Category Archives: Australia

700! (Merideth)

Usually I can be heard kvetching about the fact that I am one behind Chris in our brewery count. It’s true, there are several things that bum me out about it. But there is also one big advantage: we each get our distinct moment in the sun when we reach a milestone. Chris had his 700th brewery visit at a place where drunken Australian teenage dreams are made. My 700th brewery day, on the other hand, had what “American beer tourists in Australia” dreams are made of.

On the prowl at Yanchep National Park

We started the day with a visit to the Yanchep National Park. Since it was my day, Chris indulged me with an excursion to see if we could spot the elusive Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. As luck would have it, we were told that there was also a koala habitat in the park. (Koalas are not native to Western Australia.)

We arrived to the nerve-rattling stranger danger call of hundreds of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos (the more common cousin of the Red-tailed kind). Chris and I own two Conures and like I imagine it is between human moms and infants, we have learned the meaning of different squawks. So for me, it was alarming to hear the wild Cockatoos in such a frenzy. But their cacophony of ear-piercing screeches soon became background noise as we headed towards the koala area.

Typical day for a Koala

I don’t know what I was expecting, but within two minutes of entering the koala habitat, we spotted one. I guess I wanted it to take more time. Because if it took more effort, it meant something had really been accomplished. Nonetheless, as an American tourist in Australia it thrilled me to no end to see the gray, furry, quintessentially Australian animals lounging in the trees. And I do mean lounging. About the only movement we saw out of them was when one stretched his legs as he straddled a branch (which, by the way, was super cute!). Others curled up in little balls in the crooks of the trees. The only sign of life was the up and down movement of their round tummies as they breathed. If only life could be so simple…

Lurking in the bushes

As we wandered the “civilized” part of the park, we spotted gray-faced kangaroos laying in the shade and some birds, including the pre-historic looking Purple Swamphen, by the large lagoon. After a short time, we were ready to seek out what we had really come to see, the rare Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.

Not a Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

A sign pointed us to the 17.5 km Cockatoo Trail, so that’s where we headed. Obviously we weren’t going to walk the entire trail, especially because the temperature was in the high 30’s Celsius (near 100º F), but we thought we’d give part of it a go. A ways down the “uncivilized” dusty dirt road, however, we turned around. The wildlife, including the unseen snakes and the very much seen enormous spider, started to freak me out and it was hard to concentrate on the bird watching. I wasn’t too upset about our failed excursion, though, because I knew it was a long shot that we’d actually catch a glimpse of the elusive birds. I was ready for a beer anyway. We left the Cockatoo Trail without hearing even the slightest peep of a bird.

700!

Aussie Karen (our GPS) lead the way to my milestone brewery, Indian Ocean Brewing Co. in Mindarie. We found the brewery amidst nice newly built townhouses overlooking a small dock area. On a Tuesday at noon, the brewpub was nearly empty, but that didn’t bother us one bit.

I sat at a table and anxiously waited while Chris ordered the taster paddle at the bar. I needed to drink the beer before it could officially count as my 700th brewery. I barely let Chris put the taster set down before I grabbed a sip of my first beer.

Merideth and her sample paddle

There were 4 beers to try: a White, Pils, Pale Ale, and Belgian Blonde. I admit that the White and Blonde, both with the same distinct flavor (most likely from the yeast), were not our favorites and the Pale Ale was unusually malty. However, the Pils was solid and we both chose a pint of it to eat with our lunch. The kitchen was closed for renovations, but the pizza oven was fired up and all the pizzas on the menu were only $10. It was the least expensive meal of the trip.

As an added bonus, Rusty Creighton (who had alerted us to the magic of Gnomesville) surprised us with a visit. It was great meeting him in person and it made my 700th brewery visit that much more exciting and memorable.

Last dip in the Indian Ocean

After lunch, we bid good-bye to Rusty and made our way to a nearby beach. This was our last chance to wade in the Indian Ocean. The water at this beach was a bit more turbulent than we’d seen previously, but it did a good job of cooling us off. The water whirled around my legs and I felt the sand giving way under my feet. I have always loved the ocean, but somehow I felt more connected to this one than I had ever felt before. It was probably because I was, in fact, closer to it. Due to the warm temperature of the water, I could actually stand in it without my toes going numb.

Afterwards, we made a repeat visit to Feral Brewing Company in the Swan Valley town of Baskerville. We had had an amazing time a few nights before when we celebrated our friend Todd’s birthday and wanted to make a second visit before leaving the area. A description of our experience that night will help illustrate why we felt absolutely compelled to make a return visit.

Lovin' the Feral White

Feral’s Chef Mitch had put together an amazing 5-course beer-infused dinner for Todd. It kicked off with a selection of beer-cured meats served with spent grain bread and hop butter and finished with Feral’s tiramisu made with their Imperial Stout, Boris. In between, we dined on a green papaya salad with prawns poached in Golden Ace, a Belgian Pale Ale, roast rack of pork with roast wort potatoes, and cheese served with hop honey and “beerguette.” Plus, each course was paired with one of the brewery’s tasty beers. Absolutely phenomenal!

We may not have dined on another mouth-watering meal during our second visit, but we did get another chance to sip on the Feral White, a refreshingly citrusy Witbier.

Our evening concluded with a Tweet-up, attended by Feral’s Chef Mitch, Swan brewer Justin (mentioned in Chris’ blog post about his 700th brewery visit), and several Aussie beer bloggers at Five Bar in Mt. Lawley. It was a very hip place with something for everyone — couches, high bistro tables, bar, and tiered deck-like area with pillows to lounge on. Most people in our group enjoyed Feral’s Hop Hog from the cask, but I broke ranks and drank a few beers from Victoria, including the Golden Ale from Two Birds and Kooinda Boutique Brewery’s Valhalla Golden Ale. It was our first opportunity to meet some of Western Australia’s beer community, as well as our last chance to hang out with Todd. Such a wonderful way to end an amazing day!

 

700! (Chris)

Besides drinking great beer and having a wonderful time, the goal for Merideth and I on our Australian trip was to reach the 700 brewery milestone. As we ticked off breweries early in the trip, we kept thoughts of 700 in the background. But once we passed 695, we started talking about where each of our milestones would be.

My 700th came out of left field. While at Little Creatures during our Urban Beer Hike, our friend Todd came up with the idea that we needed to tour Swan Brewery, or the “mothership” as he called it. Knowing one of the brewers there, Justin, Todd immediately got on his douchephone and arranged a visit for Merideth and me. Thus, my 700th brewery was ordained.

The old Swan Brewery

Known for beers such as Emu Bitter and Export Lager, Swan Brewery was founded in 1837. From 1879, Swan was housed in a beautiful brick building on the outskirts of Perth along the Swan River. Today, the building houses offices and posh restaurants including a brewpub, the Old Brewery.

Swan Brewery in Canning Vale

In the late 1970s, a fully automated brewery was built in nearby Canning Vale. Located in the industrial part of town, our visit began at the guard gate where Merideth and I were issued visitor passes and orange vests. On to the reception area, we met Justin for the first time.

Justin, formerly a brewer at the Monk in Fremantle, showed us around the sprawling complex from the grain silos to the packaging line. Modern when it was built, walking around the Swan Brewery, we almost felt like we were in a museum.

All milestones should be celebrated wearing an orange vest

We finished up in the brewery bar where Justin cracked open a couple of bottles of Swan Draught, a light-bodied Pale Lager. Taking a big swig, 700 was officially in the books.  Merideth and I also tried Emu Bitter, another Pale Lager. Both brews had a similar flavor profile, but I preferred the Emu Bitter as it had a bit more of a hop bite.

My 700th might have not been the epic brewery that I envisioned for such a milestone, but it was a special experience nonetheless. We got a personal tour of Australian beer history and on top of that, Merideth and I increased our circle of Australian beer friends. Thanks to Justin taking time to show us around and to Todd for insisting we visit the mothership.

Freo Urban Beer Hike

After a night in Perth, our Western Australian travels continued in nearby Fremantle. Known as “Freo” in Aussie-speak, the city played an important part in Australian craft beer history. With its walkabilty and number of craft beer establishments, Freo seemed ideal for an Urban Beer Hike.

Colonial Fremantle

We had planned on four stops on our Urban Beer Hike but the weather, temperatures approaching 100°F and humid, forced us to be cautious and eliminate the one outlying brewpub. The remaining three stops were all located in historic, central Fremantle. In the end, it was a stretch to call it a “hike,” though we did walk a mile each way from our accommodations.

Sail and Anchor

Fittingly, our first stop was arguably the birthplace of the Australian craft beer movement, Sail & Anchor. Established in 1984, the brewpub’s corporate parents unfortunately decided to cease brewing in 2010. The house beers are now contract-brewed and Sail & Anchor has morphed into a beer bar.

Merideth at Sail & Anchor

We grabbed a high table by one of the big open windows. It afforded us not only a view of the bustling street action but we also got to enjoy what little breeze there was in the stifling air. While we waited for the arrival of Todd from beermen.tv, Merideth and I each enjoyed a pint of beer.

Merideth went with the refreshing Feral White, while I enjoyed my first draft Bridge Road/Nøgne Ø India Saison, one of my favorite beers of the trip. Once Todd arrived, we downed a few pints of Feral Hop Hog, another “Beer of the Trip” candidate, before moving on.

The Monk Brewery & Kitchen

Our second stop was The Monk Brewery & Kitchen. The four-year old brewpub has won a number of Australian International Beer Awards and it is also well known for its USA Craft Beer Week. We didn’t have far to walk as the Monk was literally across the street from Sail & Anchor. Merideth, Todd and I survived the short crossing and grabbed a table near the bar.

Sample paddle at the Monk Brewery & Kitchen

At Monk, there was the familiar Wheat, Kölsch, Pale Ale, Porter lineup that we had seen throughout our Australian travels. But to this they added the Rauch, a smoked beer. I have to say that I really wasn’t in the mood for a smoked beer, but it was well-crafted. The runaway star for me was The Chief, a 75 IBU American-style IPA brewed with Cascade and Citra. It tasted like home!

We were having a grand time at Monk until Todd mistakenly asked our Canadian waitress whether she was an American. It was clearly time to move on.

Little Creatueres

The longest leg of the day was a five minute walk to our final stop: Little Creatures. Walking across the Esplanade, we could hear a din of noise coming from the former cannery buildings that house the brewery and restaurant. Little Creatures was clearly the place to be.

Enjoying an afternoon at Little Creatures

Todd, Merideth and I waded through the thick crowd inside and made our way out to the back patio along the Inner Harbour. Somewhat to our surprise, the three of us easily found seats to enjoy a few pints in the sunshine.

One of the joys of beer travel is drinking beers only available at the source. So when Little Creatures didn’t have any beers available besides their regular lineup, I was admittedly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, Little Creatures regular beers are excellent. My beer of choice (all during our stay as we would go to Little Creatures every day during our time in Freo) was the Pilsner while Merideth favored the Bright Ale, an all Australian hopped brew.

Come for the beer, stay for the little pink cupcakes

One of the more charming aspects of the Australian beer scene was its family friendliness. This usually manifested itself with a small playground where the wee-ones could entertain themselves while mom and dad had a few beers.

While Todd, Merideth and I were enjoying our Little Creatures pints, we noticed a large number of rug rats scurrying about. Turns out, one of the wee-ones was having her birthday party. I’m not sure the birthday girl chose Little Creatures for her celebration but I got a little pink cupcake out of it, so it was fine with me.

Salt on the Beach lived up to its name

The following day, despite it being warmer, we embarked on a six mile round trip walk to visit the one outlying brewery we chose to skip on the previous day’s Urban Beer Hike. Our walk took Merideth and I through Fremantle to the less than scenic docks of its port. But just beyond the docks, we found our oasis, Salt on the Beach, home of Blacksalt Brewery.

Blacksalt Weisse

After the three mile walk in the searing heat we were quite parched. The house-brewed beer was a very welcome sight. There were two beers on, their Weisse and Vienna Lager. I drank the German-style Wheat and would have thought it quite good except for a odd tinge on the finish. Despite this, the beer was greatly appreciated.

Cooling off in the Indian Ocean

We had completed the task that we began the day before, but I couldn’t help thinking that we had somewhat missed out on a really fun Urban Beer Hike. Before heading back to Fremantle, we took a quick wade in the water to cool off before the scorching walk back.  Maybe next trip, we’ll have weather more suited for a beer hike.

View all the Fremantle images…

Gnomesville

We awoke to the rhythmic chirping of a small bird on our porch. The sky was overcast and the ground damp; a somewhat melancholy send off from an area we had definitely fallen in love with. We were eager to hit the road, though, since our day’s agenda included adding two new breweries and visiting a place like “gnome” other.

Moody Cow in the Ferguson Valley

An hour and a half after leaving Margaret River, we passed through the small town of Dardanup and out to the Ferguson Valley. We were out in the country now — complete with herds of livestock lounging in pastures of tall brown grass. It was the perfect location for a place called the Moody Cow Brewery.

Sample paddle at Moody Cow

We arrived at opening time and made our way out to a table on the top level of the terraced deck. Moody Cow offered a taster paddle with five beers, including their award winning Grunta’s Original Ale and Zest, a low alcohol (3.2%) lemon and lime lager. The beers were all quite refreshing and more remarkably, sessionable (The Black Dog Pils was the highest ABV at 4.9%). The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming, just like you’d expect from a country brewery.

A view a Gnomesville

We chatted with the owner/brewer,Grant McClintock, who offered us a local’s perspective of our next stop: Gnomesville. We had first been told about Gnomesville by Rusty Creighton, a beer lover living in Perth who provided us with valuable information throughout our time in Western Australia. Rusty told us that if we were going to Moody Cow, we had to make a stop at Gnomesville, which was not far away. We weren’t exactly sure what Gnomesville was, but Grant gave us the scoop. So here it is:

Angry about a roundabout

Further down Ferguson Valley Road a roundabout had been built. This was exceedingly absurd to the locals, as traffic on this country road hardly necessitated it. As a protest, someone placed a garden gnome on the grassy area in the center. Well, gnomes apparently multiply like rabbits and soon there were loads of them. So many, in fact, that they outgrew the roundabout center and had to be moved to the side of the road.

We laughed at this, but still had no idea of the magnitude and draw of this Ferguson Valley attraction. Grant’s wife and children had placed their own family of gnomes in Gnomesville, which were unfortunately washed away in a flood. Of course they had to replace them. His wife is apparently very into Gnomesville, as are many other locals and visitors alike.

Gnomesville Detention Center

Now our interest was truly piqued and passing on a visit to Gnomesville was no longer an option. We just had to see what had everyone so captivated. We bid Grant good-bye and headed down the road to find this magical place.

As we approached the roundabout, I excitedly looked around, worried that we might miss it. When I saw it, I started laughing because there was no way we could have missed it! All I can say is “Wow!” It was the most insanely hysterical sight I have ever seen. It was also a tad frightening, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Words to live by...

Chris and I saw a prime entrepreneurial opportunity in setting up a gnome gift shop, as surprisingly, there was none nearby. Not even someone selling them from the back of a pick-up truck. Otherwise we would have definitely paid an outrageous price for the privilege of placing our own gnome in the crowd. Chris did come up with the brilliant idea of establishing the Gnomesville Taphouse, the town’s first craft beer bar. Next time we visit, we’ll be better prepared. A big thanks goes out to Rusty for alerting us to this must-see attraction.

I seriously had difficulty tearing myself away from Gnomesville. I, too, had become enamored with the mystique that is Gnomesville. But the huge biting green flies were getting to be too much, so we decided to move on to our second brewery of the day: Old Coast Rd.

Old Coast Rd Brewery in Myalup

Driving down the deserted road off the highway, we missed the turn to the brewery. Chris and I realized our mistake (as we were getting further out into the bush) and eventually came upon the entrance. A spectacularly long driveway lined with olive trees led up to the large blue building sitting atop the hill. It had the standard open floor plan with a large deck, but we chose a table down on the lawn that spread out in front.

In addition to a cider, Old Coast Rd had three beers to try: a Wheat, Bitter, and Porter. Unfortunately they were out of their best selling beer, the Pils. They even had chilled beer towers, 4 or 2 ½ liters, so the beers could keep flowing at your table.

Enjoying a beer at Old Coast Rd

There was just the two of us, though, so we decided to pass. Of the three beers, the Wheat was our favorite. It had a wonderful banana nose and a nice cloudy golden color, a refreshing accompaniment to our snack of calamari and garlic bread.

Gnomesville was a hard act to follow but Old Coast Rd held its own. It was just what we needed before facing the big city: Perth.

 View all the Gnomesville images…

Completing Margaret River

Thanks to Augusta Margaret River Tourism for
the help and support on this portion of our trip.

During our first day in the Margaret River area, Merideth and I fell in love with its scenery, beer and food. We regretted having only one more day to experience the charm of the area. But, that is the life of the beer traveler. Western Australia had other regions to explore with more breweries to visit.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse at the end of the continent

We were on the road relatively early, heading south from Margaret River towards Augusta. Our first stop day of the day was Cape Leeuwin at the southwest corner of the Australian continent. Where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, Cape Leeuwin was often the first landfall for many European ships in the days of sail. Given its importance to seafaring, the main attraction of the cape was it’s lighthouse built in 1896.

But before our lighthouse tour, we decided to check out the two oceans a couple of hundred yards apart. Walking down to the Southern Ocean along a rock strewn trail, I must have stepped on a small snake. Merideth had to wait a minute or so for the writhing reptile to slither under a rock. Relating the story to our lighthouse tour guide later, he remarked that the snake was highly venomous. Oops!

The Indian and Southern oceans clash

As we climbed the 176 steps to the top, we learned the history and workings of the lighthouse, plus some of the local lore. At the top, we were treated to an amazing panoramic view of both oceans and the surrounding countryside. Several hundred yards offshore, we could even see where the two oceans met, a surge of whitewater marking waves from each ocean colliding. At least on this day, it looked like the Indian Ocean was winning.

Heading into the depths of Mammoth Cave

One of the hidden geographical features of the Margaret River region is several caves. Driving north back on the aptly named Caves Rd., we passed both Jewel and Lake Caves on the way to Mammoth Cave. We chose Mammoth as its self-guided tour fit better into our hectic schedule.

Discovered around 1850 but not mapped until 1895, Mammoth lived up to its name. Walking the 500 meter length, we passed through a number of massive chambers, all adorned with rock formations hanging from the ceiling or projecting from the cave floor. The most impressive of these was the Mammoth Shawl, with it’s red/orange ribbons.

Moo!

With our outdoor and underground activities done for the day, it was time our first beer stop of the day, Colonial Brewing back in Margaret River.

Colonial was another modern, open brewpub with a beery touch, including chandeliers made out of growlers. We set up shop outside in a shady spot with a gorgeous view of the surrounding countryside to sample the Colonial brews.

Sample paddle at Colonial

Colonial had five beers in their paddle. Merideth picked up the first beer and asked, “Which beer is this…?” Colonial’s big contribution to the beer world is that they have solved the age-old ‘which beer is this’ problem in a sample flight of beers. Each tasting glass was labeled with the beer style, plus there were short tasting notes on the back.

Lunch and beers with a view

Colonial’s lineup was solid from front, a Kölsch to back, a Porter. True to form, Merideth picked the delightful, clean Kölsch as her beer of the paddle. It was another hot and humid day in southwestern Australia and the brew lived up to its description as a refreshing summer beer.

Equally predictable as Merideth, I chose the India Pale Ale as my favorite. Hopped aggressively like I prefer, the IPA still had a lightish body that paired almost as well as the Kölsch with the weather. And the tasting notes also had my new favorite phrase, “forest floor of hops.” I’m going to start using it as soon as I figure out what it means.

Bootleg Brewery in Wilyabrup

After a short stop at Millers Ice Cream to sample some “Cow to Cone” goodness, we were headed back to Wilyabrup for our next brewery. Set on 74 acres next to a lake, Bootleg Brewery opened its doors in 1994. As one of the original craft breweries in Western Australia, Bootleg has won many awards for its brews.

The seven beer paddle at Bootleg

There were seven beers on Bootleg’s paddle and three were in contention for my ‘best of’ award. The Hefe was a wonderful banana bomb, quenching on the hot day. Settler’s Pale Ale was brewed in the American style with lots of citrusy hops. But in the end, the runaway winner was Wild Ginger Wheat. Kind of how I like my IPAs, the brew was aggressively ‘gingered.’ As the brewery says, “If you’re not a HOPHEAD… You’re a GINGER NUT!”

The incredible Duckstein Brewery

We had one more brewery to complete the Margaret River portion of our journey. Duckstein Brewery in Wilyabrup was the poshest of the posh breweries we visited on the whole trip. We have been to over 700 breweries now and Duckstein was the first with a reflecting pool complete with a heroic-looking horse statue. The only thing that deterred from the amazing setting was the low water level of the water feature.

Relaxing at Duckstein

Merideth and I had a great sense of satisfaction as we relaxed on the deck sampling Duckstein’s German-style beers. We had had a busy two-day schedule and were now at the last stop. Everything on our agenda had been completed.

Continuing the trend of excellent German-style beers on the trip, the Pils and Hefeweiss were both excellent. The nutty, roasty Dunkel, a first for us in Australia, was my favorite of this sample paddle. However, the highlight beer was an American-style IPA that we got to preview. Not released until the following day, Shannon, the brewer, was gracious enough to pour us a sample. What a wonderous hop bomb!

Leaving Duckstein, we were done with Margaret River. The next day, Merideth and I would head back north to Perth and new Western Australia beer adventures. We hope to get back to Margaret River sooner, rather than later.

View all the Margaret River images…