WHEN Kevin O’Neill went to a pub for a drink after a hard day’s skiing at Thredbo in the NSW Snowy Mountains, he was keen to sample the local beer. The problem was, there wasn’t one.
O’Neill sensed a gap in the market and the idea of the Snowy Mountains Brewery was born. Four years later it has four beers to its name with two more on the way, but none as yet are brewed in the area that inspires their names.
Water from the Snowies was transported to Bluetongue Brewery at Newcastle, NSW, for the first SMB beer, Crackenback Pale Ale, which was brewed to O’Neill’s specifications on a contract basis.
Production has since moved to the Australian Independent Brewers at Smeaton Grange south of Sydney, a sixhour drive from the Snowies.
But there are plans for a brewery with pub near Jindabyne, at the foot of the mountains, where possible sites are being scouted around the town’s picturesque lake.
Meanwhile, SMB is winning awards with its newest beer, Charlotte’s Hefeweizen, an unfiltered wheat beer with a pale cloudy appearance ‘‘ reminiscent of a high-country white-out’’. According to O’Neill, it’s ‘‘ perfect in summer or after a hard day on the slopes’’ (he’s fond of the ski analogies). The name comes from Charlotte Adams, the first woman to climb Mt Kosciuszko (in 1881). It was voted Australia’s best wheat beer at last year’s Australian Hotel Beer Awards, which comes as no surprise once you’ve sampled a bottle or two. SMB’s Bullocks Pilsner complies with the German purity law — using only barley, hops and water — and has no sugar, preservatives or other adjuncts. O’Neill says it ‘‘ goes down like a well-waxed pair of skis’’, which is very well indeed. The fourth beer in the SMB stable is Razorback Red Ale, made with four malts and named after Razorback Ridge.
O’Neill isn’t revealing what newcomers are in the pipeline but my money’s on a Koscuiszko porter. It has a certain ring about it, don’t you think? Barry Oliver Distribution at present is in NSW, ACT, Victoria and WA; $17.99 a six-pack. www.snowymountainsbrewery.com.au.