King River Brewery
Victoria is leading the way in Australia’s craft beer scene; it is home to almost a third of the nation’s independent brewing businesses. In good news for beer connoisseurs, this trend shows no signs of abating with the Victorian Government pledging funding to support and expand the industry. Some of the best brews can be found in the state’s regions, providing the perfect excuse to get out of town for a day, a weekend, or a week.
Ballarat is vying to become the state’s craft beer capital, with plans afoot to open the Australian Craft Beer Centre of Excellence. The Centre will feature a craft brewery, beer tasting and bar area, teaching space and a function area. It will also deliver training courses and provide business development advice.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of places to sample the golden liquid throughout this gold-rush city. In the heart of Ballarat, Athletic Club Brewery combines tours, tastings and self-brewing sessions, and its ‘tap room’ features eight of its brews on-tap. Red Duck prides itself on crafting all-natural, unfiltered, traditionally-brewed brews which can be sampled at its cellar door. The family-run Cubby Haus Brewing has a 500-litre brew house, a bar and play area for the kids.
Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges
Trade the bubbles of the spa for the bubbles of a beer at Holgate Brewhouse, a family owned craft-brewer in Woodend, with big plans afoot. With Government funding secured, the Brewhouse is set to launch a new Brewing Discovery Centre and Brewhouse Showroom, incorporating a museum, merchandise outlet, accommodation check-in and most importantly, a tasting room.
Just 45 minutes north of Melbourne, Holgate Brewhouse currently runs brewery tours in conjunction with an accommodation package. 12 Holgate draught beers are on offer here, alongside a menu packed full of pub favourites.
Meanwhile, in spa-loving Daylesford, the up-and-coming brewers at Daylesford Brewing Co are ‘Putting the Ale back into Daylesford’. Ultimately, the founders plan to re-establish a full-scale production brewery and cellar door. For now, its product can be found at venues around the region.
The High Country is dotted with breweries crafting beer on-site and serving up a range of handmade ales. Mapping out eight destination breweries, the High Country Brewery Trail covers the length and breadth of the region. The trail comprises new-comer King River Brewing, Social Bandit Brewing Company in Mansfield, Blizzard Brewery in Dinner Plain, Rutherglen Brewery, Bright Brewery, Black Dog Brewery in Taminick, Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth and Sweetwater Brewing Company in Mount Beauty.
Each of the breweries reflects the personality and style of the individual brewers themselves, with handmade pretzels on offer at Bridge Road Brewers for example and Milawa Cheese platters available at Blizzard.
Brewers have long called the Yarra Valley home, and hops have been grown here since the early 1800s. A recent explosion of craft breweries has inspired the Yarra Valley Cider & Ale Trail, spanning a 20km radius and featuring 11 destinations. The trail invites beer enthusiasts to explore the back roads of the region, meet the makers and enjoy the best of what the Yarra Valley has to offer. Recommended stops include: Hargreaves Hill Brewing Co, Yarra Valley Brewing Company, Buckley’s Beer, Watts River Brewing, Napoleone Brewery & Cider House and Coldstream Brewery.
The holiday isle of Phillip Island is home to two craft breweries. Ocean Reach Brewing is a small Brewpub located in Cowes, not far from world-class surf breaks. Taking its name from the colour of beer, Rusty Water Brewery and Restaurant is home to Phillip Island Brewing Company where a range of handcrafted ales are available on tap, and new specials are regularly released.
Road trippers need not venture too far from the city to enjoy the best of Mornington Peninsuala’s brews. Just an hour from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula Brewery serves up a traditional range of Pale Ales and Lagers as well as new artisanal varieties in an industrial space.
A little further down the coast, in Dromana, Hix Microbrewery is bringing in the accolades for a family traditionally famed for its winemaking.
Mornington Peninsula’s first microbrewery, the Red Hill Brewery grows its own hops to create a range of award-winning boutique ales. The beer is available to sample in a casual setting, with views of the hops yard and the brewers in action.
Geelong and the Bellarine
Since Little Creatures opened the doors to its east-coast base in 2013, beer lovers have been flocking to Geelong for a taste of the much-loved ale, and to try Geelong’s own Furphy Ale, made from only Victorian ingredients. With White Rabbit relocating to the same site, there’s plenty to please in one easy to reach location.
Lesser known but also worth checking out, Geelong’s Odyssey Tavern & Brewery crafts a range of popular ales. Nearby, Mt Duneed Brewing Co serves its small batch beer in a rustic family-friendly cafe and Barrabool Hills Brewery is home to Cockies Beer.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants at which to enjoy a pint or two of the region’s best. The recently revamped Queenscliff Brewhouse has 100 craft beers on offer and in Geelong, Blackman’s Beer Bar serves up a selection of beer from its Torquay-based brewery.
Great Ocean Road
In Victoria’s southwest, the Sow & Piglets Brewery is a must-stop after a day exploring the 12 Apostles. The microbrewery at Port Campbell Hostel sits alongside a communal barbecue area, and beer devotees are invited to partake in the Great Ocean Brew weekend (dates are yet to be confirmed).
Inland, in the Otway Ranges, there are three must-visit craft brewers – all of which use Otway rainwater to produce their beer. The best known is Forrest Brewing Company, which combines its destination microbrewery with a restaurant that has grown equally popular. Slightly lesser known are Crow’s Nest Brewery (brewer of Steam Train) and Otway Brewing (the makers of Prickly Moses Handcrafted Beers and Forbidden Fruit Ciders).
Otway Brewing’s sister company, Great Ocean Road Brewhouse, in the coastal town of Apollo Bay, serves up a range of the region’s finest beers. Budget-friendly accommodation is also available here.
Heading back towards Melbourne, Torquay’s Blackman’s Brewery has restaurant space out the front where share-style meals are served alongside the handcrafted beer. Tours of the brewery are also available.
Loch Brewery and Distillery‘s small batch beer was born because, ‘To make good whisky, first you needed to make a good beer base’. The team now produces three core beers, as well as gin and single malt whiskey. All can be sampled at the cellar door in South Gippsland from Friday to Sunday.
In East Gippsland, Bullant Brewery offers a selection of 10 beers. The family owned Grand Ridge Brewery in the Strzelecki Ranges offers a selection of high quality beers, alongside local wine and gourmet Gippsland cheeses at its restaurant.
Wodonga’s Cheeky Peak Brewery offers brewery tours and the chance to enjoy a schooner while chatting to one of the brewers. Nearby, The Goods Shed showcases the best of Australian craft beer in a rustic space that was once a railway station.
At the other end of the Mighty Murray, Mildura Brewery makes five naturally brewed beers and seasonal brews. Housed in the Art Deco building that was once home to the Astor Theatre, the beers are inspired by and named after local produce, landmarks and themes.
A range of craft beer is made in and around Bendigo, from French-inspired Saisons to sessional Pale Ales and robust Imperial Stouts. The region’ s small-scale country breweries include: Tooboorac, housed in an 1850s bluestone pub; True Brew, where visitors can make their own beer; Castlemaine Brewing’s Tap Room, a bar and brewhouse at The Mill; and Cornella Real, which can be tasted at Shiraz Republic‘s cellar door in Heathcote.