It was time to leave Melbourne for our trek up the Princes Highway back to Sydney. The Princes Highway winds its way along the coast and we were taking five days to traverse its length. While we had a brewery visit on Day 1 and Day 5 of this drive, there was nothing in between. Despite this being the hiking and nature portion of the trip, we were positive we would find more craft beer along the journey.
Exiting the the Princes Highway on our way to Mirboo North, we were treated to a bit of Australian ‘history’. Driving down a country road, we came across the sign that said “Site of World’s Tallest Tree 1km”. My skeptic alarm rang; there were a lot of trees around but nothing that looked like the ‘world’s tallest’. I made the left turn. Finding the site, there was no tree; only two markers and a not-so-tall metal poll with ‘the world’s tallest tree’ at the top. Turns out the tree was cut down in 1884. Once down, it was measured at 375 feet (114 meters). Clearly no “Dog on a Tucker Box”, we hopped back in our car and continued our journey to Mirboo North.
Mirboo North was the home of Grand Ridge Brewery. Once in town, Merideth spotted the big beer that marks its location. It was a bit past 11am, Grand Ridge’s opening time.
Walking in the open door, the only person I could see was the cleaning guy. Shutting off his vacuum when he spotted me, I inquired whether they were open. He said he didn’t know but he thought we could come in. Grabbing Merideth, who was waiting the car, we found some seats at the bar.
There must be a lot of burlwood in region (maybe the locals are still making stuff out of the world’s tallest tree). While we waited for a bartender, we checked out the burlwood bar stools and tables. The stools were really cool, though not very functional. My stool was not made for my butt size and on several occasions, I overshot the landing.
When a bartender appeared, we ordered a sample paddle. Grand Ridge’s paddle was a six beer set. All were well crafted, with the standouts being Gippsland Gold and Yarra Valley Gold. “Gippy” was a Australian Pale brewed with both Tasmanian and New Zealand hops. Yarra Valley gold was billed as a ‘bottle aged real ale’ though our sample was draft. Brewed with Cascade hops, Yarra Valley, like Gippy, had a nice balance of malt and hops.
Two beers we didn’t get to try were both Scotch Ales; Moonshine and it’s grandfather Supershine. Supershine, maybe Australia’s strongest beer at 11.5% ABV, has a two year waiting list we were told.
After lunch at Grand Ridge, we moved on, entering an Aussie craft beer void. For the next three days on the road, we kept our eyes peeled for a craft beer place. I never really expected to find a brewery but running across “Aussie Bob’s Craft Beer Bar” (and exclaiming “Crikey!”) was something I did anticipate at some point. It didn’t happen. We would later learn that Mogo Cellars, an off license in Mogo, NSW, has a good selection of Australian craft beer.
But the scenery of the coast was ample compensation. Spending our days hiking hills and walking beaches, and our evenings drinking our stash of Australian craft beer was the stuff dream vacations are made off. Of particular note were our hikes at Wilson’s Prom, Cape Conran and Genoa Peak and our beach walks at Pebbly Beach and Jervis Bay.
I also found some time to do some “research.” Wanting to know the complete world of the Australian beer drinker, I thought it was important to try some of the macrobrews. Earlier on the trip in Canberra, I drank Victoria Bitter (VB). At dinner on the second night in the void, I tried a bottle of XXXX Bitter and Toohey’s Old. And the night we lawn bowled (which is HUGE in Australia; each town has its own club), we each had a pot of Carlton Draught. In doing this, I learned to appreciate Australian craft beer that much more.
We survived our exile and on the fifth day we returned to a world with craft beer.