There was a buzz about Bridge Road Brewers when they first opened in a shed behind a house near the old stone bridge over Newtown Falls way back in 2005. There was this young bloke fresh from Europe with his beautiful Austrian partner and co-founder Maria Frischmann making exceptionally balanced craft brews served with hot pretzels from the oven. Back then, Ben Kraus was an up-and-coming winemaker making award-winning drops alongside some of the best in the business. He turned his back on the grape and embraced grain and hops, taking with him his understanding of balance and nuance from the wine game and combined it with his understanding of benchmark European beers – along with his deep commitment to having fun in life.
A decade and a bit on and Bridge Road Brewers has moved to the stables behind Tanswell’s Commercial Hotel in the main street. There it has become not only an internationally recognised craft beer, but is now one of the social centres in the vibrant community of Beechworth. People come for the beers, fresh from the keg, their taps lined up like icy soldiers at the bar. They come for the pizza, they come for Maria’s strudel and pretzel and they come for the sheer fun of being in an old stable with a state of the art brewery rumbling away behind glass a few metres away.
You can really see Ben’s wine experience contributing sensibility in a beer like Chevalier Saison. This is a classic Belgian style, light straw in colour with a tight, white head. Ben uses the Saison yeast strain, so it has some really interesting aromas from the esters and phenols and a dry acidic profile, making it a beer that is at its best on the table poured to drink with food. This is a beer that is versatile to match, from seafood to spicy dishes or sweet gorgonzola.
Ben and his Bridge Road team are collaborators making beer with famous Danish gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergso, called Mikkeller Dark Harvest. Local collaborators include Fighting Gully Road winery, who provided juice from cold soaked* sangiovese which was added to the end of the boil on brew day, and then supplemented with skins and bunches of freshly pressed shiraz, post fermentation. The beer is peach coloured and called Grape, part of the Mayday Hills range. These beers – fermented in traditional wooden foeder tanks – celebrate the town and the change in the seasons of the local countryside. Other beers in the range include Elderflower – a brew with added bunches of elderflower picked from backyards, fence lines and paddocks in and around Beechworth.
*‘Cold soaking’ or ‘cold maceration’ is a way to extract color and flavor from grape skins.
Bridge Road Brewers
50 Ford St, Beechworth
Tel 03 5728 2703