For too long, people wanting to lunch in Valley Heights had to choose between a Bunnings sausage sizzle or a café that also operates a real estate agency. Tragically, both options were also understandably beer-free.
So, naturally, it was a boon for locals when garage brewer Craig Talbot expanded his operation and opened Brew Mountains Brewery, just around the corner from the aforementioned Bunnings.
Back in 2016, prior to opening his charming sit down venue, Craig got the word out about Brew Mountains by brewing out of his garage, serving RIPAs, breakfast stouts and his flagship pale ale to mountain folk who wanted a beer that tasted of home. This best-kept-secret developed a cult following and, in 2020, Craig opened Brew Mountains to the public in a tucked-away little sandstone block that, ironically, also used to be a garage.
Brew Mountains Brewery is like a little Diagon Alley of beer, only open for a brief but refreshing 12 hours each week and usually filled with lower mountains locals getting their fleeting, weekly craft beer and food truck fix.
A look at the handwritten chalkboard menu immediately provides context for the type of beer Craig and his team want to brew: whatever they want. Call in and you're likely to find a mix of popular and lesser-known beer styles with alcohol contents ranging from 0.9 to 15.5 percent ABV; the only thing some of them appeared to have in common is being brewed in the spirit of: "Why not?"
And, after all, why the bloody hell not?
So, who is the person who parted the Red (IPA) Sea in the lower mountains and delivered locals to the beer promised land? We invited Craig to take part in our long-running Who Brews...? series so we could find out more.
Who are you?
Head brewer and owner Craig Talbot. I set up Brew Mountains nearly five years ago, the first three years operating out of my garage before opening up the new brewery with bar and food trucks 18 months ago.
We now have Oli “assistant brewer”, John “chief engineer”, with Joe, Liz and Gabrielle helping pull the pints behind the bar. And it’s important to mention a whole range of mates and local tradies that literally helped build the new brewery.
Where do you brew?
Valley Heights in the beautiful Blue Mountains of NSW.
Why do you brew?
There is just something so magical about the fermentation process, a childhood fascination developed from helping my grandad brew.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
There’s only one thing better than owning a brewery and that’s having a mate that owns a brewery. Since I didn't have a mate that already owned one I had to build my own.
After years of commuting two hours door-to-door it was time to put my energy into something else. Something I’ve been doing since my teens but now upping the game and making beer professionally.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Everyone loves a bit of a pun.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
It’s the XLA – the eXtreme Local Ale. We have a well established hop garden boasting 30 mature hop plants. Each year we engage with local hop growers and we grown grains with our friends at Urbavore to make a beer that truly is local.
Just once a year during the brew we rush off to pick the hop flowers and put them wet right into the whirlpool. There’s nothing else like it.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Aussie rock classics, Amy Winehouse or Triple J.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Rusty Penny, Gypsy Fox and Mountain Culture. Always super keen to drink the other local beers.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Rusty Penny’s High Street Haze is an awesome drop.
Where can people find your beers?
Apart from the tap room, local restaurants like Bootlegger, Aunty Ed's, Reminiscence and Bramble Bar.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Pretty much the same. Now we’ve finished upgrading the capacity of the brewery we hope to start canning again and getting our beer out to more places.
We’ve already grown so much, and it's all organic, with our own investment. Our goal was always to be a small independent craft brewery for locals and passing tourists.
Brew Mountains is located at Unit 3/2-4 Tayler Road, Valley Heights, and is open from 4pm to 8pm on Fridays, midday to 8pm on Saturdays. You can also find it alongside hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues across Australia in the free Crafty Pint app.