After the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australian shores and lockdowns ensued, Cape Byron Distillery saw an opportunity to make some ‘sustainable’ magic with local craft brewery Stone & Wood, making the Pacific Moonshine, a clear and unusual spirit that was distilled from kegs of Stone & Wood Pacific Ale.
Tropical and salty like your first post-surf sip, Pacific Moonshine is the lovechild spirit born of the pandemic. Bursting with flavours of tropical fruits such as fresh pineapple, lychee, passionfruit and mango, along with hints of malt on the nose. The taste is citrusy and dry with a medium to long finish. But best not to get too attached, with only 3,000 units available, this is one strictly limited-edition sipper.
Cape Byron Distillery co-founder and distiller Eddie Brook says that at the beginning of the pandemic, life looked a little dull, hand sanitiser trumped alcohol sales and the word ‘pivot’ made its way into daily business chat.
“With heavy uncertainty, the hospitality industry cleared their cool rooms, emptied their bars and locked their doors until further notice. An industry that had brought so much joy to others was now at the mercy of whatever laid ahead,” he says.
Not ones to sit idly by while their beer-loving community suffered, fellow Northern Rivers business, Stone & Wood, bought back their kegs which were unable to be stored or sold by all of the pubs and bars around the country. This resulted in a surplus of beer that could overflow a swimming pool. This is no joke!
“Naturally we couldn’t stand the thought of all that delicious Pacific Ale going to waste. So, we asked ourselves, how can we lighten the load for our beer brewing buddies?” Eddie asks.
“Initially, one idea was to attempt distilling the beer to create hand sanitiser and then the idea of distilling Pacific Ale evolved into the peculiar idea of making a ‘beer spirit’ to be enjoyed as a delicious drink. Our hands rose to the sky as we offered to ‘take some off their hands’, and thus, the experiments began.”
Stone & Wood sustainability manager James Perrin says they are a brewery that proudly produces quality beer while sharing the love for community spirit: “So it was a no brainer when our good friends, Cape Byron Distillery, came to us with their unusual ideas.
“Sustainability is at the core of our business, with waste being a key focus, so we couldn’t be prouder that our perfectly good Pacific Ale that couldn’t be sold has found a new home, and has been transformed into a delicious spirit.”
Inspired by Stone & Wood’s home in the Northern Rivers, located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific Ale is brewed to be best enjoyed with salty hair and sandy feet in your favourite beer garden. The Pacific Ale is a sessionable summer ale, bottled at 4.4% ABV, featuring Australian barley, wheat and the signature ‘Galaxy’ hops grown in Tasmania, with characteristics of passionfruit and tropical fruit aromas. This is what they have long called ‘Byron Bay in a bottle’.
This fresh Pacific Ale was transported just a short ten-minute drive up the road to Cape Byron Distillery where the beer was artfully distilled twice through ‘George’, the 2,000L custom-made copper pot still, to create a spirit not too dissimilar to the production of single malt whisky. On the low down, the distillery has been quietly producing a whisky spirit each week for almost two years now. Watch this space… The twice-distilled spirit that runs clear off the still is then blended with a touch of spring water to be bottled at 44% ABV. A small amount has been stored away for barrel aging, to be released in the near future.
Check out the Cape Byron Distillery to see a list of cocktails that can be made as well as stockists.