Conceived by Ben and Maria Kraus in 2004/05, Bridge Road Brewers is one of Australia’s leading craft breweries, located in Beechworth — a vibrant Victorian town at the foot of the Alps.
Back in 2005 Bridge Road Brewers was a small outfit in Beechworth, brewing beers out of Ben’s parents’ shed. Craft beer was still a relative novelty in Australia, certainly a far cry from where it is now, with few independent breweries operating throughout regional Australia.
At this time the Australian craft beer scene was in its infancy and Bridge Road Brewers quickly made an impact, being the first Australian brewer to offer a year round Saison and the longest continual producers of a single branded IPA in Australia, Bling.
Bridge Road Brewers has brewed collaboration beers with Australian hops in Norway with Nogne, the USA with Stone, Belgium with cult brewery De Struisse, Italy (twice) with Birra Del Borgo, and locally with craft beer superstar Mikkeller. Bridge Road Brewers have also exported beers with a focus on Australian hops to Canada, USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, Thailand, Norway and the UK.
But before all that…
The Bridge Road Brewers story however, begins in 2000 when a 21-year-old Ben was a budding young winemaker. He’d headed to Europe to learn more about the world and the art of making wine. Along the way he got distracted on the ski slopes of Austria, met his partner Maria and ended up working at Tiroler Bier —a traditional microbrewery in Innsbruck — and returned to Australia a brewer (with Maria).
Ben initially trained as a viticulturist and winemaker but had his head turned in the direction of craft beer during a working stint in the Margaret River wine region. Later he studied brewing at the University of Ballarat and acquired a pre-loved microbrewery that had operated out of a Coonawarra winery. In 2004/05 Ben and Maria renovated Ben’s parents’ shed to house a 10Hl brewery, bar and tasting room, and also a bottling line.
Maria hails from the Oetztal Valley, which is home to Austria’s biggest mountains and glacial region. If you need a visual reference, just think Sound of Music. Maria joined Ben (both 24 years old) in their tireless effort to establish a brewery with a tiny starting capital. Aside from being assistant brewer and taking care of finances Maria established the brewery kitchen, firstly with Pretzels using an Austrian friend’s recipe.
Bridge Road Brewers have continued growing since 2005 and now employ around 40 people, most of them in their hometown of Beechworth. They owe much of their success to not only their great beer but also family, friends, staff and customers, and to their values.