Otway Estate – Prickly Moses

In amongst native bushland in Barongarook lies a vineyard with sprawling viridescent vines. In the centre of this idyllic setting is the Prickly Moses brewery where Luke Scott is head brewer.

Entrance To Otway Estate

The Otway Estate quietly started in 1981 with the planting of Pinot and Chardonnay vines. The idea to establish a brewery came after visiting a successful winery with a microbrewery in Western Australia.

So about five years ago a purpose built brewery, café, and function centre was completed. This made it the first winery and brewery in Victoria. The brewery was given the name Prickly Moses after the local wattle (acacia farnesiana) that adds its cheery yellow colour to the local bushland every spring.

To begin the brewing operation, they flew Rob Whitham, a home brewing family friend, over from Western Australia whenever a brew was required. However, it didn’t take long before they needed a full time brewer. As a result, six months after opening Luke Scott was the new head brewer at Otway Estate. Luke had spent time working at various jobs including Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in Victoria and Meantime Brewing in the UK, and was working at Hunter Beer before moving back to Victoria.

Luke explained that the 12hL brewery is kept very busy with the recent “explosion in craft beer.” To cope with this demand, fermenter capacity has been doubled over the past five years. Around 4000L are brewed every week, with about half being bottled.

Hamish Spalding takes care of the packaging two days per week. That is, when he’s not looking after the vineyard or making cider. Bottling is done by hand, but bottle labels are applied by machine. The next plant upgrade will include an automatic bottling line, but it will still be some time off.

Sam Fuss and Luke Scott

On the day that I visited, Sam Fuss was busy brewing one of Luke’s beers. Otway Estate is one of the breweries that she has been using to brew her own Old Salt Sea Breeze ale. After brewing her own beer, she then spends a full day brewing for Luke.

The vineyard used to buy extra fruit to make enough wine to sell through distributors. But that has changed with the new focus on beer. Now they only make wine from their own vines and this is sold purely through the café and cellar door. The cider range is being expanded to two styles. The original is Forbidden Fruit; while the new Draught Cider is an organic French Norman dry style.

Chainsaw was a one off brew that Luke made for Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS), but it was so popular that they now made it a regular. Half the malt is wheat to give it a dry finish and to make it the “ultimate cleansing ale.” The Stella (Ella) hop gives this cloudy ale an enjoyable tropical pineapple aroma.

Another favourite is the Saison. It is warming and yeasty with low tartness. The malt flavours are there with a lot of orange and couple of cherries thrown in for good measure.

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