By Danielle Kutchel
A small street in Dandenong South’s industrial heart might at first seem like an odd place for a craft brewer, but look again and it makes perfect sense – and the scent of beer wafting from 10 Superior Drive is much better that some of the other smells nearby.
Looming tall over the factory floor, rows of glistening silver fermenters stand guard over rainbow-coloured cans. And inside the cans are the award-winning liquids that are helping EXIT brewing make its name in the thriving craft beer market.
The guys at EXIT are fresh off the back of one of the industry’s biggest honours – last month, they claimed the Best Stout trophy for their Milk Stout at the Australian International Beer Awards.
The awards are the largest annual beer competition in the world, and co-founder of EXIT, Grum Knight says his team is stoked to have won the trophy.
“Taking out a trophy is the ultimate in these awards,” he says.
Milk Stout also took out a gold medal in the same competition.
The winning beer is a little bit different, but ultimately well balanced. Lactose has been added to the stout for sweetness, much like the sugar people add to their morning coffee, Mr Knight explains.
“Lactose is a more complex sugar than sucrose or glucose, so it’s too complex for the yeast to actually eat and change into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It leaves a residual sweetness in the beer,” he says.
“With a stout you can get quite an astringent bitterness off the malt because it’s basically burnt which is what gives you some lovely coffee, espresso, dark chocolate flavours, but it can be a little bit too much, so a bit of lactose is … a nice balance.”
The Milk Stout is now part of EXIT’s core range and in fact was one of the first beers released by the brewery, which was founded in 2014.
Bored with their IT desk jobs, Mr Knight and his co-worker Frase Rettie dreamed of channelling their passion for beer into opening a brewery.
They began home-brewing while living in the UK, but the goal was always to go commercial.
Being ex-IT workers and with beer being their pathway out of the desk-bound industry, the name EXIT was apt.
That dream has paid off and Milk Stout isn’t the only EXIT beer to have tickled the judges’ taste buds.
Their latest beer, a session XPA, also won a gold medal at this year’s awards, and they also picked up a silver for their HIPA Juice 2.0, a bronze for their Amber and a bronze for their Saison. Previous years have seen medal wins too.
Their award-winning range is available in watering holes around Melbourne including their very own, Uitgang Bar and Beer Garden in Bridge Road, Richmond.
Mr Knight says people who want to try the award-winning range can also visit their local bottleshop and ask them to order it in.
Meanwhile, it seems the only way is up for the EXIT team, freed from the IT world and loving life.
“I get to be creative and make something that I love, and at the end of the day I even get to drink it as well,” Mr Knight says.
“Working for an electricity company in IT, at the end of the day we produced bills for people, and now we get to produce beer for people. I think we’re a lot happier and people are a lot happier.”