Hindsight and experience added ingredients in Sexton’s first brews in 30 years

June 7, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

Phil Sexton has released the first two beers from the Healesville brewery: Redback and Matilda Bay’s Original Ale, Owl. The beers are the first two Matilda Bay releases brewed by Sextonand his team in more than 30 years.


A Western Australian original, Redback is now on tap in its place of origin. The wheat beer was originally created by master brewer Phil Sexton in 1986.

“This rendition of Redback is a riff on the original. It’s true to the first beer we brewed, but with the benefit of 35 years of hindsight and experience,” said Sexton.

“It’s the beer I would have made back then, if I knew then what I know now. It was important for me to bring it back, as Redback is arguably the beer that kick started the whole craft beer movement. It has a strong place in the heart of most older craft beer drinkers.”

Australia’s first wheat beer, it is a trend that’s since moved out of vogue, until now.

“You might question the wisdom of releasing a wheat beer back into the Australian market. But with Redback we’re showing that you can make a wheat beer that is sessionable and easy to drink, while giving you the richness of experience that you get from using some wheat in the brew,” he said.

Original Ale, Owl

Sexton parted ways with the original Matilda Bay in the early 1990s, before returning to partner with Carlton & United Breweries two years ago and re-establish Matilda Bay Brewery in Victoria’s Yarra Valley.

He worked alongside son Harry (head brewer at Matilda Bay) to brew the highly anticipated Original Ale, Owl. It has been an exciting return to market for the brewers with the European golden ale won gold in the British and European Style Ale category at the 2021 Australian International Beer Awards.

“It’s reminiscent of the classic ales on tap found in bars around Europe. Of course, we can’t visit these bars at the moment, so the Original Ale is the next best thing,” said Sexton.

For him, the re-imagined classic beers have evolved to a modern era.

“If I’d been running Matilda Bay right through from 1990 to today, those original beers would have changed and evolved, because we’d be doing all that was core to Matilda Bay – experimenting, adapting, changing with the times,” he said.

“Myself, my son and head brewer Harry, and the rest of the people involved have worked tirelessly to create the new range. We knew we couldn’t just recreate these classic beers – like us, they’ve evolved enormously in the past 30 years.”

Traditional, with a twist, Sexton and the brewing team drew upon novel brewing techniques to bring this unfiltered beer to life.

Sexton said: “You may recall the incredible success of Matilda Bay Bitter back in the late 80s, early 90s in the WA market. Sadly, it ended up competing for production space in our old brewery in North Fremantle and succumbed to the end many products do when there are competing brands in the same brewery.

“I guess I am reviving unfinished business with Owl. It’s also bringing my last 30-years of trials and tribulations to the table in redefining how I see a quaffable, balanced and full flavoured ale in what is for me the sweet spot for alcohol, being the “low 4’s” (4.2% ABV to be accurate).”

Redback, the original wheat beer, is available and exclusive on tap at:

  • The Sail & Anchor (Fremantle)
  • The Balmoral (Victoria Park)
  • The Queens Tavern (Highgate)
  • Brass Monkey Hotel (Northbridge)
  • Kalamunda Hotel (Kalamunda)
  • Como Hotel (Como) and the
  • Captain Stirling Hotel (Nedlands)

Matilda Bay’s four brews are currently available from the brewery in Healesville and a few locals. A wider release in 2021 will be announced in the coming months.

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