Best of beer

From drink­ing craft ales in a bou­tique brew­ery to down­ing a sher­bet in an ev­ery­man pub, beer is an in­te­gral part of Aus­tralian life and culture. Max Veen­huyzen combed the coun­try for the best places to en­joy a pint. We hope you came thirsty.

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An am­ber ale odyssey from coast to coast

Do a pub crawl by he­li­copter

Is it still a “crawl” if you’re do­ing it by chop­per? It’s a moot ques­tion when you’re hav­ing this much fun. Based 45 min­utes from Bris­bane, Ptero­dactyl He­li­copters (ptero­dactyl­he­li­copters.com.au) of­fers full-day coun­try pub tours, in­clud­ing drinks and a tra­di­tional counter lunch.

Add some surf to your foam

With own­ers like pro surfers Mick Fan­ning and Joel Parkin­son, Bal­ter (bal­ter.com.au) on the Gold Coast was al­ways go­ing to at­tract in­ter­est. With the ad­di­tion of chef Matt Stone to its fam­ily – writ­ing food and beer pair­ing notes is among his chores – the brew­ery now boasts the sub­stance to go with its relaxed Cur­rumbin style. Test-drive The Spot­ted Cow Toowoomba’s go-to for beery good times is The Spot­ted Cow (spot­ted­cow.com.au). Its list weighs in at more than 70 beers and fea­tures lo­cal favourites, as well as Aus­tralian and in­ter­na­tional craft brews, to com­ple­ment the bistro’s menu. Don’t miss the one-kilo pots of mus­sels.

Have your beer and sleep with it, too

Sur­rounded by na­tive bush, Stan­thorpe’s Gran­ite Belt Brew­ery (gran­ite­belt­brew­ery.com.au) and Happy Val­ley Retreat is an all-in ex­pe­ri­ence of­fer­ing food, ac­com­mo­da­tion, views and – most im­por­tantly – sea­sonal beers. A cal­en­dar of beer-cen­tric events en­sures plenty of rea­sons to re­visit.

Visit the small­est brew­ery in the val­ley

It’s not the size of your pub that counts but what you do with it. At Mor­peth’s Com­mer­cial Ho­tel (02 4934 5316) in the Hunter Val­ley, a (very small) brew­ery has been set up be­hind the dart­board to sup­ply guests with a steady sup­ply of house beers. Bulls­eye.

Pair a beer with so­lar­pow­ered pizza

You’re no doubt fa­mil­iar with the beer and pizza one-two. How about pizza cooked in a so­lar-pow­ered oven? It’s one of the beer-friendly din­ing op­tions at FogHorn Brew­house (foghorn­brew­house.com.au), a fun Newcastle brew­ery lo­cated in a for­mer fac­tory.

Make like Priscilla

A star turn in the movie

The Ad­ven­tures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert ce­mented The Palace Ho­tel’s (thep­alace­ho­tel bro­ken­hill.com. au) place in pop­u­lar culture. Ad­mire the Bro­ken Hill building’s fan­tas­tic mu­rals then climb the stairs to the balcony and drink in the view (as well as the beer).

In­dulge in vat-fresh pale ale

It’s fresh in the Snowy Moun­tains, es­pe­cially at the Banjo Pater­son Inn (ban­jopa­ter­son­inn.com.au), home of the Kosciuszko Brew­ing Com­pany. Al­though the beer is avail­able na­tion­ally, the relaxed Jind­abyne inn is the per­fect place to en­joy it straight from the mi­cro­brewer’s vats.

En­joy a well-de­served tip­ple

The worlds of cycling and craft brew­ing con­verge at Wagga Wagga’s Gears and Beers Fes­ti­val (gearsand­beers.org.au) each Oc­to­ber. Which­ever length cycling course you’re tack­ling (or not tack­ling), qual­ity hy­dra­tion awaits on the fin­ish line at the craft beer and cider stalls.

Do some time

Jail and beer don’t usu­ally mix. But, for this an­nual Hunter Val­ley cel­e­bra­tion – held in the grounds of Mait­land Gaol each No­vem­ber – we’ll make an ex­cep­tion. Go­ing 10 years strong, Bit­ter & Twisted (bit­terandtwisted.com.au) is a week­end of top food, mu­sic and, of course, beer.

Drink it all in on the Mur­ray

Sure, what’s in your beer glass is im­por­tant but a pic­turesque back­drop has its place, too. Lo­cated on Goolwa Wharf at the mouth of the Mur­ray River, The Steam Ex­change Brew­ery (steamex­change.com.au) blends modern brew­ing with a his­toric South Aus­tralian set­ting.

Ex­plore lo­cal-only brew­eries (via New Or­leans)

The name and food of this Ade­laide bar and din­ing room may ref­er­ence The Big Easy but its beer list is proudly parochial. More of­ten than not, NOLA’s (no­laade­laide.com) 16 ro­tat­ing taps pour win­ners such as Swell Brew­ing Com­pany’s ses­sion­able lager and lo­cal bar­rel-aged ciders.

Have a cap­i­tal idea

Set to celebrate its 10th birth­day in March, the Can­berra Craft Beer & Cider Fes­ti­val (can­berrabeer­fest.com.au) is a ma­jor ral­ly­ing point for beer drinkers in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. Its ex­hibitor list is filled with craft-brew­ing roy­alty, from vet­er­ans such as James Squire to ris­ing stars like Moun­tain Goat.

Lux­u­ri­ate at the lodge

This one’s for brag­ging rights, given you’ll be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing one of the world’s great lux­ury stays. South­ern Ocean Lodge (south­er­nocean­lodge.com.au) is perched on a cliff over­look­ing a re­mote stretch of Kan­ga­roo Is­land and while it’s hard to im­prove on those views, a late-af­ter­noon beer (South Aus­tralian craft is in­cluded in the tar­iff) might just do it.

Book in for a Beer vs Wine Dé­gus­ta­tion Din­ner

It doesn’t have to be a case of ei­ther/or in the Barossa. De­spite the bat­tle-of-the-bot­tle name, Barossa Val­ley Brew­ing’s (bvbeer.com.au) sea­sonal five-course din­ners are both co­op­er­a­tive and com­pet­i­tive, with brew­ers and winer­ies of­ten col­lab­o­rat­ing on one-off releases.

Dis­cover the Clare Val­ley’s new­est liq­uid as­set

You’ve heard of Clare Val­ley the wine re­gion. Now meet Clare Val­ley the emerg­ing mi­cro­brew­ing hub. Be­tween Knapp­stein (knapp­stein.com.au), Clare Val­ley Brew­ing Co. (cvbc. beer) and Pikes Beer Com­pany (pikes­beer­com­pany.com.au), there are more than enough lo­cal op­tions for slak­ing thirsts.

Share the love

Fea­tur­ing 18 beers and ciders at any one time, Ben­tSpoke Brew­ing Co.’s (bentspoke­brew­ing.com. au) of­fer­ings are rea­son enough to head to this Can­berra brew­pub but it’d be re­miss not to men­tion the food. In­fused with house beers and ciders, these up­scale pub sta­ples (hop- and malt-dusted chips, any­one?) re­in­force Ben­tSpoke’s love of beer. Plus, you can take home a nifty two-litre “trav­eller”.

Find a pint par­adise

Look­ing for an in­tro­duc­tion to Tas­ma­nia’s grow­ing craft beer move­ment? Go di­rectly to Launce­s­ton’s Saint John Craft Beer Bar (sain­tjohn­craft­beer.com. au). The taps are con­stantly chang­ing and the kitchen serves beer-friendly din­ner (BYO lunch dur­ing the day).

Choose a Moo with a view

Ho­bart’s Mona (mona.net.au) likes chal­leng­ing vis­i­tors (Exhibit A: its poop ma­chine). How­ever, drink­ing the mu­seum’s Moo Brew while stay­ing in one of its lux­ury pavil­ions over­look­ing the Der­went River is one of its more ac­ces­si­ble plea­sures.

Hop aboard the beer-tast­ing ex­press

Is it a brew­ery? Is it a train? No, it’s the cel­lar door of Devils Brew­ery (dev­ils­brew­ery.com.au), south of Ho­bart, craftily hid­den in­side a circa-1960s train car­riage – a per­ma­nent home to sam­ple the un­con­ven­tional wares of “gypsy brewer” David Tot­tle.

Hit the wa­ter

Does re­cy­cling get more en­joy­able than sav­ing your beer cans (and milk car­tons) and building your own boat? Held at Dar­win’s Mindil Beach – the 2017 event is on July 9 – the Beer Can Re­gatta (beer­can­re­gatta.org. au) is as much about the wa­ter­craft as it is about get­ting ev­ery­one to­gether.

Toast an A-list buf­falo

Don’t look but there’s a celebrity. Croc­o­dile Dundee star Char­lie the wa­ter buf­falo was a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the re­mote Ade­laide River Re­sort (ade­laideriver­re­sort.com.au) un­til his death. His stuffed body now oc­cu­pies pride of place at the bar.

Woop Woop it up

Fun fact: Aus­tralia’s first in­ter­na­tional air­port was in Daly Wa­ters. Daly what? As staff are fond of telling peo­ple, The Daly Wa­ters Pub (da­ly­wa­ter­spub.com) is “in the mid­dle of Woop Woop”. Clas­sic pub grub and ac­com­mo­da­tion help ex­tend the schooner into a lay­over.

Check out a leg­end

Ste­fano de Pieri is some­thing of an icon in Mil­dura. While many know him from Ste­fano’s Restau­rant, the keen brewer also shares his pas­sion for beer at Mil­dura Brew­ery (mil­durabrew­ery.com.au). The one-time As­tor Theatre of­fers house brews and gutsy Ital­ian food in a coun­try-ca­sual set­ting.

Taste his­tory

The Yarra Val­ley Cider & Ale Trail (cideran­dale­trail.com.au) isn’t a new ini­tia­tive so much as it is re­vis­it­ing old tra­di­tions (hop farm­ing in the area is be­lieved to date back to the 1800s). That’s not to say lo­cal brew­ers aren’t afraid to push the boat out – the ki­wifruit cider from Giverny Es­tate be­ing a case in point.

Wine by day, brew by night

Meet a Glen­rowan wine­maker who moon­lights as a brewer. When he’s not main­tain­ing his fam­ily’s le­gacy at Taminick Cel­lars, fourth-gen wine­maker James Booth makes beer under the la­bel Black Dog Brew­ery (black­dog­brew­ery.com.au). Bonus points for us­ing a han­d­op­er­ated English beer en­gine.

Just add sea urchins

Beer ter­roir? It’s a thing. In Vic­to­ria’s south-east, the old Or­bost But­ter and Pro­duce Co. fac­tory has re­opened as Sailors Grave Brew­ing (sailors­grave­brew­ing.com), which uses seawa­ter, sea urchins and other lo­cal in­gre­di­ents to add a taste of East Gipp­s­land to its out­put. Come find your sea legs at this in­no­va­tive brew­ery that’s open for pri­vate book­ings.

Down a brew by a cer­ti­fied som­me­lier

“You can’t make good wine with­out good beer”: it’s a com­mon re­frain in Aus­tralian wine regions. Both bev­er­ages come to­gether at Mar­garet River’s Set­tlers Tav­ern (set­tler­stav­ern.com), where pub­li­can and som­me­lier Rob Gough brews under the name Mar­garet River Ale Com­pany. The beers are ex­clu­sive to Set­tlers and pair bril­liantly with its Amer­i­can bar­be­cue of­fer­ings.

Get a fruity fix

While the ut­terly re­fresh­ing mango beer by Matso’s Broome Brew­ery (mat­sos. com.au) is avail­able around the coun­try, it’s best drunk in its birth­place, a tree­shaded oa­sis with stun­ning views of nearby Roe­buck Bay. We rec­om­mend the ly­chee beer, too.

Tag along on a crafty cruise

Cap­tain Cook Cruises’ daily Fre­man­tle Craft Beer Tour and Cruise (cap­tain­cookcruises.com.au) along the Swan River is a fine in­tro­duc­tion to the vi­brant beer scene in West­ern Aus­tralia’s port city. Among the stops are beer-cen­tric pubs Clancy’s (clan­cys­fish­pub.com. au), the Sail and An­chor (sai­lan­dan­chor.com.au) and mi­cro­brew­ery The Monk (the­monk.com.au).

Be spoiled for choice

By any­one’s stan­dards, The Pour­house (pour­house.com.au) in Duns­bor­ough is a fun place to drink. That it’s in a coastal hol­i­day town sans traf­fic lights al­most beg­gars be­lief. A dozen taps and 100 bot­tles en­sure there’s al­ways some­thing tasty (and, invariably, lo­cally brewed) to drink. Take­away sales are also avail­able.

Ex­per­i­ment with a lo­ca­vore beer

Just as chefs are earnestly fo­cus­ing on lo­cal pro­duce, more and more brew­ers are adopt­ing a sim­i­lar lo­ca­vore mind­set. Lucky Bay Brew­ing (luck­y­bay­brew­ing. com.au) – Esper­ance’s first com­mer­cial brew­ery in more than 100 years – sources lo­cally grown bar­ley to pro­duce a range of in­trigu­ing craft beers.

Im­merse your­self in Gold­fields his­tory

Built in 1901, Kal­go­or­lie’s her­itage-listed Ex­change Ho­tel (ex­changekal­go­or­lie.com.au) is a Gold­fields land­mark. Paddy’s restau­rant of­fers a con­tem­po­rary bar and pub din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, while overea­ger drinkers can stay the night up­stairs.

Ben­tSpoke co-owner Richard Watkins mans the taps, in­clud­ing the Frenzy, a raspberry wheat beer

Chris and Gab Moore of Sailors Grave Brew­ing

Pho­tos: Salty Davenport, Tony He­witt

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