Back when leather jackets with Doc Martens, black denim with red tartan were cool, two Melbourne blokes, Cam Hines and Dave Bonighton, put their heads together and started to knock out some pretty awesome beers. They were being created out of Dave’s backyard with his homebrew equipment. In 1997, after two years of hard graft, Mountain Goat Beer finally hit the shelves, with their first beer called Hightail Ale.
Over the years the duo put in some long hard hours of work to build that Mountain Goat Beer name, with the vision of building it into one of the best Australian craft brewers. They knocked on doors, approached every bank they could find, and learned to be patient. Eventually with the help of friends, family and a banker that was willing to take a risk, they raised enough funds to install a brewery in an old warehouse in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. They extended their range of beers to include, what was at the time, one of Australia’s best Pale Ales, and collected a swag of awards for their all natural ales, gaining space in bottleshop fridges and tap space at bars, pubs and clubs as time went on.
17 years on Mountain Goat had now gotten so popular, they had dropped out the original pale ale but had increased the range to 6 beers, along with seasonal releases. Selling the beer by the slab at national retailers, such was the demand that they needed to use a contract brewer in Laverton to brew their bigger batches, had extended their payroll to include 25 full time staff, brewing their smaller batches at the Richmond microbrewery. This isn’t anything strange, a lot of craft brewers use contract brewers to make their beers, it’s the only way to keep up with the volume that’s required. What is strange here though is that the contract brewer was a company called Independent Distillers Australia (IDA) that was purchased in 2013 by Asahi.
In September last year Asahi made the boys an offer to buy Mountain Goat Beer and add it to their increasing portfolio, right between Cricketers Arms and their Asahi range. Now it would go without saying that Cam and Dave would have been out of their minds to not accept the offer, and fair play to them, for 18 years they battled and worked to keep Mountain Goat growing, they created a national brand, backed with a truck load of awards, which made them a prime target for acquisition. In 2015 they once again showed their brewing prowess by winning Champion Australian Beer at the Aust. International Beer Awards making that target glow brighter.
Well done lads.
Asahi has shown that they stick to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” agenda. They have extended out the range at Cricketers Arms, and it looks as though they will be allowing Mountain Goat to steer their own course as well. The light, approachable sessionable beers that Mountain Goat have been known for such as their Steam and Summer ales are still being knocked out, with their fuller flavoured Hightail, Fancy Pants and Surefoot continuing unabated. In fact the range was extended last year to include another Pale Ale, much different to the original however it’s still extremely drinkable and well balanced, Australian styled Pale.
And while it’s sad to see a national label being sold to a foreign company, it’s also exciting that a major international company wants to buy an Aussie craft brewery. I see it as a sign of the quality of the beers being created here, and I’m hoping that now it’s part of a major brand beer company, we’ll be seeing more Mountain Goat on more taps in pubs.
A few of the range:
Hightail Ale – an English styled, malt driven amber ale with a slightly sweet finish. Toffee and fruit on the nose, robust fruity flavour with just enough bitterness to cap it all off. Its complex enough to sit back and think about the world, but straight forward enough to enjoy straight from the bottle.
Summer Ale – I’m always looking for great tasting beers in cans, which can be thrown in the esky and taken camping. This has big hoppy and tropical fruit flavours and aromas, with crisp dry finish. Bitterness is there but it’s subdued. Great beer this.
Steam Ale – a certified organic beer, for those that care about that sort of thing. Its smooth and crisp, touches of bread on the palate from very light use of wheat, with peach and citrus and a soft grassiness. Those flavours show through on the tongue too, with a great carbonation and slight bitterness. Best out of a glass.
Fancy Pants – another amber ale here but this is more hop driven than the Hightail, and again in cans! Masses of tropical fruits leap out of the glass, some orange peel and brown sugar. The hops are dominant on the tongue, with a touch of spice from the malt and some really dark orange marmalade. Best out of the glass, highly slurpable.