When it comes to brewing gluten-free beer, it's the little things that matter. Literally. "The size of a millet grain compared with a wheat grain is tiny. It behaves differently in the brewing process," explains Andrew Gow, head brewer at Two Bays Brewing Co. "It compacts more, so you have to find a way to avoid that. You also have to rinse the tanks a lot more carefully."
Gow knows a thing or two about brewing, with a CV that includes respected craft breweries Mornington Peninsula and Mountain Goat. His latest gig at Two Bays Brewing Co takes him into new territory, as he explores the art of gluten-free brewing, using grains such as rice, millet and buckwheat instead of barley.
His brews are finding an eager audience. Just months after opening, Two Bays is drawing a steady stream of visitors to its tap room in Dromana, the Mornington Peninsula town that has become a hub for craft brews and spirits, with Jetty Road Brewery, Jimmy Rum, and Bass and Flinders distilleries all nearby.
The ever-changing range of beers on tap – no fewer than nine different options - includes crowd-pleasers such as pilsener and pale ale, and distinctive drops such as a rich English brown ale with cocoa and caramel notes, and a gose made with coriander, salt and lime that will be a hit with anyone who has ever knocked back a Corona and lime.
Each beer is made with a mix of rice, buckwheat and millet malts. Gow draws on no fewer than 11 different varieties of millet malt and six varieties of rice malt for his recipes. He is clearly enjoying the challenge. "This is a very young area [in brewing], so there is not as much information available about the ingredients and how they react," he says. "You can't just take a recipe for barley beer and swap out the grains; you have to experiment and see what works, in terms of temperatures, in terms of yeasts."
Two Bays is the brainchild of Richard Jeffares, a craft beer lover who was diagnosed as coeliac two years ago. Determined to find a way to keep enjoying his favourite beverage, Jeffares took himself to the United States to taste the country's best gluten-free brews. Travelling from Portland all the way through to Montreal, he was inspired by the quality of beer on offer. Two Bays' gluten-free tap room – visitors can also tuck into gluten-free pizzas – has been an immediate hit with people who thought they would never be able to drink beer again. "I've had people almost in tears when I sat the tasting paddle in front of them," Jeffares says.
As yet, only one of Two Bays' brews, its pale ale, is being canned. It has already been picked up by a number of outlets, from acclaimed restaurants such as Brae to other Victorian breweries keen to offer their guests a gluten-free option. "That recognition is incredibly special," says Jeffares. "They have great palates; if they think it's good, then we are doing fine."
The Mornington Peninsula is a 90-minute drive from Melbourne (see visitmorningtonpeninsula.org) . MP Experience offers bespoke chauffeur-driven tours of the area, starting from $165 per person. See mpexperience.com.au
Set amid 13 hectares of gardens and vines, Lindenderry at Red Hill offers contemporary country-house charm. From $370 a night, see lancemore.com.au/lindenderry
Two Bays Brewing Co is located at 1/2 Trewhitt Court, Dromana. Phone (03) 5910 0880; see twobays.beer
Ute Junker travelled courtesy of Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism.