere. I’m not going to tell you about them because a) the brewery is not open to the public and b) I’ve never really liked the Pacific Ale anyway.
What I will tell you about is the not particularly imaginatively named Byron Bay Brewery. This is located just out of the main shops in an old piggery, which was converted in the 80’s (or maybe the 70’s, I wasn’t paying that much attention) to a sprawling complex with the huge Buddha bar (home of the brewery) a cinema, a huge bandroom and the biggest backpackers I think I’ve ever seen in the carpark out the back.
The Buddha bar represents everything that is good about Byron. It was the birthplace of the Blues and Roots festival, there are a series of weird murals on the wall, including one of naked people with fairy wings bathing in a stream, and of course it seemed to be populated mainly by backpackers and a few aging hippies who were getting stoned in the corner.
The brewery makes a full range of beers to cater for the varied markets that no doubt come through the doors. The range stretches to six brews from a low carb monstrosity through to a very nice pale ale and dark lager.
Myself and Jordan managed to taste all of the beers in NSW-friendly schooner sizes over a couple of visits, including one in happy hour which had unheard of (for craft beer) $3 schooners.
We started with the Pale Ale which is always a safe choice as it’s reasonably hard to make a bad one. This was on the gentler side of the scale, not too aggressive, it had a nice full body (certainly fuller than I expected) and a noticeable pleasant aftertaste.  There was much talk between myself and Jord about whether it deserved a Schooner or Pint, because we were on holidays or maybe because the smoke from the hippies in the corner wafted over we were feeling generous and gave it a Pint.

The really quite weird mural

It was a hot evening so I figured I’d stay on the lighter beers and ordered myself up a Pilsener. Now I have to say I often find this style a little boring, but this was actually a pretty good version of one. It was a lovely looking beer, great clarity, good head retention, the hop taste was spot on. The only shortcoming was a slightly buttery taste which suggested to be it might have been Diacetyl affected, perhaps the heat of Byron got to it – see I do actually know something about beer. Schooner.
I’d had some previous intelligence reports that the Billy Goat which is their dark lager was the pick of the bunch. This intelligence was correct. The beer had a nice creamy head, a full body, yet it was still very refreshing. There was a hint of roasted malt and just a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste. Pint.
Whilst I was drinking this Jord was working her way through the Mid Strength called Red Belly and she was nice enough to give me a taste. I didn’t have high hopes, and I was right, it was a bit of a nothing beer, had just a hint of marmalade in the smell, and the body (not surprisingly) was very thin. Not offensive by any stretch of the imagination, but really not that pleasurable either.  Pot
It was then time for our last round. We had been putting off drinking the Premium and the Blonde (meaning low-carb not witbier) because, well those are both marketing terms not beer styles. Jordan whinged about it, asking why she couldn’t just have the ones we liked again. I mumbled something about having to report on things for ‘my people’ and reminded her that they were $3, if it was shit we didn’t have to drink it.
And that’s exactly what we did with the Blonde.  Jord took a sip and told me ‘This beer is wasting my time, it tastes like nothing, I might as well be drinking water.’  I took a sip and agreed with her, I then apologised to her for making her order such an embarrassing drink and we left it ¾ full on the end of our table. Most pointless beer since Burleigh Brewing’s Big Head. Butchers.
The Premium wasn’t a great beer, but next to the Blonde it was a Belgian master. In truth I think it was actually a good beer that was hiding behind too much carbonation, as it sat on the table and de-fizzed it got better. Schooner.
My advice – if you are in Byron head out to the Buddha Bar and sample some of the Byron Bay beers, probably not all of them, as there really as some lower common dominator beers in there which I guess is what you have to do when you run a brewery in a major tourist area. Then again there is enough in there with the Billy Goat and the Pale to keep the craft beer kids happy too.
The Long Bow Youtube clips. The Byron Blues and Roots festival has amazing line-up this year, there too many great acts to mention. But two highlights are Lucinda Williams and The Pogues.  So here are your vids. Joy by Lucinda Williams

And The Pogues with Dirty old town

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