For too long, people wanting lunch in Valley Heights have had to choose between a Bunnings sausage sizzle or a cafe that also operates a real estate agency. Tragically, both options were also naturally beer-free.
So naturally it was a boon for locals when garage brewer Craig Talbot expanded his operation and opened the Brew Mountains brewery, just around the corner from the aforementioned Bunnings.
In 2016, before opening his charming hangout, Craig put Brew Mountains on the map by brewing from his garage, serving RIPAs, breakfast stouts and his flagship pale ale to mountaineers who wanted a beer that had the taste of home. This best-kept secret developed a cult following, and in 2020 Craig opened Brew Mountains to the public in a hidden little sandstone block that, ironically, was also a garage.
The Brew Mountains brewery is like a little beer crossroad, open only for a brief but refreshing 12 hours each week and usually packed with low mountain locals getting their weekly popping fix of craft beer and food trucks.
A glance at the handwritten menu on the blackboard immediately provides context for the type of beer Craig and his team want to brew: whatever they want. Call and you’ll likely find a mix of popular and lesser-known beer styles with alcohol contents ranging from 0.9 to 15.5% ABV; the only thing some of them seemed to have in common was being brewed in the spirit of, “Why not?”
And, after all, why the hell not?
So, who is the person who parted the Red Sea (IPA) in the low mountains and delivered the inhabitants to the promised land of beer? We invited Craig to take part in our long-running Who Brews…? series so we can find out more.
Who are you?
Head Brewer and Owner Craig Talbot. I started Brew Mountains almost five years ago, the first three years out of my garage before opening the new brewery with bar and food trucks 18 months ago.
We now have Oli “assistant brewer”, John “chief engineer”, with Joe, Liz and Gabrielle helping pull the pints behind the bar. And it’s worth mentioning a whole range of local journeymen and craftsmen who literally helped build the new brewery.
Where do you brew?
Valley Heights in the beautiful Blue Mountains of NSW.
Why do you brew?
There’s just something so magical about the fermentation process, a childhood fascination developed helping my grandfather brew.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
There’s only one thing better than owning a brewery and that’s having a companion who owns a brewery. Since I didn’t have a companion that already had one, I had to build my own.
After years of two-hour door-to-door commutes, it was time to focus my energy on something else. Something I’ve been doing since I was a teenager, but now ups the game and professionally brews beer.
What is the inspiration behind the name of the brewery?
Everyone loves a bit of a pun.
Which beer from your range best represents you and why?
It’s XLA – the eXtreme Local Ale. We have a well established hop garden with 30 mature hop plants. Each year we engage with local hop growers and have grown grain with our friends at Urbavore to make truly local beer.
Only once a year during brewing do we rush to pick the hop blossoms and put them straight into the hot tub. There is nothing else like it.
If someone is dropping by on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting through the speakers?
Australian rock classics, Amy Winehouse or Triple J.
What beers do you have in your fridge right now?
Rusty Penny, Gypsy Fox and mountain culture. Always great desire to drink the other local beers.
What local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Rusty Penny’s High Street Haze is an impressive drop.
Where can people find your beers?
Besides the tap room, local restaurants like Bootlegger, Aunty Ed’s, Reminiscence and Bramble Bar.
Where do you hope your brewery will be in ten years?
Pretty much the same. Now that we have finished improving the capacity of the brewery, we hope to start canning again and distribute our beer to more places.
We’ve grown so much already, and it’s all organic, with our own investment. Our goal has always been to be a small independent craft brewery for locals and visiting tourists.
Brew Mountains is located at unit 3/2-4 Tayler Road, Valley Heights, and is open from From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday. You can also find it alongside hundreds of other breweries and great brews across Australia in the free Crafty Pint app.