As far as craft beer pioneers in Australia go, one couldn’t rattle off a list without mentioning Burleigh Brewing Company. For Peta and Brennan, what began 9’000 kilometres over the Pacific Ocean resulted in the opening of Burleigh Brewing, back in 2006 when most craft beer drinkers today were still at school. They originally set up in a nearby location but demand for their liquid gold forced them to relocate to the huge premises they are now currently at. A premises and output big enough that it wouldn’t surprise us if it notched them up in to the Regional Brewer category.
It was something that was gnawing at us for weeks but we thought we’d wait until we met the team at Black Hops to ask. We wanted to know whether the name was a clever play on words (Black Hops – Black Ops, roughly meaning a covert military operation). And for once, we were right! The funny thing is though, these 3 mates (who are all ex-military) run the brewery with the objective of being the least covert operation imaginable. Their concept is pretty basic, and that is to be “open book” – so things like recipes (well, almost the whole recipe) for their beers and where they source ingredients are all open to the public.
10 taps are on offer although on the day one had blown and we weren’t too keen on the ginger cider but that worked out well anyway as paddles have 4 tasters each. We went for the 30 Cal – a surprisingly full flavoured mid strength, the Lay Day Lager, Beach house Farmhouse Ale and the Pink Mist – a light and refreshing raspberry flavoured saison. The 2nd paddle went like this: the much coveted Pale Ale and then the three seasonals – the Amaretto Sour, the Caribbean Crusher (a rum infused IPA which was the pick of the bunch for us) and the Egg Nog Stout.
It sounds cliche but we really didn’t want to leave, it just has that super laid back atmosphere, friendly staff (shout out to Ally the barmaid – she was informative and very entertaining). But all good things must come to an end so we’re off to the next brewery!
We must admit we are Texas hold ’em tragics. Whether it be at the casino, the local pub or at home, it wouldn’t matter…we’d be there! Although this obsession was part of the reason why we wanted to visit the bigger reason was because this brewery is regarded by the locals as one of Brisbane’s bedrock institutions. In 2012 owner and head brewer Harley Goodacre managed to rustle together enough equipment and opened the brewery in Banyo, bringing his craft to a region saturated in XXXX….it’s safe to say it was a craft beer wasteland. Slowly but surely the brewery expanded to the super busy, dog friendly, spacious and well oiled operation it is today.
They offer an impressive 16 tap set up with one reserved for a guest. Their range is huge so it was straight to the paddles for us. We tried the Bill Murray (a suped up lager at 5.5% ABV), Mercenary Pale Ale, Blind Axeman Amber Ale, Clockwork Porter, Riptide Summer Ale, Dragon Pale Ale (one of their best), Summer Brown Ale and the Mutiny Red IPA which was an absolute ripper of a beer. Their range provides a good mix of approachable and the more adventurous beers which were all thoroughly enjoyable.
Another upside is its relatively close proximity to Brisbane city, via the airport link it’s only about a 20 minute drive north. Although we do suggest you grab a taxi or an uber because, let’s face it, who goes to a brewery to just have one or two?!
For Adam (head brewer and owner) brewing all began as a hobby which quickly morphed in to an obsession which in turn resulted in the opening of this literally brand spanking new brewery in North Lakes, a tick over 40 mins drive north of Brisbane city. That’s just the beginning of the story. Here we were thinking the name ‘White Brick’ just had something to do with the choice of colour for the bricks used in the building, we couldn’t have been more wrong. The proceeds from the sale of a white brick estate was the funding behind the opening, and serves as inspiration for the family run brewery. We love a small brewery, but we love a good back story to a brewery even more.
Equally as impressive is the thought and meaning behind the names of every one of the beers he brews. There are 8 beers on offer – ‘Plantation’ pale ale, ‘Brickworks’ bitter, ‘Petrie’ pilsner, ‘Rothwell’ radler, ‘Route 71’ IPA, ‘Coach Stop’ Cider, ‘Griffin’ golden ale & ‘Tripel Trouble’ Belgian tripel. To us out-of-towners they are merely catchy names but to the locals they represent local suburbs, roads, early settlers and iconic locations. Everything about this brewery represents family and local community, how can you not dig that??
The beers, the owner, the vibe, the stories, the tunes, even the complimentary popcorn! Everything about this cool little brewery has impressed us. If you’re travelling along the Bruce highway through North Lakes be sure to pop in for a visit, it’s well worth it.
The next stop on our tour brings us to 10 Toes Brewery. Set in a business park in Alexandra Headland just a few minutes drive from Mooloolaba beach. The second we walk inside we notice the relaxed and flowing industrial feel with walls adorned with surfboards, chalk boards explaining the brewing/fermentation process, and funky beach and surf-inspired artworks. The decor certainly matches their mantra with the name 10 Toes basically being a reflection of their love for a coastal lifestyle, surfing and hanging 10, “especially with the toes on the nose!”. Let’s all spare a thought for these guys…what with the brewing, surfing, drinking craft beer and hanging out. Jeez, tough life!
Their 8 tap system was pouring a mix of their core and seasonal range of beers. On the day they offered their Longboard Lager, Pipeline Pale Ale, Rye Amber Ale, Xpression Session, Ginger Beer, Saison, IPA and the Vanilla Porter. We opted for the paddle which consists of five of their beers (we went for the pale ale, rye amber, saison, IPA and the vanilla porter) all of which were incredibly easy on the palate, tasty and super sessional. The stand outs for us were the IPA and the vanilla porter.
With just the two years in operation and an approximate 3000 litre output we’re more than confident that this impressive little operation will be here next time we decide to visit the Sunny Coast!
When we were planning a trip to the Gold Coast we had a few obvious breweries in mind. It was only after a bit of online research that we uncovered a litany of breweries north of Brisbane that have mostly gone unnoticed. The biggest surprise were the 3 breweries that have all opened recently in the sleepy beach side city of the Sunshine Coast. The aptly named Sunshine Brewery was the first stop for us. Its industrial location comes equipped with a small yet neat little relaxed and beachy set up, a mock-up 10 tap system and even a play area for the kiddies!
We went for a “tasting dial” each which offered five of their ten beers. The first was their ‘Silver Fern’ – a seasonal NZ pale ale crammed full of Kiwi hops that finished slightly metallic and ultra bitter. We went on to their ‘Sunshine Saison’ which is part of their core range. Expected funky notes, mandarin, wheat, spice and bubblegum. A step up from the first beer. We went on to the ‘Noosa Ruby’, again part of the core range, lots of sweet and nutty malts, caramel, berries and syrup. Nicely balanced though. Their best beer so far. It heats up with their ‘Double Sunshine’ IPA – a core range double IPA with a strange sweetness, fruity hops, booze and honeydew. We finished on the ‘Red Velvet’ porter. Another core range beer which offers mild chili pepper notes, cherry cola and berries. Slightly medicinal with a drying finish.
While there were some good things about this brewery there were faults in some of their beers. It has only been in operation for nine months so we’re sure that after some time they will iron them out and they can reach their potential.
This brewery wasn’t on our list to visit but seeing we were literally walking past its doors it would be silly of us not to check it out, right? The brewery is situated right down the south east corner of their foodie district, just off Courtenay place. The set up is more what we’re used to seeing in Sydney where a kind of industrial accent meets rustic with its wooden table tops and recycled keg stools. You will be hard pressed not to find something for the man shed in here too as there is an abundance of really cool merch everywhere.
Quite a small selection of beers compared to the other breweries we’ve visited in Wellington. They offer 8 taps with 6 reserved for their range of beers, one guest tap and the other for their cider. Seeing as their paddles are made up of 6 we thought that was an easy decision. All 6 beers were tasty drops. The stand outs for us were the Imperial IPA, the American stout and the coffee stout. Certainly beers that we’d return to. Unfortunately this was our last night of the trip so we thought we’d be good (for once) have an early night.
We are glad we stopped in here, it was a surprisingly good little operation. Definitely worth checking out.
Talk about saving the best til last (well, technically it was 2nd last as we made one more quick visit to another brewery on our last night). Just a up the road from Tuatara is the actual Garage Project brewery which has been set up inside a transformed petrol station on Aro street. Although you can purchase their bottled range and fill up your growlers here this isn’t the actual taproom (yes we made the mistake of thinking so). We were pointed in the right direction and thank god it was only across the street as we were thirsty!
The taproom itself is long and narrow but with ample seating. It flows through to the back where the bar shows off its impressive 20-tap offering. All of the fan fave’s are here: Pils n Thrills, Hapi Daze, DFA, Garagista and Chateau Aro but with a whole range of seasonal and staff one-off brews such as the Nectarivore, VPA, Tiramisu and Pan Pacific. We made our way through every beer and we can honestly say that they all ranged from good to absolutely superb. Not one average beer among the lot which is quite a feat.
We did not want to leave but there are just too many good craft beer bars to see in 4 days so off we go.
Our next stop only took a 10 minute stroll north of the CBD to a quaint little leafy suburb called Thorndon. All of their brewing operations are run out of the brewhouse in Nelson so this cosy little tavern is all about Ye Olde English charm and comfort. Grab a pint and a seat in the sunny courtyard out the back or get the sense of warmth inside while looking at the fireplace….which is no longer a fireplace (yes we were bummed out because it is the middle of winter!). Nevertheless this place does have a really warm and intimate feel to it.
Selection-wise it’s quite diverse. All 19 taps are reserved for their own beers and ciders so we thought we’d get comfortable as we were going to be here for a while! We made our way through most of the beers (not wasting any time with ciders) and get the feeling that they were all super clean, traditional European and true-to-style interpretations. The stand outs being their seasonal pilsner, English bitter and the porter.
We really like what these guys are bringing – this friendly and warm local tavern feel with a vast range of craft beers and ciders on offer. Wish we had a local like this back home.
This stop was recommended by our helpful buddy from Tuatara. As it was on our way back to the hotel we couldn’t say no! The impressive 2nd floor operation lies right inbetween the CBD and Wellingtons little foodie district of Cuba st and was about a 10 minute walk north of Tuatara (by the way if you’re planning on hitting all the breweries and bars this awesome little city has to offer then be sure to get yourselves a map of the ale trail. VERY handy).
Upon walking in it is impossible not to be blown away by the big centrepiece behind the bar. A great big custom made oak barrel adorned with 35 taps all the way around is something we’ve never seen before. The logistics of it alone was enough to make us smile from ear to ear! Everything about this place just exudes class, from the hand made paddles to the large wrap-around floor plan and stylish furniture. Our only gripe would be that with all of their own beers that were offered, none of them really stood out. A bit like Batch in Sydney…it’s all well and good to have dozens of beers but nine times out of ten we’d take quality over quantity. In no way are we panning the beers, the ones we had were still quite good, only none of them were memorable. Anywho, we’ll be back for another crack.
After a slight disappointment in the number of breweries in Auckland we were absolutely pumped to set foot in New Zealand’s hallowed craft beer capital – Wellington. ‘Windy Wellington’ as it’s passionately known and what a welcoming it gave us! A quick 15 minute stroll south out of the CBD lands us in Te Aro where a tantalising number of top shelf breweries are all within walking distance of each other. All in good time we assure ourselves as we head straight for one of our favourite Kiwi breweries – Tuatara aka The Third Eye.
For those that don’t know, a Tuatara is actually an ancient lizard-like reptile that has been around for donkeys. The exact correlation between a prehistoric reptile and craft beer is anyone’s guess but we aren’t visiting a zoo we came for the beer! The brewery boasts 14 taps with all but two pouring their extensive range. Via paddles we made our way through every beer with a few obvious stand outs like the Pilsner, India stout, APA and the chocolate milk stout. After a few hours of pestering the lovely girl behind the bar we thought we’d make tracks.
if you’re ever in Wellington be sure to drop in to this brewery. You won’t be disappointed.
Much to our surprise (and despair) Auckland city is seriously lacking in brewery bars. Last night we went to Brothers Beer, today we went to GABS and then we had plans to stop in at Epic Brewery as it was only a 5 minute Uber drive from the venue. That was until we were luckily informed that Epic only contract brews out of the spot we were about to head to! Bummed out! Luckily there was another brewery we wanted to visit.
Birkenhead brewing is a really cool little joint set inside a cottage which surely would have been someone’s residence decades ago. It’s neatly tucked away on the main road that runs through a busy little shopping strip just a few clicks north out of the city. Blink and you’d miss it! The range is small but decent offering a Pilsner, pale ale, DIPA and an oatmeal stout – all of which were very tasty beers. They also have a collaboration IPA with well known US brewery Ninkasi which was absolutely divine.
As we’re time-limited a paddle was all we could fit in. Time waits for no man!
What is the first thing you do when you arrive in a new city? Check out the hotels amenities? Go shopping? Find a nice restaurant? Stuff that, we go straight to the closest brewery, and it couldn’t be any better situated….how does right behind our hotel sound?!
Brothers Beer is a cosy little haunt just a few hundred metres south of the famous Viaduct. Contrary to what the name suggests, the pair who run the brewery are mates who conceived the idea over a beer (where all good ideas originate, right?). They offer an impressive 18 tap set up. 7 of which pour their range which includes a lager, golden ale, pale ale, IPA, Amber ale, black ale and a rotating seasonal. The other 11 guest taps include beers from Behemoth, Liberty, Kereru and a range of other small Kiwi microbreweries. They also offer an impressive range of bottled beers for on site consumption or take away.
Although we could stay here for hours we’re on a tight schedule and tomorrow we’re off to GABS!
Never was there a brewery that we were more excited to visit. The first time we discovered Ross’s beers was at GABS Melbourne in 2014 when the cult-like Sex, Drugs & Rocky Road beer came runner-up to La Sirene’s Praline Ale. Jeez we got spoiled that year! Unfortunately for the next couple of years we lost them in an ever-expanding and crowded craft beer market but that was until GABS 2016 when the Peanut Brittle Gose won the peoples choice award….and also won back our hearts. Since then we’ve worked our way through most of their range (and it’s a massive range by the way) with more 10/10 ratings than any other brewery. It’s safe to say that for us, 2016 will always belong to Bacchus.
Ross and his team are able to pump out the wide range and volumes they do because of their unique set up. It consists of 5 x 70L & 1 x 140L steam jacket kettles. They sometimes brew twice a day to produce up to 12 different beers and that’s not to mention the envious barrel aging project they have going on as well. Another upside of small scale brewing means that it’s not just the taps that offer tank-to-your-glass freshness, his huge range of bottled beers are sometimes cleaned out weekly so if you’re drinking in house you can rest assure that the bottle you’re buying is most probably as fresh as the kegs. The list of bottled beers at the brewery is as big as a food menu so obviously we won’t list them so check them out at the website. www.bacchusbrewing.com.au/. You’ll be hard pressed to find one you don’t absolutely love.
It’s one impressive set up indeed. From the delicious beers and pizza’s to the friendly and knowledgeable staff it’s impossible to leave the place unsatisfied. Just be prepared to travel a slight distance though as the brewery is situated about 30 minutes drive out of the city, but don’t let that deter you as it’s a decision you won’t regret!
Simply walking the quiet, lavish suburban streets of St.Leonards and Naremburn gives us the impression that this is a tight-knit, community minded area. That same impression extends in to the small but well organized bar as locals cruise in for a few cold crafties and bump in to old friends in the process. It’s safe to say there is a really friendly vibe going on and we encountered that personally as we sat and had a lengthy conversation with Kat, the lovely girl behind the bar.
The self styled nano-brewery’s output is small-scale but very carefully crafted and it’s reflected by their limited range. The bar offers six taps and two hand pumps, two taps were reserved for their ‘strong sour Saison’ which was super refreshing, yeasty, spicy and fruity with a slight hint of bretty sourness and the other was the ‘Belgian Wit’ which was in the traditional style with spicy phenols, bubblegum, fresh herbs and citrus rind. Unfortunately only one of the hand pumps was flowing but it was more than made up for when we wrapped our lips around their English Bitter which was brilliant, took us back to the bars of London with its flat co2, sweet caramel backing and soft floral and earthy hops. It was a shame there wasn’t any more of their beers on offer so we couldn’t help ourselves and finished off on a few ‘shmiddy’s’ (a half pint glass which appears to be some kind of North Shore invention) of Akasha Korben D coz it’s just..that..good! By the way, take away’s are also very limited. They only had their Pale Ale in bottles but we must say they were very good indeed.
It’s hard not to like the place, it certainly has a very comfortable and laid back atmosphere with some really cool pieces of furniture to keep your eyes busy; namely the wall of bottles which when we look at is really hard to stop ourselves from humming “100 bottles of beer on the wall 100 bottles of beer”! More of their own beer would have been excellent but hey, you can’t win all the time. Not bad, a cool little bar we’ll definitely return to if we’re back in the area.
As avid long time fans of Murray’s we would have to admit we were a little saddened to hear that Shawn (ex head brewer of Murray’s and now head brewer and owner of Foghorn) was leaving. The heavy heart was lifted once we heard that Shawn was establishing his own brew house in Newcastle, in the Lower Hunter region of NSW. For many years Newcastle was bereft of any kind of craft beer – cue the cheesy horror film scream. But there was to be life injected in to the industrial city in the form of funky little cafe’s and craft beer bars like The Grain Store and The Hop Factory but it still couldn’t lay claim to its own brewery. Enter Shawn Sherlock who jumped in and flung open the doors to Foghorn Brew house in 2014. Upon walking in to the place you can’t help but be impressed by the sheer size of the interior – immediately the eyes are drawn to the bar but as they dart around the room we see an over-sized chess board to the immediate left, a stage off to the right, obviously for live music and the tanks off in the far left corner. At this moment we’re like kids in a candy store. But there was no time for playing around. 16 taps were calling our names so we started with one of the lighter paddles that included the Ideas Beer, Summer Ale, Pumpkin Beer and the Boganaire IPA. All of which were crisp and light, perfect for the warm weather outside but we’re after the big stuff so we stepped it up and picked 4 of our own. We went the Czech Pils, Young Americans IPA, the 12:03 BIPA and the big daddy Edmund Fitzgerald IIPA which were all brilliant beers. We finished on the big Belgians (Tripel and Quadrupel) which were true to style and enjoyable but not fully up to scratch in our opinion. As this was a quick pit stop before our NYE celebrations in Cave’s Beach we had to cut this visit short, but we’ll certainly be back for a longer session next time. And that over-sized chess board will be squarely in our sights!
The final stop on our Victorian brewery pilgrimage was bittersweet to say the least! For craft beer lovers, Beechworth is so much more than an historic 19th century gold mining town known mostly for its own brand of honey and the court house that Ned Kelly was sentenced in. It possesses something that most rural country towns don’t…their own award winning, nationally recognised and highly respected craft brewery – Bridge Road Brewers. Behind the ever growing success are owners Ben and Maria who started the brewery in 2005 at Ben’s parents place on none other than Bridge Road, about 500m from where the brewery is now, on the same street, but surprisingly it changes names at the Bridge. Beechworth Brewery as a name was taken at the time by a brewery that didn’t eventuate, and is still held to this day. The head brewer, Steve Matthews, and his two assistants brew 6 days a week out of their 25Hl onsite brewhouse and the hectic brewing schedule is immediately evident as you walk in to the bar and witness their super impressive 18 tap set up. So it’s only natural with that many beers that their paddle consisted of 10 cheeky samplers! The 10 are already designated but we subbed a few to match our palates. First up was the Hefeweizen which was in the traditional style with subtle banana, spice and herbs on the nose. It follows on from the nose with a light, herbaceous finish. The Golden Ale had soft citrus and sweet malt perfumes with mild body, citrus and a crisp finish. The Chestnut Pilsner was very bright in colour and kind of earthy on the nose with Galaxy hops imparting a subtle floral scent. Smooth mouth feel, herbaceous and a little nutty in the finish. Solid drop. Their flagship Pale Ale is scented with a hop forward nose with hints of fruit and pine that follow in to the flavour. Smooth texture, well balanced flavour that finishes with a slight crisp bitterness. Excellent beer. Their Saison pours a hazy straw hue and is packed with candied lemon, tart fruit esters, spice and a somewhat dusty funk. Again, another brilliant beer. The Little Bling is their mid strength session IPA that’s fruity, piney and ultra light on the palate. Insanely sessional. The Bling IPA is their slightly more ramped up version of the Little Bling, weighing in at 5.8% with double the hops and malts. Their Celtic Red was a “one off brew” that was malt forward, bready and choc full of caramel malts. Medium body, mild bitterness along with toffee and a sweet malty finish. Next up was the Robust Porter – dark, roasted, coffee notes with a delicate vanilla sweetness to balance. We finished on their version of a Marzen which was a hopped up number with a tonne of biscuity malts to balance. And what else to match your beer with other than a gourmet European style pizza? The kitchen pumps them out and after we tried one we knew exactly why. The small, thin crust pizzas are delicious and won’t leave you undoing your belt so there’s still room for a few more pints afterwards. Well we can say that we thoroughly enjoyed our Victorian brewery tour and to finish it off in style here at Bridge Road was the icing on the cake. A return to this fine establishment is a must!
Any Aussie that says they’re not interested in the life and crimes of Ned Kelly is either lying or they’ve never heard of him. Driving the dirt roads and taking in the views of the mountains surrounding the Glenrowan region you can’t help but envisage Ned Kelly and his gang roaming around on horseback looking for an unfortunate household to ransack. North East Victoria isn’t only famous for the man in the tin helmet it’s also well known for its wineries, the King Valley wine region is home to a multitude of well known vineyards such as Brown Brothers, La Cantina and Gracebrook, but the one we were interested in lies about 20 kilometers east of Wangaratta in the rural village of Taminick where Black Dog Brewery and Taminick cellars is situated. The cellar door here is one that most craft beer fans would have never seen before. The century old solid brick building has multiple uses – the first we noticed is that it’s used as a barrel room, the thick walls act as an insulator and you immediately feel just how cool it is inside the second you walk in. If you’re planning on staying for a while and didn’t bring your jacket and beanie then you can relax in one of the little seating areas and sample the beers and wines as the pot belly fireplace warms you up. Down in the back corner is where you’ll find the bar and if you’re lucky you can even meet the head brewer, James, as he talks you through his beers, wines and the history of the family winery, of which he is very proud of. There’s only a small selection on tap (and be careful because for some reason the taps are only open on weekends) it consists of their collaboration with Eel River – the ‘Eeldog’ Imperial Black Rye Ale which is a brilliant drop, full of earthy malts, coffee and dark fruits with a hint of rye spice. The ‘Leader of the pack’ is a kind of 50/50 English to American style IPA with a hefty malt backing and a nice solid punch of piney and fruity hops. The Golden and Australian Pale Ale make up the last two but we are yet to try them. Don’t worry if you rock up on a Friday though (as we did) because his whole range is on offer in a mix of tinnies and bottles that are all themed with the family dog, Macca, a Kelpie cross Jack Russell that unfortunately passed away a year ago, so his legacy can always live on. You’ll have to be prepared for a bit of an off road adventure to get there though as it is quite rural, but this is why the formation of the high country brewery trail is such a blessing – it offers beer tours that makes stops at Black Dog along with other breweries such as Bridge Road and Bright Brewery so a designated driver is not required. So pull out the diary put in for a long weekend and get down here and check out some of these superb breweries and the gorgeous landscape this region has to offer.
As far as winery/brewery operations go Prickly Moses aka Otway Estate would have to be one of the most respected and recognised in Australia. The brewery, which is named after the native wattle (not a cute little pet echidna as one would hope!) hit the market with their Pilsner & Wheat beer in 2007 and from there they’ve literally gone from strength to strength – even to the point where just recently the directors have partnered up with the Queenscliff Brewhouse (formerly the Espy in Queenscliff), as well as the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse in Apollo Bay to expand their delicious craft in to other corners of the region. The vineyard itself is set on 32 acres with 15 acres under vine. The vineyard also offers on site accommodation in gorgeous little cottages which we booked for the night. We dropped our bags off and made a bee line for the tasting room where Jude, our super friendly and very helpful host for the afternoon, was waiting for us. Inside the cellar door it’s small and quite personal with a few stools lining the bar. Ten taps are on offer – nine pouring their beers and one for their forbidden fruit cider. The range has a great balance of light and dark beers starting with the Summer ale which is crisp and clean with tropical fruity hops and a light, dry finish. The Spotted Ale is their version of a Golden Ale and it’s similar to the Summer ale with a more pronounced malt sweetness in aroma and flavour. Very sessional. We then moved on to the organic Pilsner which is a new world interpretation offering crisp, herbal aromas and a clean bitter finish. Great beer. The ‘chainsaw’ is their Aussie wheat beer which only has 50% malted wheat so hints of banana and subtle spice are well balanced by the fruity Ella hops. Again, clean and sessional. Their flag ship Otway Pale Ale is brewed in the English style with sweet nutty malts and earthy hops on the nose. Like all their beers so far (surely an ode to the use of pure Otway rain water) the palate is smooth, crisp and super clean with a nice balance between sweet malts and earthy/spicy hops. Their Red Ale is another one of their well known beers, it’s a malt-forward Irish style brew held up with good body and a smooth finish. Their Otway Stout is a pleasant and approachable beer with mild roast and sweet toffee notes that finishes malty and little dry. The Chardonnay IPA is the first of their seasonal beers and it is as it sounds – roughly 75 litres of chardonnay to a 1000 litre tank adds an extra fruit complexity with an assertive bitterness to round it out. Their Farmhouse Ale is a welcome taste changer on the palate with its rich malt sweetness, zesty lemon and lifted spice aromas. Smooth palate with slight dryness and a soft alcohol warmth in the tail. Very nice. The Black Panther IBA is a big, complex, full bodied and roasted brew with a superb balance of Piney American hops. Probably our pick of the beers. We finished on the Black Stallion Imperial Stout which was potent and decadent and would pair beautifully with a big steak and a roaring fire in the cooler months. They have also taken dog-friendly to new heights with their very own release of a “beer for dogs” (don’t worry it’s 0% ABV) which gives new meaning to having a few beers with your mates! They fill growlers and there’s also stacks of other merchandise such as labelled glassware, bar mats and gift packs for sale so it’s hard to leave empty handed. Just be aware of one thing, the cellar door is only open Friday-Sunday so don’t almost make the mistake of making the trip from Sydney only to find out it’s not open. Yes, we’ll admit that was us!
Our third stop on our Victorian brewery pilgrimage took us to Blackmans Brewery. After almost two full tanks of petrol, well over a thousand kilometers and every topic of conversation exhausted we reached the lovely little regional beach side suburb of Torquay – known by some as Australia’s surf capital. Too bad neither of us surf as there are some well known beaches in close proximity such as Bells Beach and Jan Juc that hold huge events like the Rip Curl Pro and the Bells Beach Surf Classic. But the surf isn’t what we came for, we came for beer and although craft beer isn’t exactly overflowing in Torquay their one and only craft brewery more than makes up for it! Set down the southern end of the Esplanade the brewery sits at 26 Bell Street with an eye catching street presence. Inside the balance between modern and industrial furniture carries through to the super cool little beer garden out the back. Astro turf lines the floor as a rustic wooden fence hems it in. A few long wooden bench tops get drenched in the early afternoon sun and are perfect to sit on, get through a paddle and take in the grungy graffiti-like art on the adjacent wall. Not only does this joint have a really relaxed and comfortable vibe the range of beers is respectable and cleverly themed – each beer is named and matched to a personality of someone in the family who run the brewery. Bob the Witbier was first cab off the rank, he was a Belgian style witbier with typical clove, spice, citrus rind and banana on the nose. A fresh herbal palate, light and zesty in flavour. A pleasant way to start. The unfiltered Lager is the only one unnamed but presents a crisp and refreshing hop aroma with a subtle malt backing. It’s light on, sessional and slightly citrusy and finishes with a mild bitterness. Ernie the Golden Ale has a floral hop aroma with a dash of citrus and a clean pale malt spine. Super smooth with a nice bitterness, lovely fruity hops on the tongue. Drinks like a Pale Ale. Good drop. Reginald is the IPA and he’s pretty much like Ernie (the Golden Ale) but on steroids. We don’t do cider (sorry Winnie) so we moved straight on to their first seasonal which is an award winning Pale Ale. It was punchy with a hop forward nose. Kiwifruit, honeydew and mango balance out by a bold caramel malt sweetness on the nose. Candied fruits, sweet malts and a crisp mouth feel make this a pleasure to drink. Their second seasonal was angry Reg – a big, sharp, piney, resinous and bitter Double IPA. Creamy texture, slightly peppery, full bodied, hop charged and finished with a fruity palate. Brilliant DIPA. Their best brew. So whether you make the trek for the beer, the surf, exploring the great Ocean Road or even just for a relaxing beach side getaway a visit to Blackmans Brewery should be squarely in your sights!