Brewed to perfection

Rebecca TurnerCountryman
Dustin Michael, with his brother and joint partner Martin, are creating craft cider in the Swan Valley as an extension of their other company, Michael Brothers Traditionally Pressed Juice.
Camera IconDustin Michael, with his brother and joint partner Martin, are creating craft cider in the Swan Valley as an extension of their other company, Michael Brothers Traditionally Pressed Juice. Credit: Rebecca Turner

old-pressed juice that is locally made and preservative free can be hard to find in WA, but change is on the cards thanks to the work of two passionate young men from a family farm south of Bolgart.

Brothers Dustin and Martin Michael produce fresh fruit juices under their label, Michael Brothers, and also recently developed Funk Cider, a natural progression for their fruit juice company.

The Michael brothers have been involved with food production for most of their lives, having grown up on a wheat and beef farm, but their journey into making fresh juice did not start until four years ago.

Dustin said the idea came about after he decided to quit working as an accountant.

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“I was making CABALA — which is an acronym for carrot, apple (red), beetroot, apple (yellow), lemon, apple (green) — one morning when my friend, who worked in the food service industry, tried it and said it was the best juice he had ever tasted and that I could sell it,” he said.

This bit of timely advice was just what Dustin needed to get the wheels turning and, with his brother Martin, the duo began The World’s Healthiest Juice Company — the business’ original name — from their family farm.

“Growing up on the land, you have a good understanding of where your food comes from,” Dustin said.

“Both my brother I share the same philosophies about healthy living and wanted to develop natural, raw and delicious juice varieties that were really healthy.”

Michael Brothers uses traditional methods of cold pressing to make juice. It is a gentle, slow method of extracting juice from raw fruits and vegetables without the use of heat or high pressure.

This method of juicing retains the important yet fragile vitamins, enzymes and nutrients that other juicing methods do not.

Michael Brothers is also dedicated to using locally grown produce.

It is the only juice company with the Buy West Eat Best tick of endorsement from the Department of Agriculture and Food WA.

Michael Brothers juice can be purchased in a selection of IGA and Farmer Jack’s stores in Perth and some regional areas of WA.

The juice range includes a variety of flavours, including traditional orange, cloudy apple, strawberry lemonade, living green, ginger tonic, mango punch and the drink that started it all, CABALA.

“It took us two and a half years to perfect but we have our own version of CABALA that is very popular, particularly with health-conscious people,” Dustin said.

Both Dustin and Martin follow the work of wholefood medicine advocate Don Tolman, who uses CABALA. Mr Tolman believes water and juice fasting is a way to heal the body of chronic disease and he promotes the importance of wholefoods in the diet.

Dustin said they also followed the work of Sally Fallon Morell from the Weston A. Price Foundation.

He said Ms Fallon had made giant inroads into exposing the need for a holistic approach to farming and the importance of good-quality fats in the human diet.

With good health in mind, Michael Brothers will soon release a new range in time for summer, including three juices called detox, protein and electrolyte.

Dustin said detox contained classic ingredients involved in a good cleansing raw juice, with parsley and apple for the kidneys, greens for chlorophyll, lemon for the liver and ginger to kick-start good digestion.

All produce used in Michael Brothers juice is sourced from WA growers, with the exception of pineapples and ginger, which are sourced from Queensland.

Dustin said not only was Michael Brothers dedicated to supporting local farmers, it was determined to source fruit fresh from the farm gate.

“Other juice companies use fruits and vegetables that come from the Canning Vale Markets that can come from anywhere in the world and are often on their last legs, as this is when fruit is cheapest,” he said.

“A strong, healthy, fresh-picked fruit that is then freshly squeezed will naturally last much longer than its counterpart.”

After a year of juice production in the Wheatbelt, the duo relocated to Caversham in 2013 where Dustin said they were incredibly fortunate to develop a relationship with “the best landlord in the world”.

Michael Brothers is now based at the historic Valencia Vineyards in Caversham, which sits alongside the Ironbark Brewery.

The brothers started producing their juice in only a small section of Valencia Vineyards’ storeroom facilities but have since expanded, taking over the entire production space of the building.

They have also been making preservative-free cider, a natural progression of the juice business.

One of the oldest wineries in WA, Valencia Vineyards was bought by Houghton Wines in the 1950s.

The setting is perfect for operating a cellar door in the thriving area of Caversham, which is part of the Swan Valley and home to a growing number of food and beverage outlets only a short drive from Perth.

Funk Cider is a newcomer to the Australian brewing industry, having opened its cellar door to the public early this year.

However, the Michael brothers have been brewing for several years and are really happy with what they have developed.

Funk Cider’s menu includes The Classic, which is made from Granny Smith apples sourced from the Perth Hills and Manjimup. The Traditional is made from Pink Lady apples, also sourced from the Perth Hills and Manjimup, while the range of fruit-infused ciders includes passionfruit, pineapple, ginger, lemon, mango and coconut.

Funk Cider falls under the parent company, Michael Brothers Traditionally Pressed Juice, and uses the same philosophies of producing a preservative-free, unpasteurised product sourced from local produce.

Each cider is brewed using traditional cider-making methods and heritage yeast strains. The brothers also steer clear of using preservatives in their ciders.

Martin, who has taken on the role of head brewer, said they were told producing cider without sulphites simply could not be done. “Well, we proved them wrong,” he said.

The cider-making process begins using Michael Brothers cold-pressed apple juice with a heritage English yeast or a wild, naturally occurring yeast added to begin the fermentation process. When ready, the cider is cold crushed, “racked off”, and carbonated before being filled into kegs.

Dustin said everything was kept cold during this process, so they did not need to add preservatives or use a pasteurisation processes.

Once made, the cider is stored in cool rooms until consumed.

While this is an additional cost in the brewing process, the result is an incredibly well-crafted cider.

Martin said it was a challenge to hold on to their natural philosophy of how cider should be made — the way it had been done for hundreds of years without the use of preservatives, sulphites or pasteurisation — however, less interference had resulted in the cider expressing the fullest flavour of the local fruits they used.

Funk Cider is also following along the lines of current trends in the larger craft beer and cider industry — using wild fermenting and barrel-ageing techniques to create unique flavours.

Infusing local fruit also means the ciders have a variety of interesting flavours that change with the season.

It was this movement in the brewing industry that inspired the name Funk Cider, with the brothers passionate about developing interesting drinking experiences for their customers.

“The name Funk Cider comes from what we are now seeing in the Australian brewing industry where brewing techniques are developing funky ways to infuse more interesting flavours into beverages, whether that be beer or cider,” Dustin said.

“At Funk Cider, we are all about developing the craft cider industry and using methods that create natural, preservative-free cider.”

Dustin said he and Martin loved being a part of the brewing industry, which was heading in a new direction with the rise in popularity of craft brewing.

They believe the cider industry should develop in a similar way to the craft beer sector.

“Cider is fermented apple juice, but not all cider — in fact, almost none — is made naturally, the way it should be,” Dustin said.

“Just like the craft beer scene, in which the philosophy is simple, being small batches, hand-brewed, fresh and free from preservatives — craft cider should follow suit.

“But it’s astounding to find that there are nearly no other craft cideries holding to this philosophy.

“We are the only WA cidery adopting this philosophy, but you can find it rife within the craft beer scene. For instance, Sierra Nevada will tell you that what is so special about their beer is that it is still ‘alive’. This is because it still has healthy yeast in it that has not been pasteurised or killed off with a preservative.

“In the same way, our cider is still ‘alive’, because we do not use preservatives and we do not pasteurise and kill our yeast either.”

Producing healthy beverages is where the Michael brothers’ passion lies, but it is not limited to liquid food. They have plans to develop synergies with the family farm in Bolgart.

Dustin said he was passionate about the local food movement in WA and, when time permitted, he would love to spend more time “at home” helping to develop the family’s grass-fed beef operation and other locally grown food ideas.

“It is a really exciting time to be involved with the local food movement. People are pushing to know where their food is coming from, buying locally and getting to know their grower and their farming methods,” he said.

“People are starting to question industrial food production methods and are demanding food that is healthier for them, such as grass-fed beef and full cream unpasteurised (raw) milk.”

Dustin is a huge advocate for the family farm and choosing production methods that look after the health of their end consumers.

“The industrial mass production revolution was fantastic for creating affordable technologies and materials, but unfortunately the mass production of our food has been detrimental to the nutrition of food and the health of the population,” he said.

As for the future of the Michael brothers, they are focused on finishing their cellar door renovations in the short term and promoting both their brands to the WA public.

But Dustin said their main goal was — and always would be — to help educate people about “what real food is”.

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