No beer lover's visit to Melbourne is complete without an hour or three in the Mountain Goat Brewery enjoying a beer in the shadow of the tanks in which they are brewed. Now well into its third decade producing some of Australia's finest tipples, the operation launched by mates Cam and Dave is a true trailblazer of the craft beer revolution.
At a time when microbreweries had almost disappeared from the Australian landscape, they began a guerilla fightback against the mundanity of commercial beers. On a trip to North America, Cam was inspired by the local micro scene, sent home brewing pal Dave a postcard saying: "Let's open a brewery" and, on his return, they did. Dave's ever-expanding homebrew setup spilled into his backyard, they began holding Friday night BBQs, word got out and a Melbourne legend was born.
Today, Mountain Goat's spiritual home is found in a large warehouse in Richmond, although it's evolved a fair bit too, with Cam and Dave deciding to sell to Asahi in 2015 after building a business that had started sending its distinctive goat head taps across Australia and helped establish Melbourne as Australia's craft beer capital while collaborating with brewers here and abroad.
Were you to call into the Richmond brewery, now open to the public more than ever before, you'd be hard-pressed to tell anything has changed. Sure, Cam and Dave have moved on, but, aside from squeezing in ever more tanks and other gear, the focus remains on brewing cracking beers, while there's a few familiar faces still brewing the beers too.
The team there has the freedom to knock out big IPAs, barrel-aged beers and, well, pretty much whatever takes their fancy, as production of the bigger volume beers – the likes of Steam Ale, Fancy Pants and a lager introduced in 2019 – has been handled at Asahi's Laverton plant for years.
It's a freedom the brewers have been grabbing with both hands. In Goat's 18th year, they celebrated winning Champion Australian Beer at the 2015 Australian International Beer Awards for their biggest ever beer at that point, a Lark Barrel-Aged Barleywine, just a few months before announcing the sale. Since then, the trophies have kept on coming, for IPAs, their Pale Ale and, in 2018, the big one: Champion Large Australian Brewery.
They continue to support community events, with a particular focus on music, which was a passion for both the brewery's founders, have installed a still, opened a brewpub in the Sydney suburb of Newtown, and sit somewhat as a figurehead in a Melbourne scene that's a far cry from the day the first Hightail was released in 1997 and which wouldn't be where it is without Goat.