Irrewarra Sourdough has been a success since it opened in January 2000. The Calverts, disenchanted Melbourne lawyers, converted stables in an old family property in Irrewarra and began baking themselves.
They started by delivering bread to the Great Ocean Road and the migrating holidaymakers were hungry for it. Within a week, the couple had to take on two employees.
The business has been a success story for tiny Irrewarra. The Calverts now employ 35 people and 20,000 loaves are baked weekly and delivered to Geelong, Melbourne and an area ranging from Mount Gambier to Foster.
The Great Ocean Road’s January market remains the busiest for what is now Victoria’s largest sourdough bakery.
The bread is baked in the traditional way without preservatives or commercial yeast. The Calverts started baking at home 18 years ago and the wild yeast that they made is still being refreshed today.
The traditional white sourdough sandwich loaf is the most popular in a range that includes a sesame wholewheat loaf, breakfast seed loaf, fruit loaf, casalinga, ciabatta and baguettes. Irrewarra granola has a cult following and is sold around Australia.
Bronwynne would like to open the old stables and bakery to the public and open a café on site. Their Geelong café-bakery closed several years ago.
Irrewarra bread is available from V&R Fruit & Vegetable Market; Geelong Fresh Foods; East Geelong Fruit Market; and Harvey’s of Highton.
Irrewarra Sourdough loaves are baked following traditional methods. Filtered water, flour and salt are mixed with a sourdough culture (a wild yeast made from water and flour) and left to ferment and prove for 30 hours. It’s a long, slow process as each loaf is shaped and cut by hand. The result is a lovely, chewy crust with an interesting internal texture.
Bronwynne isn’t concerned about the supermarket pretenders. “Most people who love bread will know a real sourdough when they taste it,” she says.
But she believes it’s unfair to consumers that there’s no legal definition for sourdough bread in Australia and she would like to see regulations introduced.
She says it’s difficult to ensure the consistent quality of an artisan loaf made from wild yeast.
“My husband and I are constantly in the bakery, tasting every day to make sure that the quality is as high as we can get it.”
85 Irrewarra School Road, Irrewarra
Sourdough bread, granola and biscuits
Handmade sourdough bread
Not open to the public, see online shop