As the classic Sam Cooke track* goes, it's been a long time coming, but Dollar Bill Brewing are hopeful they'll finally have their unique cellar door experience open next spring. The wild ale specialists have entered the two week advertising stage for the "Invermay Beer Farm" they hope will attract beer tourists to Ballarat.
The brewing company launched by Fiona and Ed Nolle has quickly won a dedicated legion of fans, despite typically producing tiny volumes of their farmhouse ales, funky ciders, fruited ales and spontaneously fermented beers. And the couple has been eager to create a home for the brand at their 7.5 acre plot in the regional city.
It's one where they're planting an orchard to grow fruit for their beers and ciders as well as an acre of hops, with the intention being to welcome guests one weekend a month, plus the occasion function day, to spend time with Ed learning about brewing, barrel-ageing, bugs and blending.
"It's a big step because we're finally advertising after having our permits for one-and-a-half years," Fiona says.
The aim is to create a cellar door meets "garden of beer" that takes bookings in advance – $5 per person including first beer and limited to 40 people per day – so they can plan ahead.
"Ed is always going to be there, and if people want to walk through the hops, he'll have time to do it," Fiona says. "It's very much about teaching people; we want to share our knowledge.
"We don't want to be a tavern and we don't want to be a bar."
Instead the aim is for people to sample their diverse range and, while there are no plans for a kitchen, they will offer charcuterie platters. The intention is also to have a guest brewery sharing their taps each month – ideally with someone from each guest brewery travelling to Ballarat for part of the weekend.
While they're only applying to be open for a maximum of 48 days each year, Fiona says it will provide a much-needed additional revenue stream; they launched the Rare Oak Society – a members club featuring exclusive beers and merch – as a means to reduce the impact of the pandemic on their income but she says: "We're bleeding out the eyeballs. We're a family of five that's lost so much through COVID."
As for the hop farm, she says their site is less than ideal for growing the notoriously challenging plant so they're looking at some innovative approaches.
"We're just running the trellises at half height [about 3m] because of the wind and will maybe use some bamboo to hold them up," Fiona says. "We could bring people out from [the brewing courses at] Federation University to learn how to trellis hops and see more than the stainless side of breweries."
The family's aim is to attract fans of their beers from across Australia and help Ballarat bounce back after a year in which hotel bookings in the city have been down by a third.
"The majority of people will make a weekend of it," she says. "We just want to get it open and get a few people through the door so they can see it for the asset it is."
They've launched a petition if any fans of the brewery want to support their plans. You can check it out here. They currently have the first weekend of March targeted for opening to the public.
*Have to admit I'm a sucker for Baby Huey's version.