Raise a Glass to Melbourne’s Brew Fest


Melbournites, do you go cuckoo for cocktails? Bananas for beer? Well then you’d better get excited – a new event is hitting the Immigration Museum, and it truly is a thing of brew-ty.

Running as part of the North South Feast West event series, visitors will be able to get their culture on as they explore the origins of traditional beverages from around the world. With workshops hosted by Hawkers Brewery, Black Pearl Bar and Melbourne’s own Sake Master, Andre Bishop, you can learn about everything from the history of beer in the Middle East to the process of making contemporary craft beers and beer-based cocktails. It’s like a brewniversity!

But that’s not even the best bit. As part of these masterclasses, there will be a bevy of bevvies for you to taste. We’ll toast to that!

The Immigration Museum always hosts loads of cool events like the previous Courtyard Cantina
The Immigration Museum always hosts loads of cool events like the prevoius Courtyard Cantina

We sat down with Monique Farchione, program manager at the Immigration Museum, to learn more.

Hi Monique, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How would you describe Brew Fest?

Brew Fest is a one-day festival focused on the contemporary and historical influence of brewing in Victoria. It is an opportunity to discover the role of brewing in cuisine, culture and community – from contemporary craft beers and sake tastings to mulled wine and beer based cocktails. Brew Fest will feature workshops hosted by Hawkers Brewery, Black Pearl Bar and Melbourne’s own Sake Master André Bishop.

What sets it apart from other events you’ve held at the Immigration Museum?

Unlike previous one-day festivals at the Immigration Museum, Brew Fest is centred on the workshop experience, with a rich array of workshops for visitors to choose from to immerse themselves in Melbourne’s brewing culture and history. There will be talks by some of Melbourne’s brewing experts, including a discussion on the ethics of the coffee industry with Nick Ray from the Ethical Consumer Group; the history and influences of Chai Tea with Uppma Virdi from Chai Walli, and more. A selection of food and music will round out the experience for visitors in the courtyard.

How did you choose who’s going to be running the workshops?

At the Immigration Museum, we work with individuals and organisations that share our values and mission; those that are ethically and socially aligned with the purpose of our organisation – to explore, document and present stories and experiences of immigration and cultural diversity in Victoria. Some presenters have contributed to cultural events with us in the past, and we want to build on that success, and invite existing and new audiences to explore migrant food and culture in a contemporary setting at Immigration Museum.

Expect expert mixologists!
Expect expert mixologists!

To find out more about Hawkers Brewery and their workshop, we also caught up with co-founder Mazen Hajjar.

Hi Mazen, can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got your start in the world of brewing?

It all started about 10 years ago. I was obsessed with food and flavour and I just couldn’t keep drinking Heineken anymore. Lebanon only had Heineken so this was my only way of getting good beer. It just got out of control after that, because of how people were responding to the beer. It all just grew from there.

What’s in store for the Hawkers Brewery Workshop?

I’ll be taking people on a trip through the history of beer which has been an integral part of human society for thousands of years. This will, of course, include a brief history of Hawkers’ beer, brewing techniques and secrets that we use at Hawkers.

Which of your beers would you recommend for a beer beginner, and which would you recommend for a seasoned beer lover?

I’d recommend our pilsner because its flavour is the closes to many of the commercial lagers sold out there. Our IPA or Imperial stout would probably be more suited to seasoned beer lovers because the flavours are bigger and bolder. There is a lot going on in those beers.

The cocktail workshop will teach you everything you need to know
The cocktail workshop will teach you everything you need to know

Next up, we had a chat to Fred Siggins, founder of bar and beverage consultancy Pith & Vinegar and former Senior Bartender of Black Pearl Bar, to discover what’s in store for the Beers, Bars and Barrels workshop.

Hi Fred, what can patrons expect from your workshop?

Folks who attend our Beers, Bars and Barrels workshop can expect a ton of great stories and fascinating facts from the history of beer, from how one of the world’s most popular drinks was invented to how it’s been linked to some of history’s most interesting episodes. We’ll be telling the story of three different styles of beer through the lens of three original craft cocktails with step by step instructions, recipes and of course samples of each one. We’ll also discuss how we create original cocktails on the basis of the flavours and stories we find in every bottle.

What’s your favourite beer cocktail and why?

My favourite beer cocktail is the whisky and ale flip. It’s a very old-fashioned style of cocktail that’s at least 300 years old, so the history behind it is amazing, plus it’s a brilliant drink to warm you up and cold weather.

What are the principles behind a perfectly crafted cocktail?

The most important principles behind a perfectly crafted cocktail are balance and quality ingredients. Like anything in life, there needs to be a balance among the different elements. If sweet, bitter, sour, alcohol, aromatics or dilution are out of whack you’ll have an unpleasant drink. Beyond that, ingredients are key, including ice. You can’t make a great margarita with old lime juice, bottom shelf tequila and servo ice no matter how balanced it is.

Finally, we spoke with the Sake Samurai himself, Andre Bishop, to learn more about the Sipping with the Sake Master Workshop.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Sipping with the Sake Master workshop?

We’re going to get people to try 3 different styles with a brief 101 on sake. Audiences will leave with a better understanding so the next time they go into a restaurant they’ll have a bit more confidence in selecting the right sake for them and what goes best with certain food.

What goes into creating a great sake?

It all starts with the raw ingredients. Sake is made from rice so you’re talking about a raw product. For a premium sake, you’re looking for the right sake rice and water for the yeast you’re using. But often brewers just like to get the best price. Water is a very important part and the Koji production is an integral part as well.

It’s like any other product – look at trying to source as best ingredients as possible. You’re relying on the skill of the Toji (the master brewer) and the process. Different brewers have different ways of doing things. Some breweries are very proud of the techniques they may have developed for thousands of years. Brewers bring their heritage into the type of sake they present to the customer.

Do you prefer sake served cold, room temperature or warm, and why?

Each different serving style has its own merits; there are certain sake that are more enjoyable cool and others warm. It really just depends on the style that you’re drinking and what you’re drinking it with. For a long time, warm or hot sake was associated with bad quality but that is no longer the case. Now there are many premium sakes that are perfectly acceptable to have it warm. The mistake a lot of people make is overheating it. Sake should be enjoyed at about 38-43 degrees.

If you’re having a sake that is light and dry you might enjoy it with sashimi – having it cool is preferable. But if you’re eating something warm and hearty sometimes a warm sake is going to match the food a lot better.

Usually in Japan, most sake is judged for competitions at room temperature, but there are special competitions for warmer sake.

Brew Fest will be held at the Immigration Museum on Sunday the 19th of June. You can buy tickets here to avoid the queue!

You might also like More from author