The yeast of his worries

Tristan WheelerManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Mark with his brewing equipment at the Bridgetown Cidery.
Camera IconMark with his brewing equipment at the Bridgetown Cidery. Credit: Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

Since starting brewing professionally 17 years ago, Bridgetown’s Mark Hollett has built a demonstrated track record of success, amassing awards at the Perth Royal Beer Awards and the Australian International Beer Awards.

Mark had dabbled in home brewing before starting work at the Cidery in 2003, as part of its Blackwood Valley Brewing offshoot.

“I basically did a lot of research and because we were a very small outfit, I had a small brewery which enabled me to be quite flexible and it was a very good forum for somebody who’s developing their skills,” he said.

His first professional beer was produced in 2004, but it would be another three years before his first accolades came at the Royal Perth Beer Show, winning Best West Australian Beer for his stout at the first Perth Royal Beer Awards in 2007.

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His stout would carry Mark to further success in 2009, winning International Champion Stout at the 2009 Australian International Beer Awards.

“Out stout has been our most common winner, it’s won the most golds and certainly won the two big gongs, being the championships,” he said.

“We don’t enter many beers in competitions, we are a small brewery, so I tend to pick out a couple of beers, two or three beers a year now, and I’ll pop them in.”

Mark says a good beer is a matter of personal taste, but he preferred session beers.

“A session beer is generally a beer you can actually drink socially for a long time because it’s not normally going to get you very drunk in a hurry, especially if you are drinking it at a reasonably sensible rate, you can drink a session beer and it’s a great sociable beer,” he said.

“A good session beer should be very characterful and I think a characterful beer tends to slow you down a little bit, because you are getting more than just quaffing, you are getting flavours and something of interest there that you are a little bit more likely to mull over.”

Mark said in his experience of brewers, most were absolutely obsessed with brewing beer, putting in unpaid overtime due to their passion for brewing.

“Every time I fire up the brewery, I’m always firing it up because I think I’m just about to make the best beer that I’ve ever made and that’s probably the attitude of a lot of brewers,” he said. “I think its got something to do with the fact that the process is so involved.

“To make adjustments you can only make them at the very end, you can only make the decision as to how you can improve it once you’ve completely made a brew.”

According to Mark, winning awards and happy customers are both satisfying, but in different ways.

“I certainly get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that people enjoy the beer that I make, I get a lot of pleasure from going to the Cidery and seeing people enjoying the whole experience that occurs there, it is really quite unique in Australia,” he said.

Blackwood Valley Brewing company has been operating since commercial micro-brewing was in its infancy and Mark said he was proud of its consistency and longevity.

“We were one of the pioneering brewers in WA and WA was leading the nation for microbreweries early on,” he said.

“We were among a small group in WA that were leading the country as far as getting this industry up and running and we are still there now, and right through that period of time, certainly since we started going into competitions 13 years ago, we’ve always featured up there with the medal winners.

“Being consistent and reliably delivering a good quality product is the best achievement in my opinion.”

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