While many craft brewers are pushing the boundaries of beer with innovative recipes and techniques, some breweries are turning back the clock and releasing beers using heritage ingredients and recipes from Australia’s brewing past.

Most recently, the Overland Corner Hotel and Woolshed Brewery collaborated on the Original Porter, based on the beer which was first served at the Overland Corner Hotel by its original owners in 1859.

Brad Flowers purchased the South Australian hotel in 2021 after leaving his Queensland-based beer distribution business. Given the hotel’s importance to the region, Flowers was compelled to delve into its past.

“The Overland Corner Hotel is the oldest building in the Riverlands, and it’s over 160 years old. During Covid, I obviously had a bit of downtime at the pub, renovating, cleaning, building, painting, and searching through the record books. I immersed myself in the history of the building because it means so much to everyone in the region.

“Looking through the records, I kept landing on the Brand family that built the hotel. They were from Kent in England, and they used to work on the hop fields. In talking with Brand family members, and historians, and looking through the history books, I was able to find out what they brought over from the hop fields,” he said.

Flowers found that hops were brought to Australia both for beer production and for infusion into drinking water to stave off scurvy during the sea voyage from England. This link to brewing inspired Flowers to continue to look into the hotel’s beer heritage, and found that, while rum was the drink of choice at the time, the Overland Corner Hotel would serve an English porter for celebratory occasions.

Flowers approached Jack Beavis, Head Brewer at Woolshed Brewery, to take on the task of recreating the porter.

“Jack has gone to some pretty extreme lengths. We got Kent Golding Hops sent over from the actual hop fields where the Brand boys used to work. Jack also contacted Fullers Brewery in the UK and got our hands on the malt that they used. The most incredible thing is that a South Australian company called Ferveo, that Jack works with, contacted the world yeast library and asked for a yeast strain that was similar to what the Brand boys used. The yeast library said, we have the actual yeast strain,” Flowers said.

Overland Corner Hotel debuted the Original Porter three weeks ago, serving from an original 1800s hand pump which was flown in from England, and sold out completely within three days. A second batch is brewing at the moment, and Flowers is already searching for other recipes from the brewery’s past.

Earlier in the year, Otherside Brewing Co. also released a heritage beer, Gilded Ale, based on a 1913 recipe and brewed for the WA State Library’s exhibition, Liquid Gold: A Taste of WA Brewing History. The Head Brewer at the time, Rhys Lopez, who has since stared his own nanobrewery, Evil Mega Corp, used a recipe from brewers journals kept in the State Library private archives. Lopez remarked on the differences between modern-day brewing and brewing 100 years ago.

“The development process was difficult, primarily because of the need to interpret handwriting and terminology, as well as translating the shorthand. Once we realised that grain was measured in bushels, it became easier, but there were issues around using now defunct maltster brand names and agricultural regions for hops rather than varieties.

 “It seemed that the brewery would use multiple sources of base malt in a single recipe, which we interpreted as a hedge against fluctuating quality from batch to batch. Also, an incredible amount of sugar. The backwards calculating of original gravity was a bit of a vibes-based situation. All of this research was significantly aided by the old guard of WA brewers from the 70s and 80s: Roger Bussell, Ken Arrowsmith and Hugh Dunn,” he said.

Heritage beers have the opportunity to appeal to a broader wider range of beer drinkers than craft breweries may normally attract, as Flowers found with the Original Porter.

“Apart from the usual craft beer lovers, we also had a lot of interest from the older generation in the area, who were interested in the history.

“Beers like this take us back to a traditional style, made with great ingredients. They’re unique ingredients, so it still has that craft beer X factor, but it takes beer back to its roots,” he said.

Otherside Brewing’s General Manager, Braden Loader, said that heritage beers have a strong story for consumers to relate to.

“As a beer marketer at heart, I’m a sucker for a good story. Having an authentic history for a new product is pretty rare, and being able to not only revive this 100-year-old recipe, but also connect it with an experience that celebrates beer histories, that’s pretty special.”

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1 Comment

  1. I remember a beer- Flowers Dragon’s Blood – from a sip of my dad’s
    beer a very long time ago, and have tried unsuccessfully to find a recipe for it, or any information on it beyond a tantalizing view of it’s
    label. Can you suggest any web sites I might try?

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