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.
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!
Putting 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!
The 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.
Port 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
Life 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
Upon 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!
When we caught wind of Dave (now the head brewer of Akasha) leaving Riverside brewing we were absolutely gutted. As it wasn’t long after the release of their almighty 777 imperial IPA that he parted ways, we feared the 777 would be doomed, put in the trophy room never to return. Thankfully our fears were eased when a new batch of 777 was brewed and to top that there was news that Dave along with business partners Wesley and Ben had opened their own new brewery in Five Dock called Akasha. Everything had turned out peachy! We thought it was high time we went and checked out the operation after a tap takeover at Sweeney’s revealed the brewing prowess that this bloke possesses. Just off Parramatta road sits the transformed warehouse that is largely taken up by the impressive stainless steel tanks and fermenters that met us on arrival. A neat little seating area equipped with a pool table and a dart board is where you end up after choosing either a paddle or a middy from the little bar inside. The selection is small but bloody delicious, their core range consists of 4 hop-forward beers that include a Lager, Pale Ale, IPA and an Amber Ale, all of which are highly drinkable, hoppy and super clean. The 2 seasonals were an American Brown Ale and the Korben D Double IPA which, for us, is Dave’s equivalent to the 777. And what would an awesome little microbrewery be without some really friendly, informative and personable staff? The guys (and girls) behind the bar were legends and certainly added to the mad vibe we were enjoying while we were smashing down some top quality tipple. Great beer, great people, great music = great afternoon. Cheers guys we’ll be back.
What do you call having boutique wines to taste down one end of the bar and 12 taps of craft beer down the other? Being spoiled for choice is one description, heaven is another. That’s what is on offer at Hope Estate/Brewhouse. In 2014, Hope Estate decided that drinking crap festival lager in the picturesque surrounds of the Hunter Valley made no sense and we tend to agree, vehemently. So they built a brewery with enough tanks to pump out as much craft beer as they do wine and the head brewer, who brings years of experience in wine making at De Bortoli, is keeping himself extremely busy. The tap list consisted of a Munich Lager, Australian Pale Ale, American Pale Ale, gluten free Pilsner, a mid strength Blonde, Belgian Blond, Hefeweizen, IPA, Black IPA, DIPA, Robust Porter and a Cider. I’m tired just from typing all of them so just imagine brewing them all! Although it’s all well and good having a huge selection which covers almost every palate possible we would always choose quality over quantity and therein lies the problem. Some of the beers were simply not up to scratch. Their savior is the Double IPA and the Porter which were really enjoyable beers. Both the Pale Ale’s, Pilsner, Lager, IPA and the Black IPA were standard but they really lost us with the Hef and both the Blonde’s – unbalanced and very homebrew-like which to be honest were pour outs. That’s as far as our negative comments will go though. The main building itself is a little dated but it is well set out with extensive outdoor seating and sweeping views of the Valley can be taken in from the upper floors. Other than a few bad beers they have the right idea, in fact we’re pretty sure they’re the only winery who offer a huge selection of craft beer that’s brewed on site then served to the punters who attend the festivals and big ticket concerts that are regularly held there. It’s also quite centrally located – off Broke Road opposite Pokolbin Village, so it’s your best option to throw in some grain between the grapes. A few little tweaks and, for us, this place would be a permanent stop every time we go to the Hunter.
It’s no longer a secret that wherever you find good wine you’ll find even better beer. It couldn’t be any more true than the Hunter Valley region which now boasts four craft beer breweries along with a swathe of Australia’s best known wineries. Hunter Beer Co (more commonly known as Potter’s Hotel) is as rich in history as the magnificent clay-laced soil around the valley, and you will notice it instantly as you drive in where two heritage listed brick kilns still stand from when the property was used to produce terracotta pots way back in the late 1920’s. Another great thing about this brewpub is it’s sheer size. Along with offering resort-style rooms, the establishment is split in to two wings with a kitchen, eating area and standard pub-style bar on one side and on the other is the brewery, with the tanks on show at the back of the room, a bar with a 10-tap system and a large rustic farmhouse table and stools made out of quality timber in the middle of the room. It doesn’t end there either, in between the two wings is an outdoor eating area with a pool table which opens up to the absolutely huge grass area out the back where they have a massive play area for the kids along with a temporary jumping castle. This place has it all….literally. Their standard range of beers include a Kolsch, Witbier, Ginger beer, Lager, Pale Ale and a Bock. All very good beers in their own right but the stand outs are definitely the Pale Ale and the Bock with the Kolsch running in a tight 3rd. Another really good feature is the brewers’ extensive range of seasonal’s, the day we were there they had the Cessnock Bitter which was a traditional take on the British ESB, the Usurper – a heavy, rich and decadent Russian Imperial Stout (which was bloody delicious), a Dunkelweizen which was also quite tasty and the Jingle Balls Christmas ale – easily the best beer of the afternoon with its rich malty base, caramelized toffee, rum and subtle coconut notes, it was a remarkable drop. We can only hope they bottle this one day. Very impressed with the overall atmosphere, quality of beer and service. The food was good without being great but hey, who comes for the food when there’s so much good booze to be drunk!? Luckily our Misses’ love their wine. Suits us to a tee as we can certainly see a bi-annual trip to the Hunter to immerse ourselves in the beautiful scenery, wineries, restaurants and breweries. A big thumbs up from us.
Every State and city has them, if yours doesn’t: then move! Let’s start with the USA, they have the West Coast (and East Coast…the bastards!) The UK has North and North-East London, New Zealand has Wellington, W.A has Fremantle, Brisbane has West End, Melbourne has the whole bloody city and finally Sydney has the Inner-West. If you aren’t sure where we’re going with this we are noting all the craft beer hot spots around the world. The Inner-Western suburbs of Sydney are the suburbs Sydney siders flock to for their weekly tipple of locally brewed craft beer and The Grifter is the brand new addition. Situated just a short walk from Sydenham train station this large transformed warehouse features a big long bar with ample seating areas and off in the corner is a cool little carpeted area with a pool table. What’s better is, once this brewery grows and their patronage doubles or even triples they have more than enough room to fit more tables and chairs. Good thinking Sir!. A decent little selection is on offer here too: 2 Pilsner’s – a delicious new world Pils which is generously hopped with the finest New Zealand has to offer along with a watermelon infused one, which really wasn’t all that great. Their India Pale Lager is also pretty tasty – simple lager base but the addition of American hops gives it a lovely fruity character. The Pale Ale is literally a scaled back version of their brilliant west coast IPA (easily their best drop) and the ESB was good without being great. The surprise of the afternoon actually came from their “Landlord” Australian Old Ale which reminded us a lot of Lord Nelson’s Old Admiral – nutty and slightly dark with a robust malt base. And to finish was their decadent oatmeal stout, lightly roasted and packed full of chocolate malts and coffee. Probably our 2nd favourite drop. As it’s only new there is no kitchen but as all good craft breweries are doing these days, food trucks will no doubt come on certain weekends to offer assorted types of street food. We’d have to say we had a great arvo. The place has a good vibe with a rustic decor and more than enough staff behind the bar so waiting for beers is never an issue. It’s also very well situated, close to other craft breweries and just a short trip to Newtown where a long list of other breweries and craft beer bars are in abundance. Another decent brewery to add to the growing number of venues in the Inner-West. Onward and upward!
When we envisage a sub-tropical island getaway, craft beer and/or craft breweries don’t even enter the mind. Why even tease ourselves with the thought, right? Especially in Thailand – a country so drowned in boring lagers and commercial European imports that after a week you’re opting for a Singapore sling or even a bloody sand bucket! No more!! Friends, enter Full Moon Brew works. An immaculate, well maintained, perfectly positioned and seriously cool new craft beer brewery right in the heart of Patong Beach, Phuket. Now, as far as selection goes we weren’t about to start getting picky. After all, beggars can’t be choosers. So to be offered a range consisting a Lager, Witbier, Pale Ale and a Dark Ale (well, technically it was an ESB) we were stoked! We started with the Lager which was nothing overly exciting – take your Singha, Tiger and Chang and craftify it, that’s about it. However, things started to get interesting when we tried the Witbier. It was very aromatic, packed with orange peel and herbs and backed up with banana, tang and spices on the palate. The real surprise came next with their flagship beer ‘Chalawan’ Pale Ale. Slightly complex in aroma, a hefty malt backing, slightly smoky but the use of American hops gives it its appeal. Fruity and biscuity with a medium body, assertive bitterness and a super clean finish. We finished on their Dark Ale which was really more of an English ESB, but a delicious one at that. Traditional toasty/nutty malts, caramel and slightly buttery with a hint of ash and a mild bitterness to boot. Still surprisingly sessional on this 35 degree day. If the tap beers don’t excite your taste buds (which we highly doubt) then check out their fridge which is stocked with bottles of Anderson Valley, Rogue, Hitachino, Rochefort, Duvel, Brew Dog and Cooper’s along with a small selection of ciders which are all available to take away. To find this diamond in the rough was a sign from God, or Buddha, whatever your belief….just don’t be coming in the next couple of weeks because we may have just cleaned them out of every IPA they had. Cheers, we’re off to buy a few cheap singlets and some faulty DVD’s!
There wouldn’t be too many breweries that can lay claim to being at the point of closure then bouncing back to reopen the doors to a brand new renovated venue and an all new range. Temple unfortunately went in to voluntary liquidation then amazingly bought the operation back off the creditors, turned the place in to a smick new establishment and hired a new head brewer who can now boast a respectable and extremely tasty new range of craft beers. Now that’s what we call passion and perseverance. Kudos! We rocked up to the brewery on an absolute pearler of a day and were greeted by a friendly and very well informed host who knew his beer. Once we checked out the new haunt we dove straight in to one of their paddles, or should we say stylish (and probably quite expensive) cast iron glass holders with their own branded mini tulip glasses to boot. Their line of beers travel smoothly from light to dark and from lightest to strongest. The bicycle beer is their Summer ale – super light, fruity and extremely sessional. Next was their ‘anytime’ IPA which is aptly named as it would be drinkable any time between 12am-12pm. Their Pilsner was brilliant and true to style, a very enjoyable drop on this hot sunny day. Next up was their best seller, the ‘rye hard’ Rye IPA – big, hoppy and spicy and easily our favourite out of the five. To finish was the dark and mysterious American Stout which was delicious and easily slotted in as 2nd best beer of the afternoon. All up it was a very well put together range, each beer somewhat compliments the next. Well, it’s safe to say that even though this brewery has been through some hard times they have definitely come out the other end better off for it. Definitely a brewery we’d return to.
Let us start with a fact: Moon Dog is a highly respected craft brewery and one that’s indisputably earned a permanent spot in our top 10 all time favourite Australian breweries. That explains why it was top of the list of our must visit Melbourne breweries.Once we touched down in Melbourne we dropped our bags off at the hotel, hopped in a cab and went straight to the brew house in Abbotsford. Locating the place took a bit of luck but one thing is for certain – once we walked in we knew we were at the right place. OK, if you’ve tried a few of Moon Dog’s beers you would already know that they brew some pretty whacky, very experimental and seriously quirky beers and the decor of the joint is no different. It’s like shabby chic meets industrial paradise. We have palms, barrels, mismatching tables and chairs, odd things hanging from the roof and weird pictures adorning the walls. It’s enough to give any interior designer a heart attack but enough to make the most alternative craft beer fanatic feel at home. We like it. The selection of beers ranged from their seriously sessional ‘Love Tap’ Lager to the delicious ‘Bosco’s’ IPA through to the hedonistic yet moreish ‘Spotted Dick’ Barleywine. Standards like their Pale Ale and Dark Ale were nicely offset by the two crafty wild ales but the beer of the afternoon easily goes to their single keg ‘Miso Thorny’ Imperial Miso Pilsner that had lashes of agave and literally drank like a good Belgian Tripel. Bloody amazing stuff. We had to pick our beers wisely, though, as all the ones we wanted to try were either doubles or imperials so we were definitely a little wobbly as we left! This was only a short visit as we only have 2 days to get through this awesome bloody city! Take it from us, if you’re planning a trip to Melbourne then do your taste buds a solid and drop in and try one of these extremely craftified beers. You won’t regret it.
Ask us if we would prefer brewery or pub and before the question had even finished being asked we’d be resolutely projecting out a solid ‘brewery any day of the week’! One of the main reasons behind our vehement opinion would have to be the underground and non-commercial feel that brewery bars all seem to possess. Beside the fact that they also have great atmosphere, great beer, delicious food and appeal to a niche crowd they are almost always situated in either a really rustic, transformed building or a warehouse of some sort. That’s exactly what we loved about this brewery. Our final visit on our Brissy brewery tour brought us to the industrial suburb of Teneriffe. Behind the wide roller door is a traditional 19th century style warehouse with its high slanted ceiling and single row of industrial glass slated windows that allow in a good amount of natural light. Running down the right hand side of the place is a set of wooden tables and chairs while the left side displays the impressive line up of stainless steel tanks. The elongated bar runs parallel with the tanks with 3 separate sets of 4 tap systems. Their range is quite extensive, ranging from their Kolsch, Witbier, Pale Ale, IPA, Amber Ale, Porter and a seemingly endless number of seasonals. Unfortunately the Kolsch wasn’t available and we aren’t fans of Witbier so it was straight to their flagship Pale Ale which was easily the standout. It was delicious, hoppy, fruity and well bodied with a decent bitterness to back it up. The Amber ale was standard – nutty and malty with caramel undertones while the the IPA was nice, nothing overly aggressive – sessional and very palatable. We finished on the Porter which was roasted with light chocolate and coffee notes. Other than the pale ale, the beers were good enough to enjoy but they were lacking that wow factor. Points for atmosphere and general vibe of the place and a mention also has to be given to the quirky things for sale such as beer soap and beard oil for the hipsters. Let’s finish by saying, if we had this as our local watering hole we’d be more than happy. A decent way to finish off our Brissy brewery tour.