A good news story out of regional Victoria, by Samuel Laffy

For Zander Thompson – owner and brewer of Victoria’s Bandolier Brewing – the question of which brew to select for their first foray into bottled beers was a no-brainer.

‘Number Juan’, a Mexican-style lager, which incorporates malted-corn, is the flagship beer for Bandolier and its popularity with the brewery’s loyal and growing fan base practically made the decision for them.

“I almost didn’t put this beer on tap,” Zander said.

“It was a beer I used to brew at home for my wife, as she is Mexican, but fortunately we gave it a try for the brewery opening and it’s been our best-selling beer from day one. It was an easy decision to bottle this style first.”

Bandolier opened in December last year, making it the first craft brewery in the West Gippsland town of Warragul.

Seeking to bring attention to classic beer styles from around the world – from Belgian Witbiers and English Porters to Steam Ales from the USA – the Mexi-Corn Lager is reflective of the brewery’s desire to focus on beers that acquire their flavours from natural ingredients and a meticulous approach to quality.

Following 16 months of detailed planning, and an arduous permit process, it hasn’t taken long for Zander, a Warragul native, and his business partner, brewery manager and co-brewer Morgan Cox, to make an impact on the local community since opening their doors. With just a handful of breweries operating throughout Gippsland, many Warragul locals had long sought a brewery to call their own, with signs indicating the thirst for quality beer in the region is alive and well.

“The response from day has been incredible and far beyond our expectations,” Zander said.

“Especially given that on opening day our bar was unfinished and essentially just some beer taps in an unpainted room. We’ve always received encouraging comments from our regular customers as they have watched the place evolve, and constructive feedback on our beers.

“Judging by countless conversations, locals have wanted a brewery in town to call their own for a long time.”

Having initially hoped to showcase their beers to a wider audience through features at local pubs and restaurants, like many in the brewing world Bandolier have been hampered by COVID-19 restrictions.

However, whilst they’ve been prevented from pouring beers on-site for patrons for large parts of the year, it hasn’t stopped Zander and Morgan from continuing to expand Bandolier’s core offerings, reflected in their rotating cast of the Mexi-Corn Lager, IPA, Witbier, Amber Ale and Porter – a Winter offering soon to be re-released as a Fig Porter following the introduction of locally grown fruit to the brew tank.

Additionally, a desire to establish partnerships with local businesses and restaurants has been a focus, especially with the likes of Trevor Perkins, head chef at Hogget Kitchen – the award-winning restaurant operating on the outskirts of Warragul since 2017.

“We aspire to do with beer what Trev does with food, which is a focus on sourcing local produce and letting the ingredients speak for themselves,” Zander said.

This desire to collaborate has also seen Zander and Morgan join forces with Chris Fletcher from 2 Brothers Brewery for a secret upcoming release – and seen them score a recent guest-tap appearance for Bandolier’s White Ale at 2 Brothers’ Moorabbin beer hall.

Combined with plans currently in the works for a soon-to-be-constructed beer garden (scheduled for an October opening), and the upcoming release of a host of new beer styles throughout Spring and Summer, Bandolier is a brewery worthy of attention – especially as Regional Victoria moves tentatively towards re-opening in the coming weeks.

For those in Warragul and surrounds, drop in to the brewery during opening hours for takeaway fills, or keep an eye out for Bandolier’s ‘Number Juan’ – found at the Press Cellars (Warragul’s premier craft bottle shop). For those in other areas of Gippsland, and craft-beer lovers in Melbourne keen for a post-lockdown road-trip, Zander and Morgan look forward to seeing you in person behind the bar soon.

Bandolier Brewing can be found at 1/132 North Road Warragul. For more information, head to their website.

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