The farm that became an award-winning brewery

The Perth Royal Beer Awards is the premier beer competition in Western Australia (WA). The pursuit of new and innovative ways of brewing is stronger than it has ever been in the west, with 540 entries from large, medium and small craft breweries as far and wide as Esperance, Kalbarri, Margaret River, Busselton, Swan Valley and Perth.   

Rocky Ridge Brewing had a particularly spectacular night, winning the HPA trophy for Champion Large Brewery. The Busselton brewery also won Champion Beer and Best Hybrid & Specialty Beer (Draught) for their Polski Pivo, plus Best Hybrid & Specialty Beer (Packaged) for Born Under Puncheons. For five generations, Rocky Ridge has evolved from a humble cattle farm to a thriving business with the latest agricultural and brewing technology. After a well-earned break, we got in touch with founder and head brewer Hamish Coates to congratulate the team and ask a few questions about their headliners and what’s in store for the future.  

Q: Congrats on your recent success at the 2022 Perth Royal Beer Awards! For five generations, Rocky Ridge has evolved from a humble cattle farm to a thriving business with the latest agricultural and brewing technology. What’s been your driving force over the years?

A: We founded Rocky Ridge because we believed that we could make great beer, with great local produce. We came from a place of community, with long term family ties to our region. Our vision was, and still is, to make quality beer with unique ingredients, always striving to have fun and be creative in everything we do. 

Q: You also won Champion Beer and Best Hybrid & Specialty Beer (Draught) for your Polski Pivo. You don’t see a lot of Grodziskies anywhere in the world, let alone claiming the title of champion beer. What’s the story behind this Aussie brewery’s decision to make a traditionally Polish beer that Will Irving described as “pure elegance in a glass”?

A: We love to push the envelope, be that with new and exciting styles and ingredients, or traditional, old school styles like the Grodziskie. Ross, our head brewer has a real love of barrel aged sours, mixed culture ferments and Lagers. The Polski Pivo is a homage to his wife Anna’s polish heritage, in a delightfully light bodied, 100% oak smoked wheat beer.

Q: Plus you won Best Hybrid & Specialty Beer (Packaged) for Born Under Puncheons. This is your most fruit forward mixed culture beer to date. It’s a pretty special beer with a pretty special purpose. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

A: B.U.P is an amazing beer brewed and blended to celebrate the birth of our Brand Director Ricky’s first son, Arlo. B.U.P started life as a blend of our Perpetual sour culture, one of our older sour beer cultures (fermentarium) and a house saison. These were then secondary fermented in french oak puncheons on blueberries, lemon zest, vanilla and cinnamon. A divergence from our standard ‘single fruit’ sours to explore culinary pairings in beer. 

Q: You’re committed to staying true to your farming roots by focussing of fresh, local and sustainable produce? What’s the current ingredient of the month at Rocky Ridge?

A: Whatever is fresh and available. We’re currently brewing up a little something using freshly harvested jindong potatoes….believe it or not. We are huge supporters of local agriculture, with an absolute love for Aussie grown.

Q: And what’s the most interesting ingredient you’ve added to your beers in the past?  

A: Cucumber was pretty interesting. To be honest, spuds will probably take the cake. Or hash browns. 

Q: Your mission is to brew better beer in a better way. Tell us about your Green Pastures initiative and how it is contributing to a more sustainable future?

A: We are a farming family, with deep seated roots to our local community. We strive to be at the forefront of sustainable development, with dedication to industry best practice. Our mission is simple; to make great beer, and to make a difference – one beer at a time.

To achieve this goal, we established our Greener Pastures Program, which encompasses all of the brewery’s environmental and community support initiatives. We are passionate about a sustainable future, and feel it is our collective responsibility to ensure this for generations to come. We created this program to give accountability to our own goals, and to ensure transparency in everything we do. To this end, we commit 10% of our net profits to the Greener Pastures Program.

In essence there are four core pillars to this program:

Reduce and Reuse: Core to our sustainability drivers is our commitment to zero plastic and net zero emissions across our operations. We work in many areas to bring our carbon footprint down, from raw supply chains and our own direct input to packaging materials and their impact on the planet. Major initiatives include wastewater recycling, CO2 recapture, and our off-grid power system (we brew everything through solar power).

A Responsible Future: We are carbon neutral across scope one, two and three: encompassing our operations from paddock, through to finished product on shelf. We believe in pushing for net zero carbon emissions and will continue to strive for this as early as possible. 2028 is our deadline, with 2025 as a stretch goal to reach net zero.

Restore and Regenerate: We partner with local Landcare groups and charities to enable restoration projects, including forest rehabilitation, coastal rehabilitation and waterway projects. We believe in leaving the planet in a better condition than that in which we entered.

Community: Our community is the reason we exist; without their support we would never be able to undertake any of the above. Without their support, we wouldn’t be here having this chat with you. So a huge driver for us is to give back to those who help us, from Hospice fundraising and supporting local sporting clubs to purchasing equipment and donations to animal shelters and charities, we are here to help, always.

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