Last year we were given (or, more accurately, my darling was) gift certificates to go tour the Carlton United Brewery plant in Melbourne, and then have a beer tasting.
The place is a fascinating mixture of industrialisation and … well, not artisanship, not when you’re working on the scale CUB is, but beer just is primitive, I guess? It’s water, yeast, malt and hops. Add them together, add heat, and ta dah! Alcohol. The difference between your home brew and CUB is that CUB is making several hundred thousand litres at a throw.
The machinery for making the beer is all pretty straight forward. Enormous metal vats for fermenting, and a control room… and that’s it, really. Very minimal. The packaging area is way more complicated, with bottles going whizzing around; we didn’t get to see the canning area because apparently if you open the door too long, you’re liable to get cans going spinning around the place. They bottle and label something like 700+ per minute.
In the fermenting area we got to see and, if we wanted, taste, the three different sorts of malt they use at CUB (I tasted the caramel-y one, and it was surprisingly tasty), as well as hops (recommended not to be eaten) – I don’t think I’d seen hops before. The packaging area had examples of CUB bottles across the century, which was really cool.
Back at the public area/bar and cafe, we grabbed a paddle and choose six beers to try. I only tried five because I knew I didn’t need to try Carlton Dry or VB (blech). And I have to say it confirmed my suspicion: I am not a CUB drinker. I didn’t mind the Wild Yak, and the cider on tap was also quite nice, but everything else… nah. I think I’m ruined by and for your more crafty beer. Don’t ask me what it is that I dis/like because I don’t have the words to explain beer, but I do know what I don’t like.
If you’re interested in the industrial side of beer making I do think this is a good tour to go on. The food from the cafe was fine, they have a range of CUB beers on tap if that’s your thing… all in all they’re trying hard to present themselves well to both hardcore CUB fans and people like, well, me – interested in process as well as food, and I guess on the snobbier end of the food spectrum 😉