No strangers to brewing, former Jamieson Brewery owners Jeff and Jeanette Whyte opened up the doors to the Social Bandit Brewing Co. in Mansfield late last year. After selling Jamieson Brewery four years ago, one of the first microbreweries set up in the late ’90’s, and spending a few winter and summer seasons managing venues at Mt Buller, they decided to get back into hospitality and start up another brewery.
Located in Mansfield on the road to Mt Buller, the massive shiny copper tanks are a focal point when you enter the brewery. The size of the equipment had to be taken into consideration when deciding on a look and location for the brewery. They wanted somewhere where they can concentrate on their wholesale and develop their brand and also as a place for people to come to enjoy their brews aswell.
It’s been a bit of a rocky start for the Social Bandit. Their first bottling machine never worked, and the brewing equipment they sourced from Japan, originally from Austria, was labelled in Japanese, “Jeff had to put it together like a jigsaw that had no picture.” Operating it manually it’s true hand crafted beer with Jeff measuring as he goes so it’s exactly how he wants it to be. It’s obviously working for them, they’ve already won three bronze medals at the Australian International Beer Awards in May after being open for less than six months.
Starting with four beers on tap when they opened late last year, they have since developed and filled 11 taps, with all beers brewed on premises. They also make a cider using fresh Harcourts apples and a non alcoholic root beer, “it’s really popular, it doesn’t last long because we can only do 20 litres of it at a time.”
The Social Bandit Brewing Co. have also developed a beer for the inaugural Buller X free skiing event to be held this winter at Mt Buller. After a tasting night at the brewery with a crew from Mt Buller, they came up with the Buller X steam lager. Distributed in various bars and venues around Mt Buller, the first batch is pretty much gone and Jeff is onto the second.
The Social Bandit Brewing Co. are doing some really different things with their beers, which include
- Buller X, a Californian style steam lager which ferments at a slightly higher temperature, giving it a few ale characteristics but with a lager background. Quite possibly the only steam lager made with Australian galaxy hops.
- Jackie Brown, award winning brown ale, bronze medal winner at AIBA
- T.K’s wet hopped IPA, made with fresh local cascade hops harvested the same day the beer was made.
- Sooky La La, a Berliner weisse, German sour beer, with lactobacillus bred in the kettle which sours the beer giving it a really low pH, almost a cidery champagney sort of spritelyness. It also has guanabana, a Columbian fruit, added.
- Industrial Porter, at this time of year is chocolately, vanillery, coffee, wintry, 7%.
- The Delinquent IPA, one of the most popular beers being sent to Melbourne. A typical US IPA with cascade, chinook and galaxy, tropical fruit type hops.
- Smash Pale Ale, using mosaic hops from Oregon, with a real passionfruit/melon aroma and flavour. Bronze medal winner in the extremely competitive American Pale Ale category of the AIBA.
- B&T English Ale, two beers, black and tan, blended together, a typical malty English ale
- The Heff, a German hefeweizen winner of a bronze medal in AIBA, the toughest category according to Jeff.
- Doing what they can to put back into the community they have a tap dedicated to Beyond Blue until September. Anyone buying a beer from the Beyond Blue tap pay what they want with all proceeds going to Beyond Blue. A fund raiser was held in July raising over a thousand dollars, and there will be another fund raiser in September with the UCI World downhill champs being streamed live and projected on a big screen.
Keeping it local they also sponsor the local football club with weekly vouchers and support local businesses where they can. They will be doing the local markets when their stubbies are available, three beers will be released in stubbies.
It’s all hands on deck as a family business with the kids helping out before school and Jeff building much of the interior himself. Open Thursdays to Sundays 11 am to 8 pm or later, the brewery serve beer dough pizza, pretzels and cheese platters along with their tasty beverages. Private functions and tours are available. With a new bottling machine and distributor in Melbourne, look out for Social Bandit brews at your bottle O in the near future and make sure you check out the brewery if you’re in Mansfield.