When Tim Colebatch from Darwin and NT Homebrewers wrote to Beer & Brewer about his experiences brewing in Darwin he became an easy choice for our Homebrew Club and profile in our Winter Issue. There’s an extra element of difficulty as Homebrew Editor Chris Thomas discovered. Here is an excerpt from that feature.
When you’re living in a major city on the east or west coast of Australia you can take a lot of things for granted. Like easy access to great craft beers and brewing ingredients. It’s easy to forget that not everyone has the same ability to get what they want when they want. The further away you get from a major city the more challenging it gets.
But what about when you move somewhere remote like Darwin?
Now we all know that Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territory, but it’s also a remote city without any other cities nearby. Instead it’s surrounded by natural beauty and crocodiles, but neither of these are going to help you make quality beers.
This isn’t a story about crying foul but an insight into the realities and challenges of pursuing your homebrewing hobby in a place where the daily temperature during the wet season is 30-35°C overnight and the humidity makes a 36°C day feel like 45°C.
Tim Colebatch, Morris Pizzutto and Pat Walton helped form the Darwin and NT Homebrewers Facebook page in 2015.
The page boasts more than 100 members but really only about 20 of these are active according to Tim Colebatch, who is one of the more enthusiastic members.
Colebatch flies attack helicopters for the Australian Army during the day and loves to homebrew in his downtime. He’s basically living every teenagers dream!
Despite being around for a few years now the Darwin and NT Homebrewers are still very much in their infancy and their first physical meeting was scheduled to take place in June.
“The plan is to bring people together to bring the club together and continue to grow the homebrew influence in the top end,” says Colebatch.
What they have already done as a group though, is support each other to get better access to ingredients.
There are a couple of homebrew shops in Darwin, though these are aimed squarely at kit and kilo brewers trying to make beer quickly – turbo yeasts are a favourite and without temperature control these can punch through your brew in no time.
But we all know this isn’t desirable and the challenge for serious brewers is obvious.
“We have to order up from the south and east coast in bulk,” he said.
“The average delivery price for a single 25kg sack is $45, so when we order we get together and order by the pallet, which drops it to $25-30 a sack in delivery. It also lowers the amount of ingredients we keep on hand making beers fairly simple, or very expensive.
“Even the yeast is in the post but there’s no chance of getting a liquid one as express post is three days at the best of times.”
Since moving to Darwin, Colebatch’s beers have increased by about $10-15 per brew.
And then there is the weather. It’s not just the heat, but the humidity as well.
“The humidity up here makes an infection a very real possibility. Nothing dries properly during the wet season, so there is a constant battle against mould and other bugs, plus the potential infection while you wait for the wort to get to pitching temperature,” explains Colebatch.
“There is always the risk of a little bit of sweat dropping into the beer as well ̶ I call it a Top End Chicha.”
To read the full article and to see Tim Colebatch’s Orange Pilsner recipe, subscribe to Beer & Brewer here.