Every bottle of La Sirène's farmhouse ale is an embodiment of its locale. This microbrewery specialises in the enigmatic flavour profiles of yeast unique to the Darebin Parklands, situated behind the brewery at Melbourne Innovation Centre.
La Sirène is an urban farmhouse brewery with a strong sustainability focus. It produces beer like that made in farmhouses in the early 14th century—yet it is six kilometers from Melbourne’s CBD. This anachronism sees the contemporary warehouse emanating the mystery and charm of a beer sleeping room, custom-built cool ship fermentation vessel, and 130 stunning traditional French oak barrels.
La Sirène founder, Costa Nikias, explains, “We wanted to make beer with a sense of place. Over the years, it has become so industrialised and process-driven. We want to have a more authentic approach and pay homage to where our beer is made.”
The Darebin Parklands and creek contains a huge amount of flora which La Sirène coerces into their brewery. “We typically do wild brewing on a windy day with the roller doors open. It’s all about expressing natural yeast.”
In doing so, La Sirène has captured the flavour of Alphington. It uses the yeast to ferment the beer and then takes those yeast strains to a lab. La Sirene now has a full culture in a lab, so it can recall all the natural yeasts that originate from that location. “We’re a brand of Alphington,” says Eva Nikias, Costa’s partner in business and life. “I don’t think you’ll find any stronger than us.”
The Darebin Parklands are pivotal to this brewing method. La Sirène is a corporate member, supporting the land that enables it to incorporate wild fermentation into the brewing process. One beer was forklifted down to the creek in the tank and left there for three days so it could inoculate naturally. “Other beers have a bit of house yeast and a bit of parkland yeast,” Costa says. “But that one is a true representation of the parkland in beer form.”
Positioned in a large warehouse at Melbourne Innovation Centre, the brewery has received mentoring and support from the business incubator to assist with its business growth. Initially brewing Saisons and farmhouse ales, La Sirène has transcended that process since moving in, now focusing on making beer in barrels. “Wild fermented,” Costa explains, “Spontaneously fermented in the cool ship. You can’t get any higher than that in terms of brewing.”
A cool ship is a large open vessel that catches the yeast and bacteria in the atmosphere as it cools. It demands very cold conditions and can only be used within a period of around two weeks each year. La Sirène is one of very few breweries globally to use this old school method that originates from Belgium. Costa calls it, “the Champagne of beer making.”
La Sirène is a certified green business from the Darebin City Council. Making beer with a sense of place feeds into the brewery’s emphasis on sustainability. The spirit of farmhouse beer-making involves using local ingredients as much as possible—and La Sirène uses Melbourne Water, hops grown in Myrtleford, and yeast from Alphington. All of La Sirène's beers use 100% grain (larger breweries tend to use around 30%), which then goes to a piggery in Macedon to be used as feed. It doesn’t use chemicals to clean the floors and recycles a lot of its cooling water.
The business hires locally and organises all deliveries in-house, which further minimises its carbon footprint. “It’s our responsibility to minimise our footprint,” Costa says. “For us it’s about building up a local market. It would be ideal to sell all of our beer in metro Melbourne.”
“La Sirène is a gem in the middle of Alphington,” says Eva. “People are very proud of us.”