Port Phillip Bay Beer Loop – Part 1

While most of this trip is in Western Australia, we began our beer travels exploring breweries in the greater Melbourne area. Over three days, Merideth and I made a giant loop around Port Phillip Bay. Beginning our journey at Melbourne airport after a 15 hour flight from Los Angeles, we drove east for our first stop of the day.

Hargreaves Hill Restaurant in Yarra Glen

Hargreaves Hill Brewery, located in the quaint town of Yarra Glen, wasn’t  a typical first stop of a big trip. It didn’t count on The List, failing the brewed on premise requirement. Despite this, I wanted to visit Hargreaves Hill Brewery because I had heard good things about their food and beer.

Somewhat jet-lagged and tired, Merideth and I managed to sit down at an outside table and get a sample paddle, as they are called Down Under, ordered. It was nice to finally relax and soak in some of the summer sun after a long journey.

Pork belly and beer at Hargreaves Hill Brewery

There were six beers in Hargreaves Hill’s lineup, ranging from a Pilsner to a Stout. Given that it is summer in Australia, both Merideth and I gravitated towards the light end of the spectrum. The Hefeweizen was wonderfully refreshing with a delicate amount of banana and clove. The Pilsner was clean and crisp, with a pronounced hop bite.

Normally, I try to order a different menu item than Merideth. But neither of us were going to pass on the succulent Pork Belly on a bed of parsnip and apple mash. It was absolute heaven on a plate. Despite not counting on the List, Hargreaves Hill was a incredible beginning to our second Australian adventure.

Beautiful Victoria

Backtracking west, we drove through the rolling hills of the Victoria’s countryside. As I kept my eye on the road, Merideth intently scanned the fields for kangaroos and the trees for cockatoos and other birds. Occasionally, she would point things out to me, an activity that kept us both alert and awake. In a little over an  hour, we arrived at our final destination of our first day, Woodend.

Merideth in Woodend

Woodend was a typical Australian small town with one main street that was home to all the shops and businesses. Holgate Brewhouse, a brewpub and hotel, was located right in the middle of the main drag. It seemed like an eternity since we had left our house, so it was nice to finally not be on the move.

Holgate Brewhouse

Dating from early last century, the pub, with it’s warm and cozy feel, just exuded charm. Merideth and I settled in at the bar, joining a group of locals having an afternoon pint.

There were eight beers in the sample, including a Saison from Bridge Road in Beechworth. Merideth really liked the White Ale, a Belgian-style Wit and Temptress, a chocolate Porter. For being only 6% ABV, Temptress had a boozy nose, though, thankfully, not taste. It was really smooth and chocolatey.

The beers at Holgate

My two standouts were Road Trip, their interpretation of an American-style IPA, and the ESB, which they had on cask. Road Trip, made with Chinook, Centennial and Cascade hops, was more well-balanced, not from the hop assault school. I was just disappointed that they weren’t pushing it through their Randall.

After dinner, a few more pints and a game of Scrabble, Merideth and I decided we had stayed up long enough. We retired to our room upstairs for a well-deserved night of sleep.

View all the images from Yarra Glen and Woodend

What is a prickly moses?

We were up early on Saturday morning as we had a three hour drive to our first stop of the day. Heading south from Woodend in sporadic rain showers, we reached Geelong in a few hours then headed west. Despite the early departure and long drive, we arrived at Otway Estate Winery and Brewery in Barongarook somewhat bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

We were the first customers of the day, the only other activity was the setting up of a wedding in their function room. I think the staff person was a bit surprised by the fact that Merideth and I drove three hours to taste beer before 11am. But kudos to her for scrounging us up some breakfast.

Breakfast of champions
Raconteur IPA

We sampled eight beers, all of which were well-crafted, in two sets of four. The Pilsner and Wheat Beer, a Wit, were both delicious. The Blueberry Hefeweizen was deftly flavored, with a dry fruit character. The Summer Ale, Merideth’s favorite, was a really pleasant, light-bodied Golden Ale that made us wish it was more like summer outside. (The skies had cleared but the temp was still only in the 60s).

The beer I was there to try was Raconteur IPA, a creation of Hendo’s, one of the Otway brewers whom we know {Hendo has since moved on from Otway]. Raconteur, also made with Chinook, Centennial and Cascade hops, was much more an aggressive beer than the Road Trip of the previous day. Much more my type of IPA, Ranconteur could stand up next to any of the hop bombs I drink at home.

Things don't look so good for a ferry crossing...

From Otway, we drove back east towards Port Phillip Bay and the ferry crossing at Queenscliff. As we arrived at the ferry terminal, the wind began howling and the skies opened up with a deluge of rain. I immediately started thinking about our last ferry crossing in rough weather.

A pleasant ferry crossing

In the spring of 2009, Merideth and I took the ferry from Wales to Ireland and things didn’t go so well for me. As we sat in the car waiting to drive on, Merideth tried to calm my nerves, assuring me that it was only a short trip. Luckily, the storm quickly passed over and the ferry ride to Sorrento was quite pleasant. Thus began the Mornington Peninsula portion of our Port Phillip Bay Beer Loop.

View all the Otway, Queenscliff and Ferry Ride images