They might have inspired a beer but when you’re talking about 1990s Australian band Tumbleweed, that’s not the first intoxicant that springs to mind...
Back in the day, the band from the Wollongong suburb of Tarrawanna were more associated with marijuana than a pale ale. That’s in part because of their long hair and that people labelled the music they played as “stoner rock”, even though that term wasn’t accurate.
The band lyrics were a bit of a giveaway too, what with lines like: “Why don’t they all get stoned?” or references to “Mary Jane”.
These days, it’s a different story for the reunited band – now it’s all about the beer. Or one beer in particular.
Vahalla Brewing has released Galactaphonic Tonic, a pale ale whose name and can art (see above) is inspired by the band’s 1995 album Galactaphonic.
Scott Hunt, owner and brewer at Valhalla, admits to being a longtime lover of the Weed.
“I was a fan of Tumbleweed back in the 90s,” he says. “I remember seeing them at the ANU in Canberra in 1992.”
The idea of using Tumbleweed as inspiration for some sort of beer-related endeavour has been with the man who launched the Torquay based gypsy operation in 2016 for quite some time.
“My wife and I were originally planning on opening a bar in Perth back in 2002 and we were going to name it after one of Tumbleweed’s songs, Silver Lizard, but that never happened,” he said.
Fast-forward to 2018 and a Tumbleweed gig at A Day on the Green not too far from Valhalla’s home base where, of course, Scott was in the crowd.
Afterwards, he emailed the band enquiring about buying some merch. Drummer Steve O’Brien saw Hunt’s Valhalla Brewing email address, checked it out via Google and came back with an offer to swap some Tumbleweed t-shirts for some Valhalla beers.
“I was more than happy to send them up some of my beers,” Scott says.
“I was pretty chuffed to think that they’d be drinking my beers, and then conversation just went from there.”
A week later Hunt got back in touch and floated the idea of a Tumbleweed beer and the drummer – who likes his Tooheys Old – thought it sounded like a great idea.
“I’d been looking to do something a bit different,” Scott says. “The craft beer industry is very collaborative. A lot of breweries will do beers together but I wanted to look outside the industry to do collaborations and thought it would be great to do a collaboration with a band.”
Despite the drummer’s fondness for dark beers, Scott says he favoured making the Tumbleweed beer a more approachable style.
“It was about being able to connect with their fan base and dark beers have a limited reach," he says, "there’s only a limited number of people who like dark beers."
And so Galactaphonic Tonic is a “juicy pale ale” that clocks in at 5 percent ABV. And yes, Scott says he was thinking about Tumbleweed when he came up with the recipe (though there’s no “mary jane” in the mix).
Setting Up Home
Geelong based fans of Valhalla – and craft beer in general – can start looking forward to summer with added anticipation after the brewing company revealed it's opening a taproom in the city.
The bar will feature eight taps, four of which will be dedicated to Valhalla beers, with the other four showcasing independent Australian craft beer.
The bar’s location will be in Union Street in the Geelong CBD in a newly developed building which has already attracted attention due to the striking mural of Jay-Z and Beyonce along one side wall (see top of article).
“With the redevelopment of Little Malop Street and some great new bars and restaurants opening up in Geelong, we felt that the time was right to open a bar dedicated to independent craft beer,” says Scott.
“The Union Street location perfect. It has a real Melbourne laneway vibe to it and there is already a great wine bar and restaurant in the street. With other great bars just around the corner in Little Malop Street, we knew this was the right spot for a Valhalla Taproom.”
He says it will have a “cruisy, retro vibe like walking into someone’s loungeroom in the 70s but without the kitsch” and will feature vinyl music and a casual bar snacks menu.