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.
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.
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