End of an era for Fish River Valley Brewing founder

The owner of New South Wales-based microbrewery Fish River Valley Brewing has put his brewhouse equipment up for sale following his decision to move to a more metropolitan area.

Located in Locksley, Fish River Valley Brewing is owned by Mick Hoban, who is selling all of his brewing equipment so he may enter a new phase in his life.

Most of the brewing equipment at the small batch brewery was designed and fabricated locally so that Hoban and his team could combine traditional brewing methods with new techniques to focus on energy efficiency and sustainability.

Equipment for sale from Fish River Valley Brewing includes a grain mill, keg washer, hot and cold liquor tanks, a chiller boiler and kettle, which can produce up to 15 hectolitres of beer. The sale does not include the premises.

Hoban spoke to Brews News about his departure from the brewing business and how the industry has changed over the past few decades.

He said he started as an apprentice fitter and machinist in the 1970s but had always been an avid homebrewer. In 2000, he turned his attention to wine at an estate near Bathurst, NSW.

After completing an official qualification in brewing from what is now Federation University in Ballarat, Mick and family completed a stint in Europe; first in Galway, then France and finally in Kent in the UK.

His foray into brewing bore fruit in Kent where he worked on his first commercial brewing operation at the Old Dairy Brewery, at Hole Park Estate near Rolvenden in the UK.

“It was a learning curve, I had not done any commercial brewing prior to being the person then sent to go source the equipment and actually start to make their real ales.

“I was reliant on catching up with local brewers and using their expertise and adapting it to a very small, purpose-built brewery.”

In 2010 Hoban and his family moved back to Australia. It was then that he was able to realise his dream of launching his own brewery and Fish River Valley Brewing was born. Using his experience as a former machinist, he was able to build bespoke equipment.

“I had some ideas I wanted to do with the kettle to increase its efficiency and also enable it to do whole hop flowers or pelletised hops.

“We needed a slightly different final action at the kettle to be able to do that.

“We increased its efficiency by using a helical system on the side of the gas-fired kettle which pushes a lot of heat which is usually lost in flue pipes to heat the sides of the kettle.”

He used inspiration from his surroundings to name his beers, including a carbonated English ale Old School Ale, named so because the brewery was on the site of a former public school, and another dubbed Red Rattler after the rusty red rolling stock trains which used to traverse NSW.

Hoban’s experience in the brewing industry has led him to see an evolving industry develop over several decades.

“At this point in time, it’s extremely hard for a very small brewery to do much more than to be able to find a niche in amongst all the others, because you need a critical mass to be able to push through.”

However it’s not all negative, says Hoban.

“People are being innovative and they’re not just going for a brewpub, they’re going for a real experience. There’s also a growing focus on bringing in tourism,” he said.

“The industry still seems to be dynamic, showing innovation and working very cooperatively with other industries and peripheral businesses.

“I was very privileged to be around when there was a bit of a renaissance in the 1980s in smaller breweries, and now some of the brews we have available in Australia are absolutely magnificent and unique.

“We’ve got our own styles and the industry has gone from strength to strength.”

Contact Mick Hoban for more information on 0400269758 or brewer@fishrivervalleybrewing.com.au.

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