“Oz Beer Adventure, Part III” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.
In the last part of our two week Australian beer adventure, we explore the beer scenes around Perth, Fremantle and the Swan Valley. Along the way, we visit a sprawling gnome village, embark on an Urban Beer Hike in Fremantle, seek out koalas and both reach the 700 brewery milestone.
So enjoy the final installment of our latest beer adventures in Australia…
For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.
“Oz Beer Adventure, Part II” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.
In the second part of our two week Australian beer adventure, we visit the world-famous Margaret River wine region in Western Australia to explore its vibrant beer scene. In our short time there, we found more to love than just great beer.
So enjoy the second installment of our latest beer adventures in Australia…
For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.
Merideth and I found it hard to believe that we had reached the end of our second Australian beer adventure. We had only one more day in Western Australia before returning to Melbourne and our flight back to California. We were feeling a bit blue because we had such a great time on this trip. Luckily, we had a few more breweries to visit to help that end of trip melancholy.
For our final leg of our two week journey, we based ourselves in the market town of Guilford, east of Perth. Only a few miles from Perth Airport, Guilford was also our gateway to another one of Australia’s well-known wine regions, the Swan Valley.
From Guilford, it was a short ten minute drive to Henley Brook. As we are apt to do, Merideth and I indulged ourselves in our tendency to be Germanophiles at our first stop of the day. Elmar’s in the Valley, not only offered us German-style beer, but also a menu of imported German food delights to match.
While we tried the brews on our sample paddle, we checked out the brewing kit. After visiting over 700 breweries, it’s somewhat hard to fathom that Merideth and I had a “first” at Elmar’s — a glass brew kettle, the likes of which we had never seen before. The largest of the kind in the Southern Hemisphere, the glass “enhance(s) the flavours and purity of the beers.” Maybe the most beautiful piece of brewing equipment we have ever seen, unfortunately, we didn’t get to watch it in action.
There were four beers on the paddle including another first of the trip, an excellent Bock beer. However, Merideth and I kept the form we had all trip. Merideth really liked the Ein Stein Pilsener, while my star of the paddle was Kick Back Weizen.
The imported German sausages were very tasty, too. Merideth went with the regular Bratwurst while I had the smoked version. It seems silly to travel all the way to Australia to eat German food. But I guess that’s what it means to be a Germanophile.
Only a short way up the road was our second stop of the day, Mash Brewing. It was another scorching hot and humid day and Mash was not air conditioned. Plus, they were brewing! If we were going to sample beers in a sauna, we might as well be comfortable, so Merideth and I chose to sit in some comfy chairs near the bar.
Mash didn’t have a sample paddle, rather they had a “tiny” size pour to go along with the half pint and pint. We ordered six of these beers. Starting with Freo Doctor, a Pale Lager, Merideth and I worked through their lineup of brews. Rye the Hop Not and Cascadian Brown Ale both were wonderful hopped brews but hard to appreciate given the conditions. Our consensus favorite beer was West Coast Wheat, another deliciously refreshing traditional Hefeweizen.
We really liked Mash and it would have been a nice place to spend the “arvo” (Aussie for “afternoon”) playing Scrabble. However, it was just too darn hot in there.
German for lunch, German for dinner. After a short break recovering from the sauna at Mash, we finished up our day at the Swan Valley location of Duckstein, the poshest brewery we had visited in Margaret River. The original Duckstein location was much more, for lack of a better word, normal. There as no reflecting pool with heroic horse or massive deck overlooking a lake. There was just a quaint beer garden and the same great beer. However, the moving puppet chef band, especially the one on the right who looked like an infamous terrorist, was really creepy.
Merideth and I grabbed a seat out in their beer garden under the misters and out of sight of the chef band. While we enjoyed our Duckstein beers, Hefeweizen for myself, Pilsner for Merideth, we tried to play our last Scrabble game of the trip. But we were just too distracted as we had started to fall into full “about to go home” mode. When the game became a blowout, we quickly lost interest and packed the game away.
Instead, Merideth and I split a huge Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle), Merideth’s favorite German dish. As we devoured the succulent pork and drank our beers, we looked back on what a great two weeks we’d had in Australia. More important, however, we started talking about our next trip Down Under…
Usually I can be heard kvetching about the fact that I am one behind Chris in our brewery count. It’s true, there are several things that bum me out about it. But there is also one big advantage: we each get our distinct moment in the sun when we reach a milestone. Chris had his 700th brewery visit at a place where drunken Australian teenage dreams are made. My 700th brewery day, on the other hand, had what “American beer tourists in Australia” dreams are made of.
We started the day with a visit to the Yanchep National Park. Since it was my day, Chris indulged me with an excursion to see if we could spot the elusive Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. As luck would have it, we were told that there was also a koala habitat in the park. (Koalas are not native to Western Australia.)
We arrived to the nerve-rattling stranger danger call of hundreds of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos (the more common cousin of the Red-tailed kind). Chris and I own two Conures and like I imagine it is between human moms and infants, we have learned the meaning of different squawks. So for me, it was alarming to hear the wild Cockatoos in such a frenzy. But their cacophony of ear-piercing screeches soon became background noise as we headed towards the koala area.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but within two minutes of entering the koala habitat, we spotted one. I guess I wanted it to take more time. Because if it took more effort, it meant something had really been accomplished. Nonetheless, as an American tourist in Australia it thrilled me to no end to see the gray, furry, quintessentially Australian animals lounging in the trees. And I do mean lounging. About the only movement we saw out of them was when one stretched his legs as he straddled a branch (which, by the way, was super cute!). Others curled up in little balls in the crooks of the trees. The only sign of life was the up and down movement of their round tummies as they breathed. If only life could be so simple…
As we wandered the “civilized” part of the park, we spotted gray-faced kangaroos laying in the shade and some birds, including the pre-historic looking Purple Swamphen, by the large lagoon. After a short time, we were ready to seek out what we had really come to see, the rare Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.
A sign pointed us to the 17.5 km Cockatoo Trail, so that’s where we headed. Obviously we weren’t going to walk the entire trail, especially because the temperature was in the high 30’s Celsius (near 100º F), but we thought we’d give part of it a go. A ways down the “uncivilized” dusty dirt road, however, we turned around. The wildlife, including the unseen snakes and the very much seen enormous spider, started to freak me out and it was hard to concentrate on the bird watching. I wasn’t too upset about our failed excursion, though, because I knew it was a long shot that we’d actually catch a glimpse of the elusive birds. I was ready for a beer anyway. We left the Cockatoo Trail without hearing even the slightest peep of a bird.
Aussie Karen (our GPS) lead the way to my milestone brewery, Indian Ocean Brewing Co. in Mindarie. We found the brewery amidst nice newly built townhouses overlooking a small dock area. On a Tuesday at noon, the brewpub was nearly empty, but that didn’t bother us one bit.
I sat at a table and anxiously waited while Chris ordered the taster paddle at the bar. I needed to drink the beer before it could officially count as my 700th brewery. I barely let Chris put the taster set down before I grabbed a sip of my first beer.
There were 4 beers to try: a White, Pils, Pale Ale, and Belgian Blonde. I admit that the White and Blonde, both with the same distinct flavor (most likely from the yeast), were not our favorites and the Pale Ale was unusually malty. However, the Pils was solid and we both chose a pint of it to eat with our lunch. The kitchen was closed for renovations, but the pizza oven was fired up and all the pizzas on the menu were only $10. It was the least expensive meal of the trip.
As an added bonus, Rusty Creighton (who had alerted us to the magic of Gnomesville) surprised us with a visit. It was great meeting him in person and it made my 700th brewery visit that much more exciting and memorable.
After lunch, we bid good-bye to Rusty and made our way to a nearby beach. This was our last chance to wade in the Indian Ocean. The water at this beach was a bit more turbulent than we’d seen previously, but it did a good job of cooling us off. The water whirled around my legs and I felt the sand giving way under my feet. I have always loved the ocean, but somehow I felt more connected to this one than I had ever felt before. It was probably because I was, in fact, closer to it. Due to the warm temperature of the water, I could actually stand in it without my toes going numb.
Afterwards, we made a repeat visit to Feral Brewing Company in the Swan Valley town of Baskerville. We had had an amazing time a few nights before when we celebrated our friend Todd’s birthday and wanted to make a second visit before leaving the area. A description of our experience that night will help illustrate why we felt absolutely compelled to make a return visit.
Feral’s Chef Mitch had put together an amazing 5-course beer-infused dinner for Todd. It kicked off with a selection of beer-cured meats served with spent grain bread and hop butter and finished with Feral’s tiramisu made with their Imperial Stout, Boris. In between, we dined on a green papaya salad with prawns poached in Golden Ace, a Belgian Pale Ale, roast rack of pork with roast wort potatoes, and cheese served with hop honey and “beerguette.” Plus, each course was paired with one of the brewery’s tasty beers. Absolutely phenomenal!
We may not have dined on another mouth-watering meal during our second visit, but we did get another chance to sip on the Feral White, a refreshingly citrusy Witbier.
Our evening concluded with a Tweet-up, attended by Feral’s Chef Mitch, Swan brewer Justin (mentioned in Chris’ blog post about his 700th brewery visit), and several Aussie beer bloggers at Five Bar in Mt. Lawley. It was a very hip place with something for everyone — couches, high bistro tables, bar, and tiered deck-like area with pillows to lounge on. Most people in our group enjoyed Feral’s Hop Hog from the cask, but I broke ranks and drank a few beers from Victoria, including the Golden Ale from Two Birds and Kooinda Boutique Brewery’s Valhalla Golden Ale. It was our first opportunity to meet some of Western Australia’s beer community, as well as our last chance to hang out with Todd. Such a wonderful way to end an amazing day!
Besides drinking great beer and having a wonderful time, the goal for Merideth and I on our Australian trip was to reach the 700 brewery milestone. As we ticked off breweries early in the trip, we kept thoughts of 700 in the background. But once we passed 695, we started talking about where each of our milestones would be.
My 700th came out of left field. While at Little Creatures during our Urban Beer Hike, our friend Todd came up with the idea that we needed to tour Swan Brewery, or the “mothership” as he called it. Knowing one of the brewers there, Justin, Todd immediately got on his douchephone and arranged a visit for Merideth and me. Thus, my 700th brewery was ordained.
Known for beers such as Emu Bitter and Export Lager, Swan Brewery was founded in 1837. From 1879, Swan was housed in a beautiful brick building on the outskirts of Perth along the Swan River. Today, the building houses offices and posh restaurants including a brewpub, the Old Brewery.
In the late 1970s, a fully automated brewery was built in nearby Canning Vale. Located in the industrial part of town, our visit began at the guard gate where Merideth and I were issued visitor passes and orange vests. On to the reception area, we met Justin for the first time.
Justin, formerly a brewer at the Monk in Fremantle, showed us around the sprawling complex from the grain silos to the packaging line. Modern when it was built, walking around the Swan Brewery, we almost felt like we were in a museum.
We finished up in the brewery bar where Justin cracked open a couple of bottles of Swan Draught, a light-bodied Pale Lager. Taking a big swig, 700 was officially in the books. Merideth and I also tried Emu Bitter, another Pale Lager. Both brews had a similar flavor profile, but I preferred the Emu Bitter as it had a bit more of a hop bite.
My 700th might have not been the epic brewery that I envisioned for such a milestone, but it was a special experience nonetheless. We got a personal tour of Australian beer history and on top of that, Merideth and I increased our circle of Australian beer friends. Thanks to Justin taking time to show us around and to Todd for insisting we visit the mothership.