The Black Duck Brewery – Alistair

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This month Port Macquarie welcomes its latest brewery. After travelling throughout the UK, tasting all the great small batch beers, Alistair has decided to recreate that experience right here in Port Macquarie. Here at FOCUS we’re fond of the odd beer, so we thought we’d find out more …

Hi Alistair. Thanks for inviting us to Port Macquarie’s latest Brewery, Black Duck Brewery. How did it all come about; where did the dream start?

We started as most people do making beer at home, a long time ago. Then when we moved to Port Macquarie about 6 years ago, it was on the back of a UK tour.

We spent two months visting small breweries and trying their beers. It was such a great experience, that when we came back, it set the scene for us to want to develop something like that here – so people have the opportunity to try smaller batch beers and locally produced beers when they go to a different area.

It was when we finally bought property at Herons Creek that we had the opportunity to set up a small brewery, and we’ve been making beer there for the last 2½ years. The gear we have set up now came to us late last year; it was an opportunity too good to pass up, and that was the trigger to setting up the new brewery. People are welcome to come and have a look!

In terms of inviting the public out to visit, what does the brewery have to offer?

The cellar door is open Thursday to Sunday, and people can come in and try a tasting paddle of 4 beers, which is a small taste of each beer for only $5. Or, they can taste a larger serve of an individual beers, depending on what their liking is. Visitors can also buy bottled products to take away.

We have a pretty big space; we have seating for about 20 people already, with more to come, so people can come into the brewery and make a bit of a evening of it. We can also offer a great venue for catered functions or a larger gathering.

So tell us a bit about the current range you have to offer.

We have the English Bitter; it’s a good, easy drink. Then there is the Golden Goose, an American Pale Ale, which is fairly hoppy and an interesting beer – great with spicy food.

We have a Dark Ale, which is chocolate and coffee flavoured. We have the Indian Runner, which is an IPA [Indian Pale Ale]. It’s a bigger beer at 6% … heaps of malt, hops and bitterness. I like it!

There’s also the Platypus, which is an Aussie Pale Ale. It’s a good, well rounded beer and a bit more subdued than the Bitter – a great all round, seasonal beer. Then the latest one is the Irish Red, which is more of a play on some flavours – a different hopping regime, and you get a real difference in flavour from the hopping ingredients.

You have some very unique brewing equipment. How did you get your hands on it?

The brewing gear has quite a history. I don’t know all of it, but it’s actually 50 years old. It originated from England and was operating as a brewery in Victoria, but I don’t know the details exactly. We were fortunate to source it locally. It had been in storage for somewhere between 10 and 20 years, up until now.

We were given the opportunity to purchase it late last year and it’s in immaculate condition, so it was easy to set up and get making beer.

No brewery just happens without any help. Do you have anyone you would like to thank?

There have been a lot of people help us along the way. My wife, of course, for her ongoing and tireless support. Bago Vineyards have been great mentors, as have Peak Coffee, and without naming anyone, there have been a number of micro brewers who have been around for quite a while. They have given some good knowledge support and encouragement to keep going and get set up.

We have also been very fortunate that we have been supported by some great local establishments. The Laurieton United Servicemen’s Club has had our Bitter on tap for over a year and a half. Panthers gave us a go for a year, and we’ll be back on tap there again soon. Town Green Inn have Mad Time  Platypus on for 8 months, and Charlie is really good. He gives us a great plug when we need it. And again, Bago Vineyards – we’ve had a few taps out there. They’re actually our biggest customer to date and go through a reasonable amount of beer, it’s such a great venue.

And for bottled beer, Kendall Bottleshop: I give those guys a great rap – Rhe and Darren do a great job. And Lighthouse Cellars, Glenn and Craig, they’re happy to support all the local products, so that’s always encouraging.

What are the plans for the future – any new beers?

In terms of the future, we are hoping that we can get the cellar door really going and locals and visitors will come in and try the beers. I would like to make reference to the fact there are now two breweries here in Port Macquarie. People who live here should realise that’s an honour and a privilege they have, over having none. Hopefully we can both use that strength to encourage locals to try smaller batch, locally produced beers, other than the mainstream products.

We do have one more beer to go on our eighth tap. It will be a Stout, which is a bigger beer – 7% – a thick, black beer. It’s a real winter warmer, and we’ll probably have that early next year, just in time for the cooler weather.

You’ve travelled a lot, as you said, tasting beer right through England. What’s your all time favourite beer?

It’s probably going to be an Australian beer – one from Murray’s at Port Stephens. It would be their wild thing imperial stout which is a 10% beer. It’s such a well balanced, good drinking beer. It’s not for everyone, but I really love beers that are as big as that. Shaun at Murray’s has been a great inspiration. I definitely think that would be my all time favourite beer. Best English beer was from Hook Norton Brewery “Old Hooky”.

The brewery is open now, as you said, Thursday to Sunday, but do you have a grand opening?

Yes, our Grand Opening will be on 15 December. Tickets are available by phoning 0407 874 474, or drop in and see us at 6B Acacia Avenue, Port Macquarie.

Thanks Alistair.

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