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NZ Brewery Tour – Black Dog Brew Co, Wellington

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image image imageThis 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.

NZ Brewery Tour – Garage Project, Wellington

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image image imageTalk 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.

 

NZ Brewery Tour – Sprig & Fern Tavern, Wellington

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image image imageOur 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.

NZ brewery tour – Fork & Brewer, Wellington

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image image imageThis 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.

NZ brewery tour – Tuatara, Wellington

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image image imageAfter 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.

NZ brewery tour ‘ Birkenhead Brewing, Auckland

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image imageMuch 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!

NZ brewery tour – Brothers Beer, Auckland

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image image imageWhat 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!

Bacchus Brewing Company

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16684067_645876565596492_3648512526719131200_n 16730532_645876638929818_8805963055345068325_n 16830628_649022101948605_1746208739437183074_nNever 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!

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

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16640840_645876505596498_6328695284052255250_n 16708607_645876532263162_6812042288809735447_n 16730458_645876545596494_6330032592255342670_nSimply 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.

 

 

 

 

Foghorn Brewhouse

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15871741_626572067526942_4476969119529289076_n 15873617_626572054193610_7368505501446056523_n 15895019_626572037526945_8802686382728964373_nAs 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!

Bridge Road Brewers

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14457249_573262959524520_2172697494550841213_n 14463065_573262936191189_2592907353710942362_nThe 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!

Black Dog Brewery

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14390829_573263116191171_5886867224515943078_n 14450014_573263206191162_1430407236890970321_n 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.

Prickly Moses Handcrafted Beer

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14449924_573263506191132_5550983245917281580_n 14485044_573263476191135_3990511037270176067_n 14457386_573263459524470_3088520938577167851_nAs 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!

Blackmans Brewery

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14485058_573264319524384_163487434704489165_n 14485168_573264286191054_1401946373134371866_n 14448957_573264209524395_5389959196186941368_nOur 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!

Holgate Brewhouse

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14469710_573265492857600_7840407618134463029_n 14484666_573265522857597_1593878722164023625_n 14479713_573265556190927_745811212053583799_nPutting trail blazers like Lord Nelson, Sail & Anchor and Scharer’s aside Holgate would definitely have to be considered as one of the craft breweries that really launched Aussie craft beer in to the revolution we are all now enjoying years on. Along with big names that we all recognise today such as Mountain Goat and Matilda Bay, Holgate is another brewery that can claim to being established before the turn of the century, decades before it was considered popular. But unlike other big craft breweries, Holgate is still 100% family owned and operated since 1999, brewing off site until 2002 until they shifted operations to the brew pub they’re still in now on the corner of Anslow St and High St in the gorgeous regional town of Woodend. Inside the sturdy red brick building is a somewhat traditional English pub feel with its old wooden floors and bar, cosy drinking area with bar tables and stools and finished off with stained glass windows. The shiny 13 tap system provides some contrast and is designed to make you thirsty – and it works! Out of the 13 taps 8 are already preset for their tasting paddle which went as follows; 1) Norton Lager – smooth, sessional and pretty safe. The people’s beer. 2) Mt Macedon Aussie Pale Ale – restrained hoppy nose, well balanced with mild bitterness. Not a lot happening though. 3) ESB – hand pumped at room temperature, caramel, toffee, sweet and bready. Thin texture. Very traditional ESB. 4) Alpha Crucis Aussie IPA – tropical fruit aroma, fresh, hoppy, nice contained bitterness and a fruity palate. Tasty IPA. 5) Temptress Chocolate Porter – hand pumped, lovely roasted nose with chocolate and coffee. Smooth texture, slight vanilla sweetness with more chocolate and coffee on the palate. Brilliant beer, one of their best. 6)Hop Tart Sour Pale Ale had a slightly floral and slightly zesty aroma. Mild tartness. Light on with fruity and zesty notes in flavour. A bit weak and insipid. 7) Kristallweizen – This was interesting, it had a subtle honey sweetness with spice, herbs and citrus rind on the nose. Flavour follows the nose with additions of banana runts and candy. Not bad. 8) Hopinator American IPA – dank, piney and resinous on the nose. Tropical fruity taste boosted by alcohol and balanced by a bold caramel malt base. Bitey mouth feel. A really well structured IPA. The pick of the beers for us. If you rather drink your choice of craft outside there is a generously sized beer garden out the back that gets drenched in the afternoon sun, the perfect way to warm up the bones on those bitterly cold Victorian afternoons. The pub as a whole is deceptively large. Other than the main bar area and the courtyard there’s multiple dining areas, what one could describe as a tasting/conference/meeting room, an upstairs area and the brewery itself at the rear of the building. Just a heads up too, don’t bother bringing your growlers as they don’t do refills. What they offer are mixed 4 and 6 packs for takeaway so you don’t have to leave empty handed. If you aren’t as lucky as the locals  then we’d suggest to make the trip to the brewery and check it out and grab a few roadies on your way out. Cheers!

Thirsty Crow Brewery

Rating:

14433089_573265819524234_6030092937363876608_n 14484886_573265799524236_6681044857427184030_n 14495469_573265839524232_5027932035068054350_nThe city of Wagga Wagga can lay claim to many things. Being the largest inland city in Australia would be one of the main things that come to mind. It’s also one of Australia’s biggest food bowls. Just as important is the military training base of Kapooka which is five minutes drive out of the city and with a population edging close to 60’000, one would hope that a craft brewery had been established to keep the thirsty locals, the future defenders of our great nation and the farmers well hydrated with top quality tipple. Well it’s known as The Thirsty Crow and she’s situated in town, you’ll find it at their newly renovated address at 153 Fitzmaurice Street Wagga Wagga. The establishment itself is immaculately kept, the interior has a wide and spacious feel with polished concrete floors, mood setting down lights, a mix of bar tables, booths and cafe tables and chairs that surround the main bar that’s centrally positioned within the main beer hall. The new renovations also include a neat little back room that they’ve named the ‘brewer’s den’ where you can relax with a coffee or drink your beer alongside the tanks and square off with your mates over a game of ping pong on the semi professional table. The main bar presents two sets of seven tap systems that pour the brewer’s core range that consists of a Golden Ale which is cheap tasting, loaded with Aussie pale malts, Saaz hops and German yeast – it must be the substitute for the usual VB drinkers. Next up was their Red Ale which is a mid strength, malt forward drop which had a subtle hop aroma and a seriously smash-able palate. Pretty good for a 2.9% lightweight – certainly a viable option for the designated driver. We then moved on to the Summer Ale which was a light and crisp session ale that offered a lifted fruity hop aroma, a medium dry palate and punchy hops with a subtle pale malt backing. Solid drop. We finished on the brewers signature Vanilla Milk Stout – gorgeous sweet vanilla and roasted malt aroma. Slightly bitter with subtle coffee notes creeping through. Delicious drop, easily their best beer by a mile. If none of Thirsty Crow’s beers tickle your taste buds then an impressive selection of other Aussie craft beers from breweries such as Akasha, Batch and Hope Brewhouse should satisfy the palate. We did have one gripe though, we were keen to try their IPA but for reasons unknown they didn’t have it available. Although, need not worry all you future visitors to this fine establishment as there are big plans in the pipeline. Plans that will more than quadruple their annual output which only means more beer, more experimenting and more smiles on the punters faces. Big things are planned for this regional microbrewery. Keep an eye on it.

Hemingway’s Brewery

Rating:

14021615_554679331382883_7481462110482837873_n 13934939_554679274716222_6698632928052339574_n 13907041_554679238049559_1345321865615717531_nPort Douglas finally has a craft brewery to call its own. As frequent travelers to this absolutely beautiful corner of the world we were like kids at Christmas time so we couldn’t even begin to imagine how excited the locals were. Locals who have had to endure a lifetime of drinking XXXX, FNQ and Great Northern Lager. Locals who proudly call home to one of the most pristine and stunning backdrops you could ever sink a beer in. Then factor in the thousands of non locals and backpackers trekking through hoping to wrap their laughing gear around a fresh, tasty Australian craft beer. It’s safe to say that Port Douglas was crying out for a craft brewery and when owners Tony Fyfe and Craig Parsell officially opened the doors to this brand new microbrewery smack bang on the Reef Marina in late June 2016 they were shown just how keen the punters were. So much so that another batch of their ‘Prospector’ Pilsner had to be urgently brewed as the thirsty crowds had drank it dry within 2 weeks of opening. It’s a huge testimonial to head brewer, Jared Stewart, who brings a wealth of knowledge from several years honing his skills at Moa brewing in New Zealand’s famous Marlborough wine region. It’s not just his brewing skills that makes him successful, he’s a bloody legend as well as he offered to take time out of his busy schedule to take us for a tour through the brewery and a good chat over a couple of Sour’s that he had a hand in brewing and barrel aging back at Moa in 2014. His core range at Hemingway’s is small but carefully crafted to counter the extreme heat that this region sweats through for most of the year. The ‘Prospector’ Pilsner is the lightest and most sessional of the range with its sweet honeyed malt base and fruity hop accents. Problems sourcing the right hops to brew their core Pale Ale (Pitchfork Betty’s) forced Jared to brew a similar Pale Ale named ‘My Wife’s Pail’ which was fruity, slightly bitter and highly palatable. The ‘Doug’s Courage’ IPA was a low ABV (5.6%) highly sessional, bitter and hoppy ale and was probably our pick of the bunch. The last, and only dark beer in the range, is the ‘Hard Yards’ Dark Lager which is based loosely on their Pilsner and finished with nutty malts, caramel and a slight roast and much like their other beers is light and seriously drinkable. Their impressive 16-tap system is also reserved for 7 guest beers and a cider so there is a flavour for every palate possible. To pair all of this glorious amber fluid is a range of seafood, pub grub, stone fired pizza’s and slow cooked smoked meats that constantly wafts throughout the the venue making it impossible not to salivate. So if you’re planning a trip to Port Douglas be sure to drop in for a paddle, take in some of the amazing scenery, full up a growler and enjoy some fresh locally brewed craft beer while you sit around the pool and soak up some warm Queensland sun. We did….every day :)

Riverside Brewing Company

Rating:

13615280_536442296539920_4352675390440578647_n 13533193_536442329873250_846904038917510796_n 13567410_536442349873248_195783371749238889_nLife at Riverside post-Dave Padden’s exit was always going to be a hot topic for us, and for many others too we’re guessing, but when we recently dropped in to the little operation on North Rocks Rd. Parramatta we found that all is still well for this brilliant craft brewery. The small seating area doesn’t allow for big numbers but does urge the punters to engage much more easily in conversation with each other, as well as Steve behind the bar. There’s certainly no shortage of delicious new seasonal’s pouring through their impressive fourteen-tap set up either, along with their popular and award winning core range of the Golden Ale (33) American Amber Ale (44) American Pale Ale (55) Summer Ale (69) India Pale Ale (77) and Robust Porter (88) are two taps permanently reserved for their 2 monsters – ‘Othello’s Curse’ Imperial Black IPA and their top shelf, nationally recognized 777 Imperial IPA. If that selection right there isn’t enough to blow your socks off then consider their 6 seasonal beers that included the ‘Settlers Ale’ – an earthy, malty and caramel-forward ESB, a Sour which smells like a liquid lemon strepsil with a lovely restrained sourness, fruity flavour and decent bitterness to balance, their ‘Hop Hefner’ hoppy Hefeweizen which was packed full of aromatic fruity hops and a light, spicy palate, the ‘Dunk Weider’ Dunkel which was brewed with coffee and oats (which was a surprise favourite) the ‘Tzar’ Imperial Red Ale which was brewed with Russian caravan tea , juniper berries and fennel seeds and to finish was the big, ominous and dark Imperial Stout which was delicious – full of heavy roast, coffee, chocolate and molasses – easily our favourite of the afternoon. If you’re planning your first trip to Riverside it’s worth considering the alcohol volume of most of their beers and along with the sheer number to get through we would seriously suggest catching public transport to and from the brewery. Parramatta or Westmead are the closest train stations with a short cab or bus ride to follow. Or, if you’re lucky, try and con your wife or girlfriend in to a quick stop at Parramatta Westfield for lunch and some shopping before you get settled in for an arvo on some quality craft beer afterwards :)

The Australian Brewery

Rating:

13501999_536442193206597_2648937800345638977_n 13528850_536442076539942_1289432577938749332_n 13612344_536442179873265_5986023961038435847_nUpon arrival we instantly got the feel that this isn’t your typical craft brewery operating out of a transformed warehouse with quirky furniture and bearded lads behind the bar. Once we passed the screaming kids inside the big jumping castle in the car park we entered through the hotel-esque entry with high ceilings and really grand feel. The airy and considerably spacious main hall led us straight to the main bar which is big, spanning almost the width of the room itself. As this hotel/brewery also doubles (or should we say triples) as a family pub, night club and local watering hole the breweries beers are mixed in with the likes of Carlton Draught and VB, albeit in blocks at least. The range is pretty good. We started with the Pale ale – light, fruity and crisp with a nice bitterness, the Pilsner – clean, refreshing with hints of peppery spice and herbaceous hops, Mexican Lager – crystal clear, cheap Lager nose, really just a rip off of Corona (maize ruins it) the session IPA – light on, hoppy/fruity nose, citric and surprisingly full flavoured for a low ABV beer and the oatmeal Stout which was lovely and dark, tan head, roasted, chocolate, coffee and creamy. We have to also make mention of the Australia-shaped paddles. Great idea. As we didn’t have enough to fill another paddle we went for the Saison in a standard schooner glass (only $5), it had a big fluffy head, highly carbonated, spicy, citric, musty and funky. It was delicious, easily their best beer. We finished on their seasonal which was a 4.5% Belgian IPA, it wasn’t anything special, if anything it was a little muddled – sweet candy nose, fruit esters, a bit peppery. It made more sense when we were told that it was a blend of their Saison and session IPA. All in all the range is quite good with the session IPA, oatmeal Stout and Saison being the stand outs. It’s actually quite an impressive place and we can see why the locals love it, it covers almost every demographic. They have the TAB and sports bar out the back, bistro and kids play room in the main hall, the tap room with an outdoor beer garden off to the side and to top it off it turns in to a night club after dark. This kind of weathered copper look that they’ve used throughout the place hits the Australian feel well and really ties in with the huge frosted glass windows and spots of greenery. Technically, it has commercial hotel atmosphere combined with brewery characters thrown in. It’s a really well thought out venue, the only issue is it’s in the middle of nowhere! Rouse Hill to be exact, so we’d suggest finding accommodation nearby because it’s well over an hour walk from the closest train station. Perfect if you’re a local though!

Five Barrel Brewing Co.

Rating:

13419071_528950957289054_4523177827359051065_n 13434760_528950947289055_6350433012472505624_n13403846_528951010622382_296040844272757218_oIt seems Wollongong and its surrounding suburbs are having a mini craft beer revolution. The Illawarra Brewery (Formerly Five Islands…yes it seems these guys have taken a liking to the number 5) has been the staple brewery for the region for years now, but along the way a handful of cool little craft beer bars like Three Chimney’s, Dagwood and The Little Prince have helped stamp their mark on the South Coast’s craft beer map. Hop Dog Beerworks subsequently opened in Nowra and a brand new brewery called Bulli Brewing is also about to open up in Unanderra. This is all without a mention of the brewery we’re actually writing this piece about – that is Five Barrel Brewing. Phil honed his skills as a home brewer for a few years before opening the doors to his own brewery on Keira Street, Wollongong (roughly a 5-10 minute walk from the train station) earlier this year. It’s a small, family run outfit with a core range of four tasty and super sessional beers consisting of a Golden Ale, a Pale Ale, an ESB and a hoppy Amber Ale. The latter being his flagship beer, is sensational. The Pale Ale and Golden Ale are nice and hit their mark and the ESB is a solid interpretation of the traditional English Bitter. There were also four extra taps pouring his limited and seasonal brews – a west coast IPA, NZ IPA, an Oyster Stout and a Milk Stout. The west coast IPA needs a bit of work and the NZ IPA and the Oyster Stout were enjoyable but the Milk Stout hands down was the best of his seasonal beers. He also hinted towards an enthusiasm for barrel aging and has recently purchased a couple of wine barrels and intends to brew a few “interesting beers including a R.I.S and a Flanders Red to start with.” So watch this space. The other space to watch over the coming months is the neat little tasting room. A couple of little renovations to the already laid back and cozy feel of the place will include a removal of part of the wall that separates the bar from the brewery so the patrons can feel even closer to the brewing process. Even though she’s only brand new this little micro brewery looks destined for bigger things and we can only hope that it happens for them.