Quick Australia Visit

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.

Getting the trip off to a good start….

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.

Chris was happy to be the cameraman

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%.

Lovedale Brewery

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.

Little Brewing Company

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.

Reminds us someone we know…

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.

There were more than four pines…

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…

View all the images from our quick stop in Australia

New beergeek.TV Episode – Craft Beer Down Under, The Journey to Sydney

Drinking an Australian brew

“Craft Beer Down Under: The Journey to Sydney” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

Merideth turned 40 in December and she didn’t really embrace the milestone. Instead of making our normal holiday pilgrimage to Europe, we decided a trip to Australia was what Merideth needed to cure the turning 40 blues. This trip marked our first beer adventure outside of North America or Europe.

In two weeks of beer travel, we journeyed from Sydney to Melbourne and then back.

So enjoy the second part of our beer adventure in Australia…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.

Sydney Walking Brew Tour

The eve of Christmas Eve was the last serious day of beer travel on our Australian trip. We had three breweries to visit and then we were done. Almost as important, we had been putting off Christmas shopping (“Let’s just do it in Sydney…”) so we still had a number of Christmas presents to purchase. We hadn’t seen much of Sydney besides Circular Quay plus what we saw outside the taxi window. Thus, we decided a walking tour was in order.

Why don’t we just get everyone chocolate?

The starting point of our day-long walk was our hotel, the Lord Nelson. Unfortunately, we left before the pub opened so we couldn’t fortify ourselves with a few pints of liquid bread. Crossing over to George St., we headed up towards the city center. Merideth popped in and out of a few stores while I dreamt about that first beer of the day. At Market St., we took a left and headed towards Hyde Park.

For those who started the walking tour with a few refreshments at the Lordie and now need to pee, there are plenty of pay toilets in Hyde Park. The cost is 50 cents.

Prince Albert hanging out in front of Hyde Park Barracks

To prove we are not complete beer heathens, I did plan our route to the first brewery so we could visit a couple of normal tourist spots. First stop was Hyde Park Barracks on the northern end of Hyde Park. The building was designed by Francis Greenway, the same gentleman who designed the complex that houses the Goulburn Brewery we visited on our second day of the trip [see “CanBEERa“]. Today, this 1819 building houses an excellent museum documenting the convict/transportation era of Australia’s history.

The interior chamber of the ANZAC Memorial

Walking to the southern end of Hyde Park brought us to the ANZAC Memorial. Built in 1934, the memorial is dedicated to the 120,000 men and women who served in the Australian New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in the First World War. War memorials and cemeteries are one of the my favorite things to visit when traveling. With a degree in History, I find such monuments not only interesting but also powerful and moving. And I have to say, the ANZAC memorial was all three.

Strolling out the end of Hyde Park, the educational portion of the walk was over. And only blocks away was our first brewery of the day.

The selection from Schwartz Brewery

Located in the Macquarie Hotel, we only learned about the Schwartz Brewery from the beermen.tv guys the night before. Somewhat an embarrassing revelation for the master planner (There is a brewery in Sydney I don’t know about?), I guess Schwartz Brewery likes to fly under the radar.

The samples were conveniently packaged

There were five beers to try at Macquarie Hotel including  a never heard of before Bavarian Red Lager. It was an interesting beer. But my highlight at Schwartz was the Pale Ale, made with cascade hops. Maybe I was entering the ‘ready to go home’ phase of the trip, but what reminds a California beer geek of home more than cascade hops?

We were pleased to see the Red Oak in the Christmas spirit

Walking back towards George St., we were at Red Oak Boutique Beer Cafe, our second brewery of the day, in 20 minutes. As always, Merideth found us a seat outside, while I went inside to get our sample tray. But, there was a hitch in the plan, the brewer at Red Oak doesn’t believe in sample trays. Hmmmm… interesting… For beer travelers, this was somewhat unwelcome news as Red Oak had almost a dozen beers on draft. Perplexed, I ordered a Hefeweizen for myself and a Honey Ale for Merideth.

The dessert beer pairing board

In place of a sample tray, Red Oak did have food and beer Tasting Boards. Costing 20 AUD, there were five to choose from: cheese, meat, vegetarian, seafood and dessert. Each board had a nibble of food paired with a beer. Merideth first ordered the cheese and followed it with the dessert. The dessert board was delicious. A nice concept but with one slight flaw; there were overlapping beers on the boards that Merideth ordered.

Red Oak was another brewery with a holiday beer. Christmas Cheer, available in 250ml bottles, had a light body perfect for summer combined with a nice amount of holiday spice. Well done.

We were relieved to see that James Squire brews on site

A short walk from Red Oak had us at the bustling King Street Wharf. James Squire Brewhouse is a chain of brewpubs with locations in Sydney and Melbourne. I had received conflicting information whether they actually brewed at each location or the beer came from their production brewery.

As everyone knows by heart now, for it to count on “the List” the beer must be brewed on-site. So, it was with a great sense of relief that when we walked into the pub, we not only saw a brewer at work but also a list of the beers that were brewed there.

Merideth at James Squire Brewhouse

Ordering two of the on-site brews, Sundown Lager for Merideth and The Craic for myself, we joined the post work crowd on the patio who were just starting to get their holiday groove on. The Craic, an Irish Stout, was a really nice version of the style. Dry and roasty, the best part was the Craic wasn’t served on nitrogen.

Celebrating the end of a great beer tour with Nelson’s Blood

We returned to a very crowded Lord Nelson pub. As Christmas Eve is a time to spend with family, it looked like Christmas Eve2 was the evening everyone was going to gather with friends at their favorite pub and celebrate. The Lordie appeared to be the pub of choice for many Sydney-ites. We joined the festive crowd.

It was time to rest on our laurels, relax over a few pints, and play some scrabble. We didn’t get much shopping done on Christmas Eve Eve, but we did visit three new breweries and see some cool Australian history. On Christmas Eve, we finished up our shopping and drank at the Lordie. We deserved a break after all the miles we drove and breweries we visited on our first ever trip to Australia. Christmas Day we jumped on a plane and arrived home in time to spend our second Christmas Day with the family.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Christmas Day in Sydney

Sydney and the Beermen

Our fifth day’s drive on the Princes Highway brought us back to Sydney for the final portion of our Australian adventure. We enjoyed our time along the coast but, as they say, all good things must come to an end. We also needed to get back to Sydney to record the holiday episode of beermen.tv.

The view from Five Islands Brewing Company

After a four day drought, we had a brewery to visit in the city of Wollongong, about an hour and a half south of Sydney. Wollongong is the third largest city in New South Wales. After four days of driving on the almost deserted Princes Highway, the busy streets of Wollongong were a bit nerve wracking. After one or two wrong turns, we found Five Islands Brewing Company down by the ocean.

The brew samples at FIBC

Another gorgeous day in Australia, Merideth found a seat outside while I ordered a sample tray of beers. Of the six brews, we had a first for the trip: a fruit beer. Not my style, I have to admit South Peach was subtly flavored, something not all brewers manage.

The Parkyn’s Shark Oil was a nice effort at an American-style IPA but the star for me was Bulli Black. FIBC describes it as a Dark Ale, but the roasty and chocolate flavors reminded me of a Stout. A favorite dark beer of the trip…

No time to savor the beers or walk the beach, we were quickly back on the road continuing our journey to Sydney.

The Lord Nelson, Sydney’s oldest hotel

While no relation to it’s namesake, I proudly share my surname with the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel in Sydney. Conveniently located in the Rocks, the Lordie is one of mankind’s great inventions, the brewery-hotel. It would be our home for the final three nights of out trip. After embarrassingly dragging our three big bags through the crowded pub in search of the reception desk, we returned after checking in to grab a couple pints to bring up to our room.

Merideth enjoying a pint at the Lordie

After checking email and getting settled, we still had a couple of hours before we had to head down to Circular Quay for our beermen.tv gig. Finishing our first pints, we headed downstairs to the pub, grabbed another pint and a seat outside.

The Lordie was very British, being the first place since Wig and Pen in Canberra to serve their beer in imperial pints. Unlike Wig and Pen, Lord Nelson had no cask versions. Their beers were served on draught from the frost encrusted tap housing typical of Australia. Despite no cask, I think I liked Lord Nelson’s brews better than Wig and Pen. Maybe it was the name.


The names of the beers all referred to Lord Nelson or a nautical theme. The exception was Quayle Ale, their Summer Ale, named after former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle. Before we headed down the Circular Quay, we managed to try three of the six brews: the aforementioned Quayle Ale, Trafalgar Pale Ale, an English Bitter, and Victory Bitter, an Extra Special Bitter. All were nice beers especially for the hot and humid summer weather.

Merideth at Ice Bar Sydney

We recorded the beermen.tv episode at the Ice Bar Sydney, a short walk from the Lord Nelson. It was somewhat strange to leave the 85 degree temperature outside and enter a world that was 23 degrees; especially while wearing shirts and a t-shirt. I’ll admit I wore a parka during the setup but only wore gloves during filming.

We were in an Ice Bar because the episode was about holiday beers. Since it was summer in Australia, holiday beers were few and far between. We happily provided three California examples: Anchor Christmas, Sierra Nevada Celebration and Alesmith Yulesmith. Watch the episode at beermen.tv.

It does exist in Australia… at a touristy Chinese restaurant

After filming the episode, we walked up Circular Quay towards the Opera House to a Chinese restaurant where the beermen.tv guys (they do have names… Damien, Mark and Todd) treated us to dinner. Thanks guys!

The choice was fortuitous as the restaurant had Foster’s in the bottle. We didn’t expect to find Foster’s in Australia but I guess you need to go to a Chinese restaurant that caters to tourists. Still on my macrobrew research project, I dutifully ordered one. I’ll say of the macrobrews I tried, Foster’s was the best.

After dinner, it was back to the Lordie for a nightcap. What a day!

Mark and Todd of beermen.tv

Our First Day Down Under

Merideth turned 40 this week and she is not really embracing the milestone. Instead of making our normal holiday pilgrimage to Europe, I decided a trip to Australia was what Merideth needed to cure the turning 40 blues. This would be our first beer adventure outside of North America or Europe.

The onset of winter in California, chilly temperatures and a forecast for lots of rain, made perfect timing for our journey to Australia. On landing in Sydney in the morning after a 14.5 hour flight, we were told the temperature was a pleasant 71 degrees. Nice…

After finally getting our bags and clearing quarantine, we were quickly in our rental car headed to our first destination, Paddy’s Brewery. Located in the Sydney suburb of Flemington, Paddy’s was also where we were staying on our first night. We somewhat easily found it, with only one wrong turn that was quickly corrected.

The brewery and awards at Paddys
The brewery and awards at Paddy’s

While I think I got plenty of sleep on the flight, my tired mind wasn’t quite prepared for Paddy’s. Entering the somewhat sleek reception area full of gaming machines, we waited as a gentleman cashed in on what looked liked a several hundred dollar jackpot. Merideth and I looked at each other asking with our eyes, “Are we in the right place?” After checking in, the manager offered to show us around. Walking to the back of the building, there was a much more familiar setting; the brewery and pub. Seeing the brewing equipment was a relief, we were in the right place.

Enjoying a Paddys Pale Ale
Enjoying a Paddy’s Pale Ale

After a quick shower, we settled into their beer garden to have a few beers, check email and wait for our friends Ute and Wolfie to arrive. Bellying up to the bar to order a few pints, I get the second surprise of  the day; a pretty, young, blond waitress in bra, panties and high heels (all black) standing next to me. She ordered a couple of beers from the bartender, placed them on her tray and sauntered back to her customers. This could be a whole new spin on beer travel! Pints in hand, I practically ran back to Merideth to tell her the good news. She wasn’t impressed.

Later, I would learn that this was a feature of a particular type of bar in Australia… unfortunately something that is not commonplace for brewpubs. And no, I didn’t take a picture. Not that I didn’t want to, I just didn’t know if that was something one did in Australia. I didn’t really want to have to explain on the One Pint at a Time episode why I had a black eye.

As for the beers, they were solid. Year in and year out, Paddy’s consistently wins Australian International Beer Awards so they must be doing something right. We tried the Pilsner, Pale Ale, India Pale Ale and Chocolate Porter and were pleased with our first introduction to Australian brew.

Merideth and Sydneys most famous landmark
Merideth and Sydney’s most famous landmark

After catching up with Ute and Wolfie, we parted ways to meet up later. We had a few hours to kill so we caught the train into Sydney to play normal tourist. Getting off at Circular Quay, we had no real plan so we started to wander around The Rocks, the original part of Sydney.

Our first impressions were of a young and hip city that, on a Friday afternoon, takes off early from work to hit the pubs. As we wandered the streets of the Rocks, the bars were already packed full of the twenty-somethings starting the weekend. Our last three days of the trip are back in Sydney so I am sure we will much more to say about Australia’s most well known city.

Drink beer... Good idea...
Drink beer… Good idea…

It was time to meet our first Australian contact. Taking a cab across the city to the Darlinghurst neighborhood, we were scheduled to meet Todd from beermen.tv at one of Sydney’s craft beer hot spots, the Local Taphouse. I was excited to meet Todd, not only because he was a local contact, but also so that I could unload the 9 bottles of craft brew from the States that I had been lugging around Sydney.

With locations in both Sydney and Melbourne, the Local is a pioneer in serving craft beer. Quite a different scene from Paddy’s, the Local was full of the same hip, young crowd we saw downtown. Over a few Aussie beers, we talked with Todd about the Aussie beer scene and planned for our appearance on their holiday beer episode when we returned to Sydney.

The beer list
The beer list

If we were pleased by our earlier experience at Paddy’s, we were delighted by the beers we tried at the Local. My first beer was Alpha Pale Ale from Matilda Bay Brewing. A West Coast (USA) inspired hoppy brew, it could easily stand alongside its American counterparts. Same with Feral Brewing’s Hop Hog, an American-style IPA and Little Creatures Pale Ale.  Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be visiting any of these breweries as all are on the other side of the continent.

We took our leave of Todd to meet back up with Ute and Wolfie at the Lansdowne Hotel. We were supposed to see a punk band, the Rumjacks, but Merideth quickly faded after one beer and a bad opening act. Not knowing what really to expect, We certainly had an interesting first day in Australia.

Cold Aussie macro lager.... yum yum
Cold Aussie macro lager…. yum yum