March 14, 2014 by Crafty Pint
Bottleshops with growler filling stations are wonderful things, and not just because they allow us to drink fresh, draught beer in the comfort of our own homes. They also offer an extra point of sale for small, independent breweries that donât bottle their beer â something that is particularly commonplace in Western Australia. One of the fresher names on the WA scene is Bickley Valley Brewery, whose beers having been pouring from the Pegas at Cellarbrations at Carlisle since late last year. Few would have heard of the relatively new microbrewery, yet already Bickley Valley beers are finding their way into the fridges of happy drinkers.
Situated in the Perth Hills, 30 minutes from the CBD, Bickley Valley Brewery is a production brewery and the long-time project of its brewer and owner, Brad Harris. We caught up with Brad for a chat about how he came to be in the position of running his own craft brewery.
âI started brewing 15 years ago with a trusty Coopers home brew kit, a complete lack of knowledge, and a thirst for real beer,â he says. âAfter not liking my first introduction to beer, it wasnât until a mountain biking friend offered me a Coopers Pale that I realised not all beer is the same. One sip and I was hooked, but with the high price and a lack of stockists, I decided I should have a go at making my own.
“I started with pots and can kits in my kitchen, then moved onto my homemade 50 litre gravity fed nanobrewery for full mash brewing, which I still use for pilot brews and experiments.â
What started as a money-saving hobby quickly became a passion and, within a few years, Brad found himself learning firsthand from one of WAâs most experienced craft brewers.
âMy first taste of professional brewing was ten years ago with Jan Bruckner (of Last Drop Brewery), a Czech master brewer in Perth,â says Brad. âIt was by pure luck – right time, right place – and it got me even more interested in large scale brewing and the mechanical engineering side of things. Jan is my idol and my mentor.â
After his stint at Last Drop with Jan, an opportunity arose for a head brewer at Elmarâs in the Valley, a microbrewery in the Swan Valley. Brad jumped at the opportunity and held the position of head brewer at Elmarâs for six years. Being a German-themed brewery, all the beers at Elmarâs are brewed to the Reinheitsgebot â the Bavarian purity law of 1516 which states that the only ingredients permitted to be used in the production of beer are water, barley and hops (yeast having yet to be discovered). Happily, this was a good fit with Bradâs own brewing philosophy.
âMy philosophy toward brewing is to keep it all natural,â says Brad. âI am a big believer in the Reinheitsgebot purity law and Bickley Valley Brewery strictly abides by this natural process. Iâve tinkered with the odd experimental home brew with orange peel, coriander etc, but I always go back to the real thing.â
It was during his time at Elmarâs that Brad first began working on opening his own brewery.
âThe concept of starting a wholesale microbrewery was dreamed up in 2007 when a friend of mine offered 50 square metres of a shed on his property in the Bickley Valley,â says Brad. âI came across some heat exchanger plates for a bargain price and bought them, and next thing I knew I was sourcing equipment to construct a brewery piece by piece.
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“I registered the business name Bickley Valley Brewery in 2007 and the welding courses I did after high school finally had some real use. I designed, constructed and welded the whole project myself with the odd bit of advice or lend of equipment from friends and a lot of help from my parents â thanks guys! From the original hand drawn design to the finished brewery has been a long hard road, but the final product is very close to the sketch of many years before.â
The 20-hectolitre âFrankensteinâ brewery now produces two beers under the Bickley Valley name. The first is a German-style Kolsch, which won a bronze medal at the 2013 Perth Royal Beer Show (no higher awards were given for Kolsch). The second is an American-style Pale Ale brewed with a generous amount of Cascade hops. Space permitting, Brad has plans to add an English Bitter and a German Hefeweizen to his lineup in the future.
Bickley Valley Breweryâs beers are available for growler sales at Cellarbrations Carlisle as well as on tap at Clancyâs Canning Bridge, the Kalamunda Hotel, Lesmurdie Club, and the High Wycombe Tavern with more venues in the pipeline. There are no plans to bottle the beers, though Brad is looking into the possibility of 5 litre party kegs.
You can contact Brad on (08) 9258 5552 or by email – email@example.com.
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