No one accuses us of wasting time on our trips. We use every minute possible to visit as many breweries as we can and drink as much beer as our bladders can handle. So before moving on to New Zealand, we took a few days in Sydney to get acclimated, celebrate a friend’s birthday, and add a few more Australian breweries to The List.
An early morning arrival in Sydney allowed for a full day of beer travel. After a quick shower at the home of our good friend Todd (from Beermen.TV), the three of us hit the road heading north. The first stop was Six String Brewing Co. in Erina, a town about an hour from Sydney on the New South Wales Central Coast.
Located behind a day care center and a gym, the brewery is non-descript from the outside. However, once you step through the door of the industrial building, you’re transported to a haven of sudsy goodness. Six String has been open for less than a year, but you would never know it. They had a strong line up of beers, including the usual suspects such as a Brown (a strong contender for our favorite) and a Saison, as well as their Pale Ale on cask and a session IPA.
Despite being in Australia, my top choice was the Hefeweizen. Light and refreshing, it was full of that true Hefe flavor. Six String also had a menu of tasty nibbles and I had a chance to snack on their tasty shrimp spring rolls.
Continuing up the coast with Todd at the wheel, me as navigator and Chris as the trusty passenger, our next stop was in the Hunter Valley, an area best known for their wine. Potters Hotel Brewery Resort, among several other things, is home to Hunter Beer Co.
The weather was a bit drippy and a few claps of thunder greeted us as we arrived, but we still opted to take our taster set (or “sample paddle” as they call them in Australia) outside to the large covered patio. We sampled 10 of their beers, which ranged from a 4.5% Kölsch to a 10% Belgian-style Ale. They also had a smoked Doppelbock and a black, Belgian-style IPA. By far the standout was the Ginger Beer. Big in Australia, ginger beers are usually quite spicy, something that comes from the use of real ginger. The one from Hunter Beer Co. was lightly spiced and refreshing with a reasonable ABV of 4.5%.
A short distance away, we moved on to the Lovedale Brewery, located on the ground floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel & Resort Hunter Valley. Newly opened, they had two beers for us to try: the Paddo Pale Ale and Glama Rama Summer Ale (remember, it’s summer down there). The beers were solid for such a new brewery and we all went for pints of the Glama with our lunch.
Our pizza and pork scratchings hit the spot and with our table’s view of the large pool, the atmosphere was fun. With Todd’s connections, we peeked into the brewery and chatted briefly with the brewer. Look for good things to come in the future, including a distillery and cider.
Having made it all the way to Port Macquarie the night before, we enjoyed a bit of brekkie and a walk at the water’s edge before visiting Port Macquarie’s two breweries.
We reached Black Duck right before the cellar door opened, but owner/brewer Al was nice enough to let us in early, so we could get our beer day started. This, of course, was after being greeted by a very friendly, but rather large Great Dane in the parking lot. We tried 8 beers, including an Australian Pale Ale, ESB, Golden, and an Irish Red Ale. Without a doubt, our favorite was the Dark Ale, an easy drinking 4% beer full of chocolate notes. Black Duck sells full pints and even has a Ploughman’s Platter, but it was 10am and we had a long day ahead.
The other Port Macquarie brewery, The Little Brewing Company, is more of a veteran in the New South Wales beer scene. The brewery opened in 2007 and co-owner Kylie Little shared her seasoned views of the Australian beer scene and the local politics of opening a brewery while we sipped a few of their beers.
Four beers were available for tasting, including a Pale Ale, Pilsner, Porter, and Wit. While all were good, we especially liked the Pale Ale and Pilsner. They also have a line of Belgian-style beers (Dubbel, Tripel, and a Christmas ale), but we didn’t have an opportunity to try those. Despite their big reputation and excellent beers, the cellar door does not sell full pints, so our stop was a fairly quick one.
Our last stop before home was Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. in Bobs Farm. (Yep, that’s the name of the town!) While the property was somewhat farm-like, much to our disappointment we did not meet any Bobs. The brewery is set on 35 acres and shares a home with Port Stephens Winery. Be forewarned, the spot has become a destination for tour buses. They have a large café/tasting room (for both the wine and beer)/gift shop and it is all best enjoyed without a crowd of milling tourists unsure of why they’re there.
We lucked out and were able to try several beers and order lunch before the first bus arrived. The woman who helped us was friendly and patient as we tasted several samples from their wide offering. I enjoyed the Rude Boy Pilsner with my tasty German-style sausages while Chris drank the Angry Man Pale Ale with his salt and pepper squid. As we were leaving, two more tour buses pulled up…
That night we celebrated Todd’s birthday at Flat Rock Café. A fun and, judging by the crowd, a local’s favorite, Flat Rock almost missed getting added to The List.
They had one of their beers hooked up on cask, but the manager had decided not to serve it because it did not meet his standards. Todd saved the day by asking if we could taste it anyway. The beer tasted fine, just very green. While they had a nice selection of yummy tapas and a solid list of Australian craft beer, I would love to go back and taste their beer for real.
The next day we had a few hours to sight-see and check out one last Australian brewery before leaving for our Big New Zealand Adventure. Located a short ferry ride away from Sydney in Manly, we had high expectations for 4 Pines Brewing Co. A friend in California was extremely insistent that we make the time to go there and we were so glad we took his advice!
Four Pines lived up to every bit of the hype! This brewery/restaurant overlooks the ferry harbor and the outside deck was great for people watching. They had a large selection of beers and there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. With a large sample paddle, we had time for one quick pint, a Kölsch for me and Pale Ale for Chris.
And thus concluded the first leg of our trip. (Thanks to Todd for all that driving!) A brand new adventure awaited us…