Brewing success with the environment in mind

Two of Capital Brewing Co’s four partners, Nick Hislop (left) and Laurence Kain with brewer Wade Hurley… “Investing in energy efficiency upfront will seriously reduce our utility consumption and carbon footprint,” says Nick. Photo by Maddie McGuigan

IT’S all about mateship, the love of a dynamite brew and a passion for adventure.

Canberra’s second genuine production brew house, at the Kingston wetlands, Dairy Road, Fyshwick, is just a hop away from rolling out its first locally brewed run of beer, fingers crossed, by the end of this month.

The four main players behind this 100 per cent Australian-owned and independently operated company are Laurence Kain and Tom Hertel, who built a reputation for keeping Australian craft beers on tap when they owned Honkytonks and Hippo Co., Nick Hislop, who specialises in brew house operations and sustainability, and Rich Coombes, co-founder of Batlow Cider Co.

Then there’s the brewer, Wade Hurley, who hails from some big-time craft breweries in San Diego, the world mecca for craft beer.

There’s been serious investment in building a sustainable brew house and operations.

The new 1000 square-metre state-of-the-art brew house is custom built with equipment imported from San Diego. A tasting room is being built.

Perhaps it’s the dedication to the environment that is most impressive about Capital Brewing Co., which has been in the making for about 18 months. For example, heat is captured from the brewing process and reused for future brews, significantly reducing the amount of water to heat.

The new brew house has one of the most energy efficient firing systems in the world, a variable intensity, water-tube steam boiler.

“Without getting too technical, the boiler only burns gas to produce steam as our brew house needs it,” says Nick.

The Georg Fischer cool fit pipe system from Switzerland transports glycol cooling fluid to fermentation tanks. It offers the lowest heat loss of any system on the market.

“Investing in energy efficiency upfront will seriously reduce our utility consumption and carbon footprint,” says Nick.

Then there’s the six-stage variable drive refrigeration motor, LED lighting and 60,000-litre water tank buried underground that captures water off the building’s roof to take care of lawns and plants. Plans are underway to install solar.

“We’re moving to using only 100 per cent recycled aluminium cans with 98 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic clip tops,” says Laurence.

“Cans are more environmentally friendly than bottles. They’re lighter and we can fit 32 per cent more on a pallet so we use less diesel when transporting product.

“The cans also keep the product fresher and prevent light from hitting the beer, which makes it deteriorate quickly.”

The lads behind the company – avid climbers, skiers and surfers – create “good-natured brews” inspired by their time spent outdoors in Canberra, at the beach and in the snow. This close group of friends aren’t afraid of hard work, thinking big and then relaxing with beers in hand.

“Our beer is unpasteurised and cold stored to keep it as fresh as it can be,” says Laurence.

“We’ve been ‘gypsy brewing’ for 12 months while building the brew house, renting out tanks and equipment in Sydney. We still made the beer ourselves so had total control over quality and brewing. We’re not one of the fugazi [fake] beer brands out there.”

So far, the lads have released a Coast Ale (influenced by Wade’s San Diego heritage), Trail Pale Ale (inspired by days of hiking the hills of the capital region) and Evil Eye (named after an old tree stump tattooed with an evil eye once located on Lake George).

The beers are going great guns and are sold in more than 85 bars and restaurants in Canberra, and in major liquor outlets. They’re distributed nationally and sold in more than 150 outlets from Melbourne to Brisbane. But it’s the first brew in their new venue that has the team trembling with excitement.

Behind-the-scenes brewery tours will run Saturdays and Sundays, showing how Capital Brewing Co. turns malt, hops, water and yeast into boutique beers. The core range will always be available at the taproom, as will seasonal releases, taproom-only releases and special collaboration brews, just to mix matters up a bit.

Local farmers are keen that Capital Brewing Co. is around. They pick up the spent grain to feed to stock.

“It’s had all sugars taken out and is high in protein,” says Laurence. “We give it to them for free.”

The bottom line for the lads is that their new adventure is proudly branded with Canberra in mind. They never hesitate to crack open a beer for that.

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