Crafty's Advent Calendar: Dave Bonighton

December 3, 2019, by James Smith
Crafty's Advent Calendar: Dave Bonighton

Now, the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a subtle thread through the first three days of this end-of-decade Advent Calendar. Maybe you picked up the winemakers-turned-brewers connection between Brad Rogers and Jayne Lewis, or maybe the fact they both worked at Matilda Bay's Garage brewery in Dandenong.

Then, from day two to three, it's even more obvious: Dave Bonighton brought Jayne from Matilda Bay to Mountain Goat before she set off to create Two Birds; years later, a tearful Jayne would present Dave with the Services To Craft Beer trophy at the 2018 Indies in Sydney. Well, sort of. Dave was overseas at the time so accepted via video.

However, you can save your time; if anyone can find a thread from this point on, they probably have a tinfoil hat and a shelf dedicated to books on Area 51 and Hillary's emails.

I also promised on day one I'd keep the intros tighter over the rest of the series only to fall at the first hurdle, but the subject today makes that easier. That's not because there's less to say but because so much has already been said and written about him and the brewery he founded in Melbourne in 1997 with his good mate Cam Hines – not least on this site, with The Crafty Pint's very origins inextricably entwined with Mountain Goat. [Our Goat At 20 – Part I and II covers much of the Goat story.]


Dave Bonighton and Cam Hines back in the earliest days of Mountain Goat.


Cam and Dave started out brewing Hightail Ale at Grand Ridge before opening their first Richmond brewery and hosting parties of genuine legend in Melbourne circles. More than anyone up to that point, they brought something new and different to the city's drinkers, helping soften up the inner north in particular to become the hot bed of beer it is today.

Over the years, there have been IPAs aplenty, birthday celebrations aplenty (what a joy it was to be part of this nonsensical adventure dreamt up by Cam for number fifteen), good times aplenty, and – ever since they collected Champion Australian Beer for their first Barrel Breed Barleywine at the Australian International Beer Awards – at least one major trophy every year.

That Champion Australian Beer trophy came just months before their sale to Asahi shook up the local beer world, becoming the first significant acquisition on these shores since Little World Beverages (owner of Little Creatures and White Rabbit) was sold to Lion; in the latter case, Lion had held a significant stake from day one.

Cam has since left the business to pursue other interests, while Dave still makes regular appearances at the brewery, seemingly when they're shooting fun promo videos for limited release beers; I like to think he's preparing for the late Baba Oje's role back when Arrested Development were at their peak. 

Together, they've left an indelible impression on the Australian beer world, while the brewers at their Richmond HQ continue to knock out cracking beers under the new owners. Would Melbourne's beer scene look like it does today without Cam and Dave's vision, talent, good humour, kindness and persistence? Highly unlikely. And that's some achievement.


Left to right: past and present Mountain Goat head brewers Dave Edney, Jayne Lewis, Dave Bonighton and Ian Morgan.


What's been your highlight of the past decade?

The craft beer wave finally breaking – I think we pinpointed it somewhere in spring 2011. We’d been expecting it since 1997 (!) but something seemed to click that spring and it was on, and there was no turning back...

What's surprised you the most about the Aussie beer scene?

Cans. Glass is now the exception for craft. Didn’t see that coming. 

People HATED beer in cans ten years ago. It’s a big turnaround.

What are your thoughts on the health of the beer industry as we approach the end of a remarkable decade?

I think we’re in rude health. From a drinker’s perspective, the choice we have as we stand in front of the bottleshop beer fridge – we’ve come a long way this decade.

What's your number one goal for the decade ahead?

Apologies, but I have four: balance, moderation, longevity and sustainability – I turn 50 next decade!

And, if you had one Christmas wish for beer in Australia, what would it be?

That as we keep growing as an industry the quality and freshness keeps up.

We're opening a door on Crafty's Advent Calendar every morning up until Christmas Day and you'll be able to find them all here.

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