Robe Town Brewery is a small family-run Boutique brewery striving to make use of traditional and sustainable methods of brewing for the small-scale production of hand-crafted specialty ales and non-alcoholic beverages.
Robe is a small historic town situated on the rugged Limestone Coast of South Australia, surrounded by beautiful views of the ocean, beaches and wild bushland. The town is scattered with historic buildings dating back over 150 years ago, when Robe flourished as the second most active sea-port in South Australia. It is back in 1869 when the prominent citizen of Robe, George Lord Snr., first established the Robe Town Brewery.
With a focus on once again supplying the local market with fine brews, today Robe Town Brewery makes use of several traditional methods of brewing that were used back when George Lord first served locally-made ale at his old Frankfort Hotel (later known as the Criterion Hotel). This involves the use of handmade timber mash tuns (where malt starches are converted to sugars), extraction of sweet wort from the crushed malt through a bed of straw (filtration), custom-built wood-fired kettles (where the beer is boiled) and open fermentation vessels (where the yeast does its magic).
Philosophy. Making slow-brewed ales, is all about getting back to basics. There is beauty in simplicity. Age-old, simple brewing techniques, sustainably using locally available resources, and nurturing the natural biological processes in brewing to patiently allow them to take their course are what we are all about. It’s a down-to-earth approach, which creates beauty through simplicity.
These days most breweries across the world have industrialised and largely automated the brewing process to gain significant economies of scale – allowing them to brew far more beer in much less time. This has become true for so many aspects of our lives – from the food we eat to the homes that we live in. Our lives and the way we occupy ourselves have often become so far removed from our immediate environment and the basics of life, that we rarely get to enjoy the existential satisfaction one gains from basic creation – baking the bread you eat, building the house you live in, or creating the art you enjoy.
Small scale. Slow-brewing techniques take time and are labour-intensive, making them quite difficult to replicate on a large scale these days. Since early 2015 we have been operating our 300 litre oak barrel and wood-fire brewhouse, mostly making 600 litre batches. This is brewing on a cottage industry scale. It is sustainable in its footprint and management. We hope to build a larger stove and kettle, and bring in more oak barrels to run a brewhouse with 900 litre capacity per brew. This volume would allow us to continue our 100% hand bottling practice, as it is a volume that can easily be bottled in one single day with our low-tech, 3-person manual bottling set-up capable of rinsing, filling, capping, boxing and stacking in conditioning room at a rate of 650 bottles per hour. Our typical batch size has been around 1800 bottles per batch, now shifting this up to 2500 bottles per batch with the help of a couple new refurbished 900 litre maturing tanks. To put this in perspective: most of the craft beers you know and enjoy would likely be made at a brewery in 5,000 or 10,000 litre tanks, if not much, much bigger.
Methods. Though contemporary brewing can be as much a craft as it is a science, brewing is a skill that has been practiced in many cultures for millennia, and passed on through generations. Brewing, just like baking bread and other practices, is something that anyone can do with the basic equipment most any kitchen has. Traditionally, it was was practiced at home, usually by the person or people in charge of cooking for the family or tribe. Later it was even practiced in many taverns and inns to serve travellers or barter with suppliers. We may have come up with a few little innovations for the integration of our methods into a contemporary brewing facility, but the basic methods are a blend of various traditional techniques that we have learned of in our endless study into the art of brewing.