It was sometime around New Year's Eve 2014 that The Crafty Pint first called in to Boston Brewing Co at the home it shares with a winery in the Great Southern region of WA. There, we discovered much that was consistent with other breweries found in the tourist regions south of Perth.
There was a kids play area that would put most suburban parks to shame, enough space to host hundreds and a bar long enough, staff numerous enough and a kitchen large enough to serve them (just as well, given it was holiday season), as well as a stage set amid the sprawling lawns ready to entertain the visiting hordes.
Given a winery had been operating before beer moved in (initially West Cape Howe Wines before the family behind Willoughby Park took over), there was the added visual bonus of vines stretching into the distance – not to mention the chance to add a tasting of shiraz, cab sauv, riesling and chardonnay to your visit. Then, of course, there was the beer.
And here Boston seemed to deviate a little from many of the other breweries you'd find while wending your way to the south coast via the Margaret River region, with a 600 litre brewhouse putting it on the smaller side. Yet size isn’t everything and the family behind the twin businesses had been keen to showcase their love of both wine and beer from the start, as well as creating a more casual feel than that found at most wineries with restaurants and cellar doors.
As they put it: "We wanted a business that would drive tourism into Denmark but also be a great place for locals to enjoy year round."
Assisting them in their mission was the handy fact that the Boston beers were good. An American brewer, Tyson Addy, had taken up the reins earlier in the year, delivering polished takes on the sort of beers you'd find in the wider region: a clean wheat beer; a balanced mid-strength; as well as the standout – a rye pale ale that was new to the lineup at the time. He also spoke of future plans: the owners were keen to expand and a much larger setup was coming within the year.
Fast forward to a return visit in the middle of 2018 and it's fair to say those plans had been acted on and then some. Sure, the fruits of the Fowler family's 39,000 vines lining two vineyards still play a key role (the IronRock Chardonnay is a Crafty favourite), the stage still hosts bands, the kids play area is even bigger. But the brewery – based around an 18 hectolitre brewhouse – has taken over multiple warehouses, filling them with tanks (the original fermenters now look like remnants from Lilliput), an impressive canning line, depalletiser and towers of cans.
And what's filling those cans – that rye pale ale (now called Boondie), a delicious and sizeable hoppy red, a ginger beer, stout, a gose and more besides – is garnering the brewery attention well beyond those hitting the tourist trail. The beers are found in hundreds of venues across WA and, as of winter 2018, across the border in SA; a growing number of them come with trophies too.
Some of those trophies have been awarded for Boston's packaging; a few years ago, such things might have been dismissed as rather trivial in the grand scheme of things but, as the industry matures and becomes more competitive, they're increasingly important. And here the brewery's decision to overcome the potentially confusing combination of its name – the maiden name of the owner’s grandmother but also that of the largest independent brewery in the US – and location in Denmark – both their hometown and a European country – by embracing both and setting out to "own" the Great Southern is paying off.
Enveloping the brewery’s blue wren logo, inspired by their hometown mascot, are colourful, cartoon like illustrations that namecheck icons of the region, whether the local slang term "boondie" for a beach sand rock or Tingletop Ginger Beer for the Tingle trees at the nearby Valley of the Giants forest walk. They're all quite different yet it doesn't take long in the company of the brand to know when a Boston can has caught your eye from a bottleshop fridge, even if you've not seen that particular one before.
But, while you can now get your hands on Boston beers rather more easily than in the early days, what if you do head to the brewery itself?
Well, for one, you'll be able to try far more of them. The two banks of taps lining the bar – beyond which you can watch the brewers at work – offer drinkers the core range and a selection of one-offs and seasonals, some of which make it into cans too. You'll be able to enjoy them alongside food of a level above typical brewery fare (even if it's the deliciously moreish Dutch chips slathered in Satay sauce and aioli that have most guests raving) served by a small army of smiling staff. And, if you've got kids in tow, you'll be able to do this undisturbed as they'll find plenty of room in which to burn off their energy.
It's a setup and a story that feels reflective of the wider Australian beer industry over the period since Boston poured its first beers: a story that has matured, evolved, improved, refined its purpose and, as a result, is helping take the country's beer scene to a better place.