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They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But as he prepares to take over the reins at Southern Bay Brewing, Steve “Hendo” Henderson (above right) is confident he can. The Geelong based brewery is perhaps better known for some of the beers it brews under contract for others, such as Boatrocker’s Hoppbier and Alpha Queen, and Two Birds Golden ale, than it is for the beers it releases under its own label, including the Southern Bay Draught. Yet, having plied his trade at Prickly Moses for the past two years playing a major role in the introduction of seven new beers from the Otway brewery in 2011 alone â the new head brewer has big plans in mind.
“Southern Bay will always be a contract brewery in some capacity but the general manager has given me a creative license to turn the Southern Bay brand into something new,” he says. “There are beers that come out from there that I don’t think are much chop so you’ll soon start to see new, innovative beers. It’s like there’s a new craft brewery that exists in Victoria, but it’s already there.”
Among the new releases he hopes to brew will be a hoppy pale ale “with a twist” in that it features a hard-to-obtain hop variety and then a relaunch of the brewery’s lager, brewed to a new recipe.
It’s been a rapid ascent for Hendo, a Queenslander whose first professional brewing role was at Prickly Moses. He’s made his first signing too, with Chris Haren, another who recently moved from home brewer to commercial brewer, moving to Southern Bay from Tooborac Hotel & Brewery, where he’ll join Hendo in his mission to upgrade the brewery.
“It’s a very exciting and very challenging role I’ve taken on,” says Hendo. “It’s a very old brewery that used to produce Geelong Bitter before that was bought by CUB, who moved production to Abbotsford. It must be 40 years old and uses very old technology as far as brewing goes. When the tanks are changed over, people still have to get inside to clean them, so I’ll miss much of what was taken for granted at Prickly Moses. We’re putting together a modernisation program, however, with the owners putting in significant investment.
“It’s been a really rapid journey for me but that in part is testament to the rapid growth of the industry. I’m pretty passionate about craft beer and really proud of my achievements at Prickly Moses. They’re in a good position now to carry on and grow and have just bought tanks from Holgate, who are themselves expanding.”
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