On Monday we decided to brave the freezing icy conditions and headed to 5 Barrel Brewing on Keira St in Wollongong and were banging on their door at midday on the dot.
We were let in by the owner / brewer / barman / distributor Phil O'Shea and headed straight for the stools at the bar where we could chew his ear off as we made our way through his list of 8 beers, 4 core and 4 limited release.
Still trying to shake the chill from the icy rain outside I went for an ESB (core), Marina, a Pale Ale (core) and my brother took it straight to 11 with an epic 10.5% Imperial Stout (limited).
The tasting prices are very reasonable with a 180ml taster of the core range for $3, $5 for a middy and 2L Growler fills for $18. The limited release range varies in price considerably depending on the beer.
Marina was obviously happy with her choice and went for a second pale ale. I was impressed with my ESB, it's a style I love and perfect for a cold day with a nice warm malty character but after trying a sip of the Hunter Valley Shiraz barrel aged imperial stout I immediately switched to that. There could not be a better beer for a day like today than the almost Christmassy flavours of dried fruits and coffee and with a 10.5% abv I very quickly forgot how cold I'd been moments earlier, and also how to take pictures judging by this menu...
Phil was a great host, talking to us about the growing craft beer scene in Wollongong (there is one other brewery currently and another set to open in the near future) and taking us on a tour of his brewery floor. This is a micro brewery currently capable of doing 600L batches and producing around 1200L of beer a week. Everything is manual except the temperature control on the fermentation tanks and Phil described to us the joy of climbing inside to scrub the electric elements in the brew tanks and the never ending task of hand bottling all the product that doesn't get taken in kegs by local bars and restaurants (heavy sarcasm intended).
For a venue like this brewing definitely needs to be your passion. The sheer amount of manual labour required and in particular the never ending task of scrubbing, rinsing and sterilising endless cycles of machinery and packaging would make someone who didn't have that conviction give it up in a matter of weeks. Phil obviously has that drive and it's working for him, he is currently running at close to capacity and will hopefully need to upgrade his equipment before summer next year. We think he definitely deserves it, the beers and atmosphere were top notch.
Get in there and fill your iKegger growlers and mini kegs (Phil has said he will even fill 19l kegs which we will be stocking soon, so you can have a full kegerator setup at home and leave all the scrubbing and sterilising to him). Have a chat with Phil and support a truly local craft brewery, no matter what the weather.
Trust me, it could be snowing outside and you will not even notice after a few of those stouts!
318 Keira St