Students get a taste for brewing

Brewer Paul Holgate is quite emphatic. ­ The new subject he helps teach at the University, An Introduction to Beer Styles, does require students to swallow, not spit.

Natasha and Paul Holgate

Natasha and Paul Holgate. Picture: Chris Hopkins.

“It’s the only way,” he says. “­The only way! This is what we do in beer judging to understand style and a beer’s characteristics. To get the full hop or bitter sensation on the back of the tongue, you need to swallow the beer.” ­

The higher the percentage of hops the more bitter the beer, but students need to keep in mind that bitterness can be offset by the sweetness of malt, which helps determine a beer’s flavour and style. Tasting the beer will tell a drinker all about that.

An Introduction to Beer Styles and Sensory Analysis and Principles of Brewing – two breadth subjects introduced this year by the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences – cover a fair bit of beer-making and drinking territory, with help from Paul and Natasha Holgate, of Holgate Brewhouse in Woodend, 70 kilometres north-west of Melbourne.

Paul is a guest lecturer in the highly popular Beer: ­Theory and Craft subjects, which teach a range of skills to would-be beer-makers. It’s a chance for students to learn about a fast growing industry from real-world professionals.

For the Holgates, the subjects mark a return to their old stomping ground. ­The couple met in the University’s chemistry library in 1987. Both were chemistry majors (BSc(Hons) 1989), who went on to work in the chemical industry before Paul decided to take his enthusiasm for home brewing and turn it into a business.
Holgate Brewhouse

The Holgate Brewhouse, Woodend. Picture: Chris Hopkins. 

The couple moved to Woodend and began selling beer they made in a backyard shed. Eventually, they left their corporate careers to concentrate on their passion. The timing was perfect.

By 2002, when the Holgates bought an old hotel (circa 1896) in Woodend’s main street, interest in the craft-brewing movement, which had begun in the US and Britain, was taking off in Australia.

It has been portrayed as a kind of grassroots rebellion against the dominance of big, multinational brewers. Paul says “craft brewing”, a term that has been bastardised by big breweries, requires time, attention to detail and quality ingredients.

It has proved to be a winning formula for Holgate Brewhouse, which has since expanded to a restaurant and hotel, with a showroom and beer discovery centre in the works. ­ The Holgate brews sell in bars, pubs and outlets across Australia.

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