Interview: Matt Bebe, Mornington Peninsula Brewery
“We use the right malt and the right hops and ensure time in the tank. We do the best for the beer that we can, to ensure the best taste that we can.”
- Matt Bebe
Mad business ideas and 3am drinking sessions are surely something of an Australian tradition. How often those ideas get off the ground in the cold, aching light of a morning-after? Well, at least once, if founder of the Mornington Peninsula Brewery’s Matt Bebe is any indication.
In the midst of Good Beer Week, Makers catches up with Matt on his home turf at Mornington Peninsula Brewery’s (MPB) headquarters in Mornington.
We sit in his office, an entirely unglamorous space that is befitting in some ways of the brewery’s location – forget the verdant green fields of nearby Red Hill, MPB makes its home in an industrial estate tucked behind a busy main road.
There is good reason for this: the MPB is a proper, working craft brewery with all the deliveries, heft, packaging requirements and machinery this entails. Not only are the various in-house labels conceptualised by in-house head brewer, Andrew Gow, they are also brewed on site behind the bar in the brew house that takes up the rear of the allotment.
As for those madcap beginnings…
Matt: “My next door neighbour and I are both mad Hawthorn supporters so when they won grand final in 2008 we hooked up while I was looking for someone to drink with. In the wee hours of the morning we came up with the idea that the Mornington Peninsula needed another brewery. The next day he went to Glenferrie to celebrate with the Hawks and I stayed home and wrote up a business plan.”
Six years later and the MPB has made its mark on both the national and international beer scenes: its Imperial Stout and Brown Ale received gold medals at the International Beer Awards last year, with plenty of other accolades along the way.
Having just ticked over 300,000 litres of production, MPB is only the second craft brewery in Australia to have its own canning line and has only this week hosted an event with the chief brewer from Stillwater Brewery, known as one of America’s best. A coup for any Aussie craft operation.
Matt: “We just have a real passion for beer. I was in Italy recently and it was amazing to see how they used different products in different ways – in Sicily a brewer blended a locally available red wine with a dark beer and it allowed that cherry flavour to really come out. That’s where the artisan side of beer is heading and where we are also interested in taking it. It’s a more creative approach.
Lunch approaches and we call time on our chat, but not before Matt gives me a little guided tour of the brewery and bar (“the place is packed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights”) and explains how the taking on of a second industrial site will leave more room for the currently modest outdoor beer garden.
He leaves me with a mixed six-pack of his brews, including the beautifully bitter Indian Pale Ale, an English-style brown ale with chewy chocolate and toffee notes, and a very savoury Witbier made with coriander, cumin and orange peel.
Matt: “A lot of the challenge of craft brewing is in convincing people who are so used to drinking a major beer to try something different. For instance we do a collaboration with Common Folk coffee roasters around the corner to do a coffee-infused beer to understand that coffee and beer can match. The reality of beer is that it is a beverage with much broader appeal than is commonly understood.”
So beer instead of a latte for breakfast? I know at least a couple of blokes who would drink to that.