After a good nights rest, we were back on the Brewery Trail the next morning. Our plan was to visit the two northernmost breweries on trail before coming back to Beechworth for a hike.
But before we sampled some beer, we had the one more piece of Hume Highway kitsch to see, the giant Ned Kelly in Glenrowan.
Now, Ned Kelly is not kitsch. He was a real person. To the authorities, he was a bandit, thief, outlaw and murderer. To the local population, he was a hero; a sort of Robin Hood protecting them from oppressive Colonial rule. He was captured in June 188o during a gun battle in Glenrowan, famously wearing body armor which included a helmet. He would be executed later that year in Melbourne Gaol. [If you want to read more about Ned Kelly, his definitive biography is Ned Kelly: A Short Life by Ian Jones]
The kitschy part of the story is the Ned Kelly industry that has sprung up. Besides the giant Ned Kelly that dominates the town, the store/museum was full of Ned Kelly trinkets to buy; T-shirts, plush toys, a metal helmet mailbox, statues… too many things to name. There was even a Ned Kelly stubby holder (koozy) that said “Ned Kelly says drink a beer”. You couldn’t help chuckling at all the stuff.
With our niece and nephew Christmas shopping done, it was time to get back to the Brewery Trail. Driving down the country roads on our way to Buffalo Brewery in Boorhaman, we couldn’t help feel that we were going back in time. While not that far from the highway, the sparseness of countryside harked back to an earlier era. Located at the Boorhaman Hotel, Buffalo Brewery brewed its first beer in 1902. After a long dormant period, brewing resumed in the 1990s.
Buffalo Brewery even has a connection to Ned Kelly. Their label is a portrait of Lily Arabella Cherry, purported mistress of Kelly gang member, Steve Hart.
The first customers of the day, we enjoyed our samples out in beer garden. We tried five brews. The Wheat, Lager, Stout, and Dark Ale were all nice beers. But the star of the show was a Ginger Ale. I am a huge fan of real Ginger Ale (not Schweppes) and am always excited to try alcohol versions. Buffalo Brewery’s Ginger Ale is the closest thing to the soda version that I have ever tasted. It was excellent!
Six pack of Ginger Ale in hand, it was time to move on to the next brewery.
Rutherglen is a well known Australian wine producing town and on its outskirts is Vintara Winery. Visible from the road, their winery, restaurant and tasting room sits majestically on a hilltop. The building also houses Bintara Brewery. Coinciding our arrival with what seemed to be a work holiday party enjoying the Vintara wine, we pondered the consequences world’s colliding. Beer meets wine in a no holds barred showdown.
Being lowly beer people, we grabbed the furthest table from the holiday party to sample of our beer. Actually, I think it was the only other table outside. Joined by the ever present flies, we settled down for some lunch and beer.
There were two beers to try, the required Wheat and a Pale Ale. [Before I comment on the beer, I just want to say that some of my best friends are winemakers.] The brews were of the ‘don’t offend anyone’ school. There was nothing wrong with beer, it just didn’t do anything for either of us. However, the beer proves our point of context. On a nice, warm December afternoon as part of a holiday party or gathered with friends, either beer would have been a perfect sipper.
After completing our lunch, it was time to head back to Beechworth for our hike and post hike beer at Bridge Road. It was a memorable two days on the Brewery Trail.
Postscript: We would visit one more ‘brewery’ on the trail the following day, Boyton’s. Another winery, I don’t go in depth about Boyton’s as they don’t brew on site at the present time (thus, they don’t count on “the List”). They have plans for a brewery in the future and we look forward to visiting again when the onsite brewery is established. We missed only one brewery on the trail, Jamieson. Their remote location didn’t fit into our schedule.