Written by Daniel Ridd, Bendigo Beer Committee Member
Heathcote brewery Palling Bros recently released two new beers in the spirit of Oktoberfest. A Weissbier Dunkel and a Helles Lager.
Heathcote is known throughout Australia for stunning Shiraz wines. Its reputation as a destination for tourism has given rise to a region rich with local produce – and locally brewed beer.
To the north, Cornella Brewery sits nestled amongst acres of grapevines, and to the south, Tooborac Brewery inhabits the 150-year-old Tooborac Hotel. But located in the heart of Heathcote itself, is Palling Bros Brewery.
Palling Bros opened in 2018. Before moving to Heathcote to start the project, the owners lived in Collingwood where they got to know Stomping Ground founder Guy Greenstone. He gave them valuable advice on setting up the brewery. Equipment in the brewhouse is even sourced from the same supplier.
The influence of the Collingwood brewery is evident. Pallings is a fully-featured hospitality venue, with quality, contemporary food, vast indoor and outdoor seating and regular live entertainment.
Much of the brewery’s early life was spent establishing a core range of beers for the hospitality venue. It caters not only to the tourist trade but the locals as well. Owner and operator Pete Pichut assumed the role of head brewer 12 months ago after his original brewer left for Queensland.
Pete told me, “I aim to make very solid & consistent core range beers for our central Victorian customers and 2 new seasonal beers every 3 months. The seasonals have been really well received through our bar.”
Two of Palling Bros more recent seasonal releases are Helles Lager and Weissbier Dunkel. They were inspired in part by Oktoberfest, but mainly by Pete’s Czech heritage.
Helles Lager, also known as Munich Helles, may be considered a German style due to its origins in Bavaria, but its roots can be traced to the Czech Pilsner that inspired its creation in the late 1800s.
German for “bright” or “pale” the golden Helles is lighter and softer than its Pilsner brethren. What it lacks in hop bitterness and aroma, it makes up for with a stronger, malt character. Slightly sweet, it’s traditionally made with German Noble hops, such as Hallertau, and Pilsner malt.
Weissbier, German for “White Beer”, is a classic ale style also popularised in Bavaria and known for using wheat as part of the grain bill. Wheat is less common in contemporary beer, but its use as a fermenting agent in brewing could be as much as 10,000 years old.
Weissbier is known for banana and clove aromatics and flavour. Like the Helles lager, they’re regarded as light, easy-drinking beers. Most wheat beers are slightly cloudy in appearance, with a fluffy white head.
A Weissbier Dunkel (German for Dark) uses darker malts, which makes for a richer malt character. They appear brown, rather than golden or pale, with a mousse coloured head.
Europe in Heathcote
I enjoyed both these beers.
Palling’s Helles delivers on the flavours one would expect from a beer of this style. Refreshing, with a hint of dryness, it’s the perfect beer for rewarding yourself after a Sunday lawn mowing session.
Where it fell slightly short for me was its appearance. The beer didn’t maintain a fluffy white head as much as I would have expected, nor does it have brilliant clarity, but I’m really splitting hairs here. If you’re drinking straight from the can, you’d never know.
I’m partial to the flavours and aromatics common in a wheat beer. The Weisbbier Dunkel satisfied my expectations, but also exposed me to an aspect of the style I’ve not experienced. Having only sampled lighter coloured styles like Hefeweizens, the darker malts add another dimension, with a nutty, bready flavour.
As I’ve said before, the saturation of IPAs in today’s craft beer market makes me genuinely grateful to try more traditional European styles. It’s always encouraging to see local breweries experiment with them, rather than simply chase market trends.
If you’re keen to try these out for yourself you can pick some up directly from the brewery or from Palling Bros online store. If you’re interested in the Palling Bros range generally, Strathfieldsaye IGA has most of the brewery’s core range in stock.
If you’ve never been, I highly recommend making the trip to Heathcote to visit the venue. The range of beers is broad, with an easy-drinking lager and a golden ale, all the way to a roasty oatmeal stout and a resinous Imperial IPA. The food is awesome too!