On our first trip to Australia, we made a day trip down to the Mornington Peninsula from Melbourne. Long the playground for Melburnians, we loved Mornington’s laid back atmosphere and rural charm. We barely scratched the surface of the area’s offerings during the first trip, so this time we made a point of staying over the weekend.
Disembarking from the ferry at Sorrento, we headed up the Peninsula along a coastal road. Despite the sporadic showers, the beaches were crowded with weekenders insisting on a day playing in the sand.
Hickinbotham of Dromana was our second winery/brewery combo stop of the day. Pulling into their parking field, Merideth and I were taken aback by the number of cars. We joked about drinking the Hix beers, as they’re called, amongst hordes of heathen wine snobs.
Unlike other winery/brewery locations we have been to, Hix had a rustic feel to it. Grabbing the only two available seats at their tiny bar, we were relieved to see others around us drinking beer. Merideth and I ordered one of their five beer sample paddles.
It didn’t take us long to notice that we had placed ourselves between two hen parties. The one in the barrel room to our left all wore crazy wigs. The other, outside on the patio, wasn’t dressed as crazy but they certainly seemed more tipsy. We couldn’t figure out whether the guy in the lederhosen was a male stripper or just out for a Saturday afternoon at a winery. We decided this could be the most interesting stop of the day.
Hix burst on the Aussie beer scene last year by winning a gold medal for their Pale Ale the first time they entered the Australian International Beer Awards. There were four standard brews in the Hix lineup, Pilsner, Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Stout. Augmenting these four was a light-bodied Summer Ale. The two standouts for me were the Pilsner and award-winning Pale Ale.
Thankfully, the dude in the lederhosen never took off his clothes.
After checking into our hotel in the town of Mornington, we walked to our final stop of the day, Mornington Peninsula Brewery. After two straight winery/brewery stops, Mornington was much more familiar setting to us — an industrial space.
We walked into the beer garden already filled with locals out on a Saturday night. Inside large roll up doors, there was a spacious tasting room and bar. Above the brew kit was a loft with a few tables and some comfy sofas. Since a birthday party dominated the few inside tables, Merideth and I set up shop in the beer garden. (Until it started raining, then we moved to the loft)
There were four beers on the sample paddle: a Belgian-style Wit, Aussie Ale, a brew made with all Australian ingredients, Pale Ale and Brown. The Brown Ale, with a delightful roast and nuttiness, might have been the best beer of the sample paddle.
While we played a game of Scrabble, Merideth enjoyed the Wit poured through their randall filled with oranges. I went with the Double IPA, a beer not served with the paddle. I haven’t had too many Australia DIPAs but Mornington’s was the best so far.
One of the draws to coming back to the Mornington Peninsula was to seek out its natural beauty. Sunday morning, we drove to the end of the Peninsula, exploring Mornington Peninsula National Park. Beginning at Cape Schanck, we walked the rocky beaches around its lighthouse. As we climbed over rocks and gazed into tide pools, we listened intently for the bark of the Fairy Penguins. No barking sounds, all we could hear was the crash of the waves and the howling of the wind. The scenery was nothing sort of spectacular.
After the beach, we moved inland searching for the elusive Koala. Instead, we found a kangaroo viewing track. Reaching the end of the trail, we could see the mob about 100 yards away in a clearing of the low brush. As we looked at this group, we started noticing heads popping up in the brush much closer to us. The kangaroos didn’t look especially happy about our presence, but we never felt threatened. We slowly withdrew from the area, wondering about what the defensive maneuver was for a kangaroo attack.
There is something special about Red Hill Brewery, the only repeat stop from our first trip to Australia. It’s rural setting, relaxing patio dining, great beer and food drew us back for a second visit. Arriving early afternoon, it was a perfect stop for lunch after a morning of hiking.
Being familiar with their brews, Merideth and I stuck with with their Golden Ale and Wheat Beer, probably my favorite example of a Bavarian-style Hefeweizen Down Under. The beer is fantastic, but we also knew that the food was top notch.
We started with the Stoemp Cakes (deep-fried mashed potato balls) and Pork Scratchings. The chicarrones were excellent. They had the crispiness of corn chips rather than the melt-in-your-mouth type that we have had before. While Merideth went with the Pork Belly for her main course, I chose the local Mussels in a Beer Broth. The mussels were wonderfully briny, but I think the best part of my meal was dipping the peasant grain bread in the broth. We finished the incredible meal by sharing some Panna Cotta.
It was a great second visit to Red Hill Brewery, capping off a wonderful day on the Mornington Peninsula. Thanks to Karen for taking time to chat with us… and thanks for the beers!