A bunch of mates hailing from the Wheatbelt to Margaret River are reviving one of the State’s oldest breweries more than a century after it first began making beer on the main drag of Northam in 1897. The original Eclipse label was started by Gustus Luber, a draper and storekeeper, with head brewer Henry Edmeades brewing stouts and light dinner ales. Edmeades died at the age of 100, claiming drinking great beer promoted long life. While Eclipse Brewing Co’s current crop of seven directors have no ancestral links to the originals, they plan to follow the founders’ practice of paddock to pint, using WA hops and grain. The group of seven includes farmers, business operators, miners and tradies: Stefan Lauk, Ryan Sandrini, Rhys Fleay, Carl Della, Daniel Dempster, Bryn Allen and Chad McGregor. Carl, Stefan, Bryn, Dan and Ryan grew up together in the Wheatbelt and maintain strong links to the region, with plans to brew their beer using barley grown and harvested at Dan and Carl’s farms. These days Dan farms at Southern Brook, Carl owns a workplace rehabilitation business and 120ha in Northam and Stefan lives in Wundowie and runs a refrigeration business. Fellow director Bryn lives in Chidlow, runs an electrical contracting business and owns Bakers Hill Service Station. Ryan — who works in mining — is the fifth Wheatbelt-raised member of the group but now lives in Margaret River, where he had been brewing beers with fellow miners Rhys and Chad for several years. Eclipse’s rebirth began of with some tinkering in garages and sheds in the Wheatbelt and Margaret River before the group of seven — all united by a love for great beer and mutual friendships — banded together in September. A passion for history and a post on the Lost Northam Facebook page about a different brewery in the Wheatbelt town — that also closed eons ago — sparked Carl’s enthusiasm for the project and some of the early discussions. Carl, a history lover, was doing some research about Northam’s brewing yesteryear and stumbled upon a newspaper article about Eclipse. A particular line in the story struck a chord. “It said ‘a brewery is synonymous with a town of prosperity, and only in thriving large country towns do breweries exist’,” he said. “I loved that line and it really resonated with me . . . I just thought maybe we should do just that and establish a brewery. I had a chat with the boys and we were all on board.” The group brewed their first commercial beer, Eclipse Summer Ale, on January 25. In March, the Rose Hotel in Bunbury poured the first pint of Eclipse in 113 years. More than 50 pubs and bottle shops have followed suit within a few months. So far, Eclipse 2.0 has made a summer ale, a brown ale, XPA and — in a good sign — an IPL. The brown ale took home a silver medal at the Australian Beer Industry Awards this year in a welcome boon for developer Rhys and the new Eclipse label. For Bryn, that first sip of their own beer and seeing it in bottle shops has been nothing short of a life dream. And being able to have a pint of Eclipse beer over over the wood is something special. “Being able to go down to the local bottle shop or pub is like a life goal and achievement unlocked,” he said. “We are on a growth trajectory, we are pushing the comfort zone at every turn . . . but it has been massively exciting.” As a way to support other local businesses, the brewery is malting its barley at Mortlock malt, a new business opened by former Little Creatures brewer Rex Rowles at his family farm at Karrandgin — north-east of Goomalling. While they are currently contract brewing, the Eclipse team has plans for venues in Margaret River and, of course, in Northam. They have secured two sites — one in Northam along the Avon River, just a few hundred metres from the original Eclipse brewery site, and another at boutique winery Green Valley Vineyard, south of Margaret River. They plan to set up the production brewery and family-friendly taphouse in Northam, and a pilot brewery and cellar door in the South West. “The winery will house the Eclipse pilot brewery and the brewers will use that facility to develop recipes and come up with all the flavours that will come through the main production facility in Northam,” Bryn said. Those plans are in motion but Bryn and Carl are still determining a time frame, saying they were at the mercy of the approvals process but looking forward to seeing it all come together. “Seeing our idea come to fruition and being able to walk into a into a pub or a bottle shop and actually see your own product there is just incredible,” Carl said. Eclipse Beers can be purchased at a range of outlets in the Wheatbelt, South West and Perth: including Liquor Barons Northam and Bunbury, Coastal Cellar, Swan View Tavern, Mane Liquor in Belmont, and Cellarbrations Clarkson, among others.