It was on separate trips along the West Coast of the US that schoolmates Al Carragher and Brendan Varis hatched their plan for a brewery on the West Coast of Australia. It took a number of years for the plan to come together, during which Brendan project managed brewery installations and start-ups across Australia while Al worked in beer sales and identified the future site, but since opening its doors in Swan Valley in October 2002, Feral has gained a reputation for its beers that places it at the very pinnacle of the Australian brewing industry.
With Al now in Melbourne running the Great Northern Hotel, the pub to first feature Feral on tap in the East, Brendan, his head brewer Will Irving and their growing team are intent on taking Aussie-brewed beer to new places. Since buying out his partners a few years back, Brendan's let his imagination run wild – literally – creating a number of sour beers, including those fermented with wild Swan Valley yeasts. They've also continued to experiment with hops, becoming one of the first breweries in Australia to create a beer with lupulin powder late in 2016: the beer called Hop Hogan.
There have been years of continued awards success too, be that Champion Exhibitor at the Australian International Beer Awards in 2009, when the brewery also picked up top gongs for its Hop Hog, Razorback barley wine and Feral White, a Belgian witbier that was the brewery's first release and remains its bestseller to this day. Or 2012, when Feral was named AIBA Champion Large Australian Brewery, or 2015 when its sour Berliner Weisse style beer Watermelon Warhead was named Champion Australian Craft Beer. And so on...
The original brewery's tucked in the corner of what's little more than an oversized wooden shed they built themselves. It's an unprepossessing home for such excellent beers, one that also houses a kitchen and bar pouring 16 Feral beers and local wines. Visit any time of year and you're likely to find their award-winners lined up alongside anything from Boris, the Russian Imperial Stout, to a farmhouse ale, double witbier or black IPA – plus of course new, experimental and frequently funky beers.
In June 2012, Feral moved to a 5,000 litre setup established with another WA brewery, Nail, leaving the original brewery to be used for small batch brews. Then, in late 2016, they moved a few hundred metres down the road to a larger facility that will allow them to increase production to six million litres a year – and saw them add a canning line too. Crafty Cabal members were among the first to tour the brewery they still share with Nail too.
Just a short trip from Perth, it's a criminal offence for anyone touring the region to miss out on a trip to the original brewpub. But, for anyone who can't make the trip, after years in which anyone outside WA was left with no choice other than to visit Feral's home state to taste their beers, these days it's increasingly easy to find Feral beers all over the country, and will be getting easier still since the brewery was bought by Coca-Cola Amatil in October 2017. Which is great for anyone who loves good beer in all its forms.