Beyond the dazzling bling of burnished steel and the leaven scent of spent grain, breweries can be somewhat prosaic places. Industrial domains where sacks of grain, malt and hops are ordered via the ether and freighted in from far-off places. Factories where the sorcery of mashing and fermentation happen out of sight behind sealed vessels.
This cool sterility, of course, is the very foundation of contemporary brewing: hygienic, involatile and consistent beers that aspire to product-line uniformity. It is this technical prowess that has enabled the stratospheric growth of the craft beer industry in recent decades. But for Ian Jones and Shane Ferguson, this progress has not come without deficit as brewing grows ever more estranged from its agrarian and amoebic roots.
The pair would meet at Melbourne’s iconic Boatrocker Brewers and go on to further chisel their craft at Hop Nation and Temple Brewing, respectively.
Future Mountain ( futuremountain.com.au) is their rejoinder to the singularity of industrial brewing: a temple to time-honoured (but mostly sidelined) brewing traditions that – whilst not denying technological advances – put provenance before progress.
As the name suggests, Future Mountain is where the ancient and the contemporary converge. The first thing you’ll notice in the brewery and adjoined homely tap room is the open fermenter: a place where wild yeast strains are encouraged to go about their business without restraint, later to be coupled with malt, hops and other assorted ingredients to create the kind of beer more common to 19th-century Belgium than the industrial outskirts of Melbourne.
The beers are built on the once-feared yeast strains of brettanomyces and saccharomyces, common to farming environments and notorious for corrupting wine. But in beer their funk-forward aromatics are ever-more courted as drinkers seek out more terrestrial, less industrial, brews. And it is in beers such as the Force Of Nature Farmhouse Ale (5.4% ABV) that this blended culture is truly harnessed, with a lifted, herbaceous palate, subtle tamarind tartness and a refreshing nose of mandarin blossom.
While it is these unique and ever-evolving yeast strains that form the foundations of Future Mountain’s range, wood is the other defining factor – a place for the beers to interact with their environment and naturally evolve, ensuring no two barrels are ever the same. Featured recently in GT WINE’s Best Buys, the Howling Forever Brett Saison (6% ABV) takes on great complexity with oak puncheon maturation and a late addition of wine lees and friulano skins sourced from Konpira Maru winery. The hops aid in tempering the acidity (a common byproduct of brettanomyces), finishing in a truly refreshing beverage that imbues a traditional saison with the hinted lift of gewürztraminer-like lime and almond. Similarly, the Constant State New World Saison (4.7% ABV) unifies the past and the present in a highly aromatic elixir that marries tartness with an explosion of floral hops: perhaps the most sessionable of Future Mountain’s offerings.
Beautifully packaged with striking artwork from Ballarat-born artist Kara Rasmanis, these beers shift with the seasons. The Million Stars Dark Farmhouse Ale (5.5% ABV) is the quintessence of winter: pouring tar black with the toasted rye malt, and blended with a heady spice mix that swings from black pepper to juniper, cardamom to star anise. On the nose, however, the beer is unsuspectingly bright thanks to the addition of pilsner malt and Hallertau Blanc hops, the latter imparting faint grassy notes that while admittedly unexpected, are not unwelcome.
Future Mountain sources the produce for its various fruit-blended sour beers locally, a pantry that include blackberries, cherry, peaches and pepperberry. The Dark Eyes Amber Aged Sour (5.8% ABV) with Yarra blackberries proving a standout, pouring an enigmatic lilac hue and ever generous with luscious sour berry. But it is in its fruit-free farmhouse beers where Future Mountain truly transcends: with the most recent iteration of the Alameda Golden Sour (5.6% ABV) finding the immaculate crossroads between traditional sour and contemporary New World ale.
This is one mountain well worth the climb for those who dare.