When it comes to attracting attention from afar, Noosa seems to be the star of the Sunshine Coast. People visit from all over to ride the barrels and breaks of the enviable swell, or to cruise down the river at a lazy pace; some soak in all of the boutique shopping and gourmet cuisine and pumping nightlife that Hastings Street has to offer, while others soak in the fullness of the coastal region’s expansive natural beauty.
While some beer lovers practise the philosophy that “bigger flavour is better”, those who enjoy the long days and long beaches of Noosa are often after a quaffable and refreshing drop that doesn’t overwhelm. (Apparently surfers in particular are big fans of balance.) When the air itself is full of heat and salt, drinkers crave the contrast of a cold, clean beer.
Brothers Craig and Lance Masterton saw this need for clean, quality lagers, and so opened Heads of Noosa Brewing Co as a lager-focused craft brewery.
“We always decided we wanted to have a really strong lager in our portfolio,” says Craig. “We thought that was important for Queensland. And it turns out we fell in love with them. So because we’d learnt so much about lagers, it seemed like we should specialise in them.”
The move from homebrewing to opening the Noosaville brewery and taproom took almost a decade, since Craig and Lance were determined to get this difficult style of beer just right. Take their Amber Lager (originally called Summer Dusk), for example: it’s the result of more than 100 pilot brews, and the determination to tweak and trial until they’d perfected the recipe.
With their focus on lagers, the brothers opted to get a German brewhouse and to consult with a German brewmaster to help them develop their technical skills.
“The Germans know their lagers for sure!” he says.
This doesn’t mean Heads of Noosa only brew German styles, though. Lance, who does the lion’s share of the brewing, puts his own take on styles and is always thinking of the modern Australian drinker.
The core range is made up of four beers: the Japanese Style Lager, with delicate flavours and a dry finish; Amber Lager, a malty amber lager that shines in the glass with a rosy hue; Lager 3.5, a sensible and sessionable mid-strength; and the complex and caramelly Bock. All of them are filtered so they’re bright and glittering like gemstones, and between them they picked up a fistful of medals at their first Australian International Beer Awards (and keep racking up more).
As with any beer, there’s something special about drinking it at the source, so visit the brewery if you’re able. The spacious taproom has polished concrete floors and a white marble bar stretching out like the sand on Sunrise Beach.
Take your pick from eight taps, as well as the option of cider, wines and whiskies. Grab a burger or some local reef fish. Sit in the courtyard and admire the beach mural by local artist Owen Cavanagh, or perch on a stool inside and gaze through the full-length viewing window into the brewery itself. You don’t need to be a brewer to see this is no shoebox operation – looking up at stainless steel tanks holding ten thousand litres of beer is like viewing the cliffs the brewery is named after.
Head in on a Friday or Saturday for a brewery tour, and you’ll get to hear all about the brewing process, the quality lab and the 100 kilowatts of solar power, as well as see the sprawling bottling line, the cavernous coldroom, and discover that, after all of this, there’s still room for growth. If you hadn’t already figured this out – the Masterton brothers don’t do things by half.
When it’s time to leave, raid the merch corner and the takeaway fridge. It won’t be long before you want a Japanese Style Lager at the end of a day in the surf, or a Amber Lager on the cliffs as evening rolls in over the ocean. Or perhaps you’ll be further away, and glad you brought a little taste of Noosa with you.