15 December 2022

Meet the Makers: Hallelujah! Ale Mary is Canberra’s newest brewery

| Lucy Ridge
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man standing behind Ale Mary logo with beer taps

Brewer Andrew Gordon-Douglas at Beer Fest. Photo: Supplied.

Canberra’s newest brewery is hitting shelves soon, but you may have already spied it in a few select pubs around town.

Andrew Gordon-Douglas has been home brewing since he was a teenager. But lockdowns gave him an excuse to play around a little more with different beers.

“During COVID, I really revved up my home brewing … I just started experimenting more,” he told Region.

Andrew knew that his old friend Marc Grainger – former owner of Pact Brewing – was in the business of beer, so he invited him over to try out some of his homebrew creations.

“I knew he was starting up a brewery. He said, ‘Mate, if you can make this beer on a larger scale would you like to be involved?’”

three beer fermenters

Andrew described the three 600-litre fermenters as an oversized home brew set-up. Photo: supplied.

Andrew joined them in their Fyshwick warehouse and realised that the larger fermenters were essentially just a scaled-up version of the brew equipment he’d been using at home. After a trial run making a stout with Josh Gray – the third business partner in the holy trinity of Ale Mary – Andrew was in, with one condition: “I’m only coming on board if we’re making beer for beer drinkers. I want someone to enjoy a beer, not sit and analyse it.”

The team is focussing on a core range of four beers: The Kings Head Pale Ale, The Crusader IPA, Ace of Spades Stout and Tradies Draught Kolsch.

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Marc Grainger owns The Durham Castle Arms pub in Kingston so they were able to get their beers on tap quickly for customer feedback and to fine-tune their recipes. The Tradies Draught was a particular favourite with customers who may not have been fans of craft beer in the past.

“I have a couple of mates who are tradies, and they’ll only drink Great Northern or Tooheys or Carlton Dry,” said Andrew.

“I gave them the Tradies Draught and they said, ‘Holy sh–! That’s the best beer you’ve made so far!’”

yellow can of beer with Ale Mary logo and text "Tradies Draught"

The appropriately high-vis Tradies Draught is one of the core range from Ale Mary. Photo: Supplied.

It’s been a lot of work to get the brewery up to speed. Andrew says he’s been getting to the warehouse at 5 am with Josh, then heads into his office job at 9. He then pops back during his lunch break to check on the beer. He’s hopeful they’ll be able to spend more time focussing on brewing next year as the business expands.

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Ale Mary had a stall at the recent Beer Fest event and they were blown away by the support they received from customers and the other breweries who attended. They reckon more craft breweries in Canberra will grow the industry for everyone by opening up further opportunities for more brewery tours and collaborative beer events.

pallet of cans ready to be filled

The Ale Mary team have started canning beers and should have them in shops by Christmas. Photo: Supplied.

Ale Mary is just a small set-up for now, but they’re expanding quickly.

The core range is being canned and should hit the shelves in select bottle shops in time for Christmas. The beers are on tap at around seven local bars and restaurants, and the team is hoping to open a brewpub in the future where they can play around with seasonal brews.

“The support from Canberrans already has been fantastic, and the feedback has been great,” said Andrew.

“We’re looking at the stars, but we’re going to need a lot of milk crates to get up there!”

Ale Mary can be found at The Durham Castle Arms, Casey Jones Pub and a few other locations around town. Cans are expected to hit shelves in Plonk and other local bottle shops by Christmas. Follow Ale Mary on Facebook or Instagram.

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