Based off previous experiences I wasn’t expecting much, or anything really, in the way of good beer when travelling to northern New South Wales / southern Queenland recently. I was pleasantly surprised to find craft beer on the upswing there.
I stayed just outside Kingscliff, a small beach town about 15 minutes from the Gold Coast airport in NSW, and was stoked to find a brand new independent liquor store in town, Taphouse Cellars, brimming with really interesting craft beers that I hadn’t tried before like BrewCult’s Hop Zone Session IPA (as sessionable as advertised) and Nail Brewing’s Oatmeal Stout (similar to Cooper’s Stout) as well as old studs that I was more than happy to revisit like Belgian trappist beer Rochefort 8 and Feral’s Hop Hog.
Next to where I stayed at the Salt Village, I went to a pub called Saltbar and took a punt on a beer I hadn’t seen before, a Mt Warning Pale Ale from a Salt Village Brewing Company. It turned out to be a cracking American Pale Ale with lovely hop and malt flavours that made me think this was too good to be an in-house job… and I was right – it appears the beer is made by Burleigh Brewing and replicates their 70s Pale Ale. Are ‘house beers’ like this that are really created by someone else deceptive, or a smart way to increase sales?
Things got more interesting still at a gourmet restaurant Season, which had a Father’s Day special that included a free local beer for dads. Great. The beer turned out be a Moonlight Ale from Pickled Pig, a local microbrewery from Tweed Heads. The beer was solid – a restrained but smooth ale that went down well with the food.
After a 45-minute drive down to Byron Bay, I stopped at the iconic Beach Hotel and couldn’t go past a schooner of local brewery Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale. While I’ve always found that beer a bit overrated, I’ll be damned if it wasn’t refreshing on a hot spring’s day up there.
On the other side of the border in Coolangatta, the Rainbow Bay Surf Club had some great views from the balcony but Tooheys Old would have to do as my beer of choice among that sorry lot of taps. However, just up the hill from there, the views grew more amazing still and Cafe Dbar had Burleigh Brewing’s 70s Pale Ale on tap, which did just nicely to finish up.
After going in with low expectations to an area I’d considered somewhat of a craft beer deadzone, I was happy to see that local breweries were making some inroads. Burleigh Brewing are getting some traction locally and they are hosting a Brewmaster’s dinner next weekend at the Saltbar. They are a top quality brewery who continue to impress, with their most recent national release FIGJAM IPA one of the best IPAs in Australian by my reckoning.