Available in California is their flagship beer Hightail Ale, an English-inspired amber, and a Pale Ale brewed with Australian hops. In a collaboration that garnered them international prestige, they partnered with nomadic microbrewery Mikkeller to produce Mountain Goat's Cross Breed: Gypsy & the Goat Black Pepperberry IPA.
Co-owners Cam Hines and Dave Bonighton began as amateur homebrewers in the early '90s before setting out to try to persuade banks that a few surfboards and mountain bikes were enough collateral for a loan. They barely squeaked by with the bank and had the help of friends and family to get Hightail Ale to Australian drinkers in 1997. Their beers are available at over 80 bars in Melbourne -- and very soon, Los Angeles.
We picked the brain of brewmaster Dave Bonighton, just before he boarded a plane to the States for this week's events.Squid Ink: Tell us about your flagship beers.
Dave Bonighton: The Hightail Ale is a rich, malt-driven amber ale -- think toffee and caramel -- that finishes with a subtle hit of tropical hop spiciness (6.8% abv, 35BU). The Australian Pale Ale is one where we show off our Aussie Hops -- Tasmanian Galaxy to be precise. It's copper-color and eminently drinkable (6.2% abv, 55BU).
SI: What differentiates Mountain Goat from other Australian breweries?
DB: We're a small brewery run by by two former homebrewers who, for 15 years, have been making the kinds of beers that we like to drink. Most breweries brew to a formula, something born in a focus group or in a marketing team meeting. We come up with our ideas at the bar.
SI: Why are you expanding to L.A.?
DB: The U.S. craft beer scene was an inspiration for us to start this brewery -- it just seems natural to go back to the source and become part of the place that started it all.
SI: Do you have concerns about quality control or not being able to experiment as much because of the focus on expansion?
DB: No, we'll always make sure there's room and time enough for experimentation; it's what gets us up in the mornings. I can't imagine owning a brewery I couldn't make interesting beers in.
SI: How does the Los Angeles beer scene compare to Melbourne?
DB: Melbourne is a great city for food, bars and coffee. Craft beer is (thankfully) getting a solid foothold -- more so than any other city in Australia. I think while L.A. is maybe slower out of the blocks than some other cities in the West (like Portland or San Diego), there seems to be a growing number of bars and breweries here; it's great to see.
SI: Will you be tailoring your beers at all to the American market?
DB: No, we make these same beers here in Australia; we're really excited about a couple of new Southern Hemisphere hops we have available to us. There are some great New Zealand and Australian varieties we're really happy to show off to you guys.
SI: What's your distribution plan at this point and what can we hope to see?