Dave had studied overseas in the US and spent some time in Europe. After so many years of great beer, he was really disappointed at only having bland, fizzy lagers here in Australia and took up home brewing in his backyard.
Cam was a music booking agent who had taken some time off to backpack the world. A mate in Vancouver took him around the local microbreweries and Cam, who confesses to not really liking beer beforehand, found himself suddenly enjoying amazing beers full of flavour. Thinking immediately of Dave’s home brewing, he famously sent Dave a postcard with the message ‘We’ve gotta talk… let’s open a brewery’.
Mountain Goat beer started to be brewed under Dave’s careful watch in the basement of the Scottish Chiefs Hotel in Geelong and then Grand Ridge Brewery (where Dave later took on the Head Brewer role, as well as doing our Goat beers). The first keg of our Hightail Ale, an English style amber ale, was tapped at the Great Britain Hotel in Richmond. Dave and Cam admit that, for the first few months, the biggest customers were themselves buying rounds for their mates to make sure the keg got drunk. Eventually, folks they didn’t know were also buying Mountain Goat beer and other venues were keen to start stocking our beers.
The guys were very dedicated to making this work. Dave was staying near Grand Ridge Brewery in the old disused Mirboo North Town Hall, sleeping on the stage and driving back on weekends to visit his wife. Cam would drive his old Falcon wagon down the freeway each week, jam pack it with kegs and cases and drive the two hours back to a tiny office space to hand label every bottle. This happened for two years until they were able to find our own brewery space.
Cam and Dave knew they were on to something, but had no money to build a brewery. The two young, overly ambitious guys approached every bank possible with equity of three surfboards, two mountain bikes and Dave’s EH Holden, which was apparently not enough security for a loan. Proving themselves to be pioneers of not only craft beer but also crowdfunding, they rallied the support of family, friends and, eventually, a bank manager who caved in to their persistent visits.
The required funds were gained and Mountain Goat brewery was finally realised in 1999 in a warehouse in Crown Street in Richmond. To help pay the bills, the guys opened up our brewery bar once a month and, soon enough, hundreds of people were lining up to come in.
A Melbourne legend was born.
“Our personal position statements included three surfboards, a couple of mountain bikes and Dave’s EH Holden”
Within five years our beer could be found in all states across Australia and had grown big enough to employ staff in sales, brewing and accounts.
In 2004, Mountain Goat relocated to a warehouse one street over in North Street, where we still are today. Despite the growth, it was still a very hard slog. Dave and Cam, along with a couple of very supportive mates, hand filled, labelled and capped over two million stubbies of Goat beers until an automated bottling line was purchased in 2005.
Mountain Goat was doing well but it was the introduction of our Organic Steam Ale in 2009 that really lifted Goat to another level. With subtle aromas and a crisp, lightly hopped taste, this approachable beer was a hit upon release and introduced a new wave of drinkers to good beer.
The demand for Goat beers soon saw Dave and Cam look for help. For a couple of years, the William Bull Brewery in Griffith NSW helped with some contract brewing and in 2011 our Steam Ale and all packaged beers were brewed at Asahi’s Laverton brewery. All keg and specialty beers, including the limited edition Rare Breeds, continued to be brewed at Richmond. In 2013, we released our first beer in a can, our Summer Ale, which was soon followed by another, our Fancy Pants amber ale.
2015 was another big year for Goat, firstly celebrating the Trophy for Champion Beer at the Australian International Beer Awards for a barrel aged Barley Wine. Later that year Mountain Goat was acquired by Asahi Premium Beverages. Dave and Cam, having worked alongside Asahi for several years, trusted them to take over the next chapter in Goat’s journey and get good beer to even more people in Australia.
Dave and Cam hung around, as did all the brewers at the time of the acquisition (in fact, nearly all those brewers are still with us today). This stability could be seen in our beers and the Richmond brewery was able to focus more on limited releases, including the Japanese Cowboy IPA, brewed with Sorachi Ace hops as a nod to our new parents, and collaborations with other breweries and venues from around Australia.
Formal recognitions also continued, with Trophies at the Australian International Beer Awards in 2016 for Best IPA (Rare Breed: The Zymurgist IPA) and in 2017 for Best IPA (Rare Breed: Pulped Fiction Blood Orange IPA) and Best New World Pale Ale. The 2017 awards saw Mountain Goat take home two trophies, three golds, three silver and three bronze medals.
It’s fair to say the past few years have seen a lot of change for us, but some things very dear to us haven’t changed at all. We continue to support the same things we always have – our local community, good causes and live and local music. We’ve proudly celebrated Melbourne’s music scene since 2000, when Dave and Cam were first able to throw a few bucks to the local community radio station. We now support music events around the country, from the Victorian Music Awards and community radio stations Triple R and PBS; to a number of grassroot festivals; to BIGSOUND, the most important music conference in the southern hemisphere.
We’ve hosted brew days for Pink Boots Australia, an international society helping to empower women in beer through support and education. We’ve created brews especially for Sacred Heart Mission and Yarra Riverkeepers Association and hosted events to raise money for the Australian Road Crew Association.
We’ve done collaboration brews with Thornbridge Brewery (UK), Brooklyn Brewery (USA), Mikkeller (Denmark) and Pirate Life (Aust), as well as Henry Wagons, The Grates, Crowbar, Death Valley Camp and many other bands and bars from around Australia.
It’s been a big twenty years. The brewery and bar still operate in the back streets of Richmond with a lineup of old favourites on tap, limited releases and barrel aged beers. From our Steam Ale, one of Australia’s first organic beers through to our award-winning specialty releases, limited in number but unrestrained in flavour, technique and creativity. There is a Mountain Goat beer for everyone.
And why Mountain Goat? A Mountain Goat is a big, hairy animal that’s never going to fall over.
Thanks for joining us on the Good Beer Movement.