BentSpoke Brewing Co

To many beer aficionados, for the majority of its life at Canberra House, the Wig & Pen Tavern was synonymous with one thing above all others: the beers of Richard Watkins. The brewer spent 17 years there, twice winning Champion Australian Brewery titles and creating an unrivalled collection of cask ales, Belgian beers, hoppy ales and, perhaps most famously, barrel-aged sours back before most people in Australia knew such things existed.

Today, both the Wig & Pen and Richard Watkins have relocated. The former is now found within the capital’s ANU building, the latter within the home of BentSpoke Brewing Co, the brewpub he launched with partner Tracy Margrain in Braddon in June 2014.

It launched with a bang, with an estimated 3,000 litres of beer and cider pouring through BentSpoke’s 18 taps on the opening weekend, and has barely paused for breath since. On The Crafty Pint’s first visit, while all other Canberra venues we passed on the Monday and Tuesday evenings had attracted a handful of patrons, at BentSpoke the tables out front and inside were packed; much of the upper floor, which houses the brewery, was populated too.

It’s easy to understand the appeal, not least because of the quality of the beers and cider that flow. At all times, 18 different drops are on offer, some of them permanently, others one-offs or seasonals that come and go. They range from traditional (and less traditional) ales on hand pump to a range of hoppy, US-inspired pales that rise in steps to some seriously high ABV and IBU brews and among which which the Sprocket is a true gem. Then there are spiced ales, beers pouring through the custom-built “hopinator” (Richard is the designer and builder of most you find around Australia today), dark ales, Belgian ales, beers showcasing unique ingredients, such as the Heat Freekeh brewed with the ancient grain of the same name, and anything else that he challenges himself to brew.

Then there’s the look of the two storey joint. Built into the lower floors of a new build apartment block in the revitalised suburb of Braddon, it puts the brewery front and centre. Behind the downstairs bar sit a row of tanks, while as you head upstairs you pass the brewhouse where Richard goes to work.

There’s plenty of clever touches too. The hand rails on the stairs are actually pipes through which beer is pumped from the brewery to the tanks below, kegs are used for seats and malt bags hang from walls, while the tap handles are all individually conceived and handcrafted by BentSpoke regular Peter Rogers. The retired cartographer used to design the decals for Richard at the Wig & Pen and has now taken his creativity to another level, carving and moulding ever more cunning and outlandish wooden, plastic and metal handles.

It’s all in keeping with the dazzling industrial look of the brewpub, from the expanses of timber, glass and steel to the incredible hanging light shades (a term that doesn’t do them any sort of justice) welded from bike parts by Tracy and the Rat Patrol, a local group of bike builders. Similarly, the tasting paddles – or handles – are made with actual handles.

The look is itself in keeping with the ethos of the place, with the “spoke” of the title a nod to the world of cycling. As for the bent, well, Richard is well known for brewing “bent” beers, many of which appear alongside more orthodox beers, all of which you can take home in stylish growlers.

That’s not all that’s bent about the place, either. The food that has played its own significant role in BentSpoke’s popularity isn’t afraid to step outside the boundaries of what you might expect to find on a quality brewpub menu. Sure, there are tasty hot wings, Ploughman’s platters and the like, as well as dishes making use of the beers and their raw ingredients. But there are often offerings for the more adventurous, such as lamb’s brains in a crushed grain crust. And quite delicious they were too.

In November 2015, Richard and Tracy took possession of a second site in Mitchell, where they are developing a second brewery and venue that includes a canning line that, in November 2016, produced their first two packaged beers, with Barley Griffin and Crankshaft getting the nod.

Name
BentSpoke Brewing Co
Address

38 Mort Street
Braddon
ACT 2612

Phone
(02) 6257 5220
Website
Hours

Open 11am to midnight every day

BentSpoke Brewing Co Regulars

BentSpoke Brewing Co Sprocket

The Sprocket is described by the brewery as the Crankshaft Orange IPA's younger sister. In typically bent fashion, while there is an argument that it is younger given it was first brewed later, in pretty much every other way it presents as the bigger sibling. It's higher in alcohol for one and explodes out of the glass like few other IPAs you'll come across in Australia – or anywhere else for that matter. Our first experience of the beer came when we were catching up with a mate who's involved… Read more
Style
IPA
Strength
6.7%

BentSpoke Brewing Co Dick Tracy

The first ever beer to go through the BentSpoke brewery, its taps and into punter's hands, the Dick Tracy is the sort of concoction that some brewers like to use when putting their gleaming new setups to the test. In other words, it adds plenty to the mix in order to see how the brewery will handle them. In this case, the mix featured lots of darker malts, some fruity hops and a Belgian yeast. The resultant beer is one that doesn't lack for complexity. If you're after rich, fruity, nutty dark toffee… Read more
Style
Belgo Nut Brown Ale
Strength
5.4%

BentSpoke Brewing Co Mort's Gold

Another beer that comes with a nod to local history, the Mort's Gold is named after Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, a 19th century industrialist known for, among other things, improving refrigeration of meat and founding Australia's first gold mining company. The latter fact makes sense given the beer is a bright golden pilsner; maybe the former can be tied in too given just how well the beer would go with a fine slab of crispy pork... The beer itself has a gently fruity side to it alongside the soft spicy,… Read more
Style
Pilsner
Strength
4.9%

BentSpoke Brewing Co Crankshaft IPA

One of the beers that has become something of a flagship for BentSpoke, the Crankshaft is a US-inspired "Orange" IPA. Why orange? Well, for a start it pours a bold orange / rust colour. And then there's the choice of US hops that are lavished upon it: initially Centennial, Citra, Cascade and Simcoe but evolving to switch out Cascade and bring in fellow Americans Equinox and Mosaic. The result are aromas and flavours that lean heavily towards the citrus (in particular orange, of course),… Read more
Style
American IPA
Strength
5.8%
Bitterness
35 IBU

BentSpoke Brewing Co Braddon Bitter

Taking its name from the suburb of Canberra that BentSpoke calls home, the Braddon Bitter is also the beer that, more than any other on the lineup, reminded The Crafty Pint's British founder of home too. It may use all Aussie ingredients but it has the bitters of the UK as its inspiration. One of the beers you'll find pouring through the venue's handpumps, straight from a tank behind the bar, it's a deep auburn coloured beer that mixes hearty toffee, caramel and slightly nutty malt characters with… Read more
Style
English Bitter
Strength
5.0%

BentSpoke Brewing Co Barley Griffin

A BentSpoke regular that takes its name from the artificial lake at the heart of Canberra, Lake Burley Griffin. In late 2016, it became one of two beers chosen to be packaged in cans. Tagged as a "Canberra Pale Ale", it sits firmly at the sessionable end of the pale ale spectrum, weighing in at just 4.2 percent ABV. The beer pours a hazy pale straw colour – or "cloudy but fine", according to the brewery team in another reference to the place in which it is brewed – and delivers… Read more
Style
Australian Pale Ale
Strength
4.2%
Bitterness
18 IBU

BentSpoke Brewing Co Specials

BentSpoke Brewing Co GFG (Can)

Tapped October 16th, 2017
Joining Sprocket as the first of two beers in BentSpoke's "Drifter Series" of canned releases is GFG, AKA Gluten Friendly Ginger. It's uses an enzyme brewers can add to break down gluten from any barley or wheat in the beer to make it suitable for some people with gluten intolerance. And, of course, it uses ginger – and plenty of it too. The beer won a vote run through the brewery's website last year asking which one drinkers would most like to see in a can and it certainly offers something… Read more
Style
Ginger Beer
Strength
4.0%
Stockists

Find GFG here

BentSpoke Brewing Co Sprocket (Can)

Tapped October 16th, 2017
With such a fine lineup of beers covering a broad array of styles – IPAs of every size, farmhouse style ales, lagers, red ales, brown ales, experimental releases and so on – it can be tough to settle on a favourite from the BentSpoke stable. Yet our first encounter with Sprocket, in its original format, led to its appearance as the brewery's representative in The Great Australian Beer Guide at the expense of more popular fellow IPA, Crankshaft. It's easy to go either way, however; one waft of… Read more
Style
IPA
Strength
7.0%
Stockists

Find Sprocket here

BentSpoke Brewing Co Cans

Tapped November 11th, 2016
A year ago, BentSpoke announced plans to open a second, larger brewery it its hometown of Canberra. Part of the plan for the second site was to start packaging their beers. And now they are, with Barley Griffin and Crankshaft IPA the first two beers to receive tinnie treatment. For those who've come across beers such as Colonial's Small Ale in cans and enjoyed the "flip top" lids that turn the can into a wide mouthed drinking vessel, you'll be pleased to know BentSpoke have gone down that… Read more
Style
Pale Ale & American IPA
Strength
4.2% & 5.8%
Bitterness
18 IBU & 35 IBU

BentSpoke Brewing Co Reflector & Fugg'n'Chino

Tapped April 11th, 2016
The good burghers of Canberra can get their hands on a fresh hop beer with the release of Reflector by BentSpoke. The beer has been brewed with wet Galaxy hop cones delivered straight to the brewery from the Rostrevor hop farm in the Victorian High Country. It's a red amber ale, comes with a bicycle reflector tap handle to reflect its hue, and its fresh hop character doesn't end when the beer makes its way to the tap; Reflector is being served through the brewery’s bar top infuser known as the… Read more
Style
Various
Strength
Various
Stockists

BentSpoke Brewpub

BentSpoke Brewing Co 1st Birthday Beers

Tapped June 6th, 2015
With their first birthday falling on the Queens' Birthday long weekend, BentSpoke figured they'd treat their customers to more than one birthday beer. Four, in fact. One was released each day from Friday to Monday, with the first to be tapped the third in a series of historical beers created in partnership with local beer historian David Hughes (pictured below right). Blow Your Bagpipe is a strong Scottish ale, which follows the tasting notes of David Booth, from the Art of Brewing, published in… Read more
Style
Various
Strength
Various
Stockists

BentSpoke Brewing Co

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