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Popular Esperance brewer makes own luck, scooping Champion Small-Medium Brewery at the Perth Royal Beer Awards

Dorothy HendersonCountryman
Lucky Bay Brewing owners Metz and Robyn Cail and brewer Rob Halford celebrate the fact the brewery has been named 2021 Perth Royal Beer Awards Champion Small-Medium Brewery. Photo credit: Rosemary Henderson.
Camera IconLucky Bay Brewing owners Metz and Robyn Cail and brewer Rob Halford celebrate the fact the brewery has been named 2021 Perth Royal Beer Awards Champion Small-Medium Brewery. Photo credit: Rosemary Henderson. Credit: Rosie Henderson

Esperance-based Lucky Bay Brewing has been named Champion Small-Medium Brewery at the 2021 Perth Royal Beer Awards.

The brewery won the Royal Agricultural Society of WA trophy, bestowed upon the most highly ranked brewery producing less than 950 hectolitres of beer per annum, judged on the brewery’s top four scoring beers with at least one having to win a gold medal.

Lucky Bay had no trouble meeting this criterion, with its Black Jack porter winning the Containers for Change Trophy for Best Porter-Stout (packaged), and its India Pale Ale Draught Cyclops awarded the gold medal in its category. Black Jack also received gold in the porter-stout (packaged) section.

Part of the Perth Royal Food Awards program, the beer awards are an initiative of the Royal Agricultural Society of WA, which aims to celebrate and reward exceptional produce and producers from across Australia committed to supporting a viable and prosperous future for agricultural communities.

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The award’s purpose matches Lucky Bay Brewing’s goal; owners Nigel Metz and Robyn Cail, and brewer Rob Halford, aim to create beers with a real connection with the place where they are produced.

Mr Metz and Ms Cail said that their vision had always been to transform local grain into a product celebrating the produce of “West Aussie” farmers, something they could hold in their own hands in the knowledge they were part of something special.

Everything about Lucky Bay Brewing reflects its regionality; cellar door furniture is crafted from local timber and decorative iron signs made by Ms Cail’s brother, who farms at Wubin. The menu features local produce, including the flour in pizza bases.

Local wine, music and artworks contribute to the vibe.

Ever since the brewery’s early days, it has been reliant on grain sourced direct from farmers in the Esperance region. Lucky Bay Brewery has bucked convention and used raw barley, rather than relying totally on malted grain imported from outside of Western Australia.

In 2015, when the brewery opened, it made news for producing the first raw barley beers in Australia using 75 percent raw grain. Ms Cail said this resulted in beers with a very low carbon footprint because raw grain has a fraction of the energy, water and food miles of malted grain.

Gavin, Elaine and Brad Egan, from Scaddan, supply premium quality grain for most of the brews, but for special brews, quality barley and wheat are sourced from specific locations and farmers in the Esperance region, Wheatbelt and even raw corn from the Ord River Valley.

The connection with farmers means the beer is not just a brew: it is the final product in a process that starts when grain is chosen in a paddock and ends when it is poured into a glass at the brewery.

Support received from locals helped the business survive the Covid-19 lockdown during 2020. It was during that time that the “Lockdown” dark lager was created, which won Champion Draught Lager and a Gold Medal in 2020.

Mr Halford joined the team, drawn to Esperance because of his passion for crafting beer and the fact his partner is from the area, just as COVID-19 restrictions stifled movement Australia-wide.

Ms Cail said that the brewery had relocated to new premises near Bandy Creek and had been open for one summer before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

She said that they were not sure if the business would survive; staff were on limited hours, and Mr Halford’s position was saved by the Jobkeeper program.

Survive Lucky Bay did, and Mr Metz said that two recently installed 3000L fermenters would match the brewer’s production capacity.

The shiny steel structures symbolize the team’s optimism, while a new canning line was added as “Option B” if another paralysing lockdown occurs, reflecting the need to be adaptable in challenging times.

Altogether, Lucky Bay Brewery took home 13 Show medals.

The trio said the feedback gained from judges was invaluable and used to “tweak” the beers.

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