12 great brewery bars to visit across Australia

Brewery bars give brewers a unique opportunity to connect with their local community, grow their brand, put a face and a space to their name, and make better margins on sales too.

I’m always keen to sample the latest beers fresh from the source. In general, brewery venues are relaxed, spacious, welcoming and family-friendly venues that also have great fresh beer, which makes them a great stopping off point on any journey. I’ve had my fair share of tasting paddles at breweries across Australia, so thought I would share some of my favourite venues to visit.

These are my favourite brewery bars based on the comfort and ambience of the venue, the food, the service and of course most importantly, the beer. Note that while I would love to have been to every Australian brewery, there’s still a few that I’m working on getting to. In the meantime, here are my standouts so far from 5 states across Australia.

Victorian brewery bars to visit

Stomping Ground in Collingwood, Melbourne

This brewpub, from the legendary Local Taphouse & GABS team, is in a great position in the heartland of Melbourne’s craft beer scene in the inner-north and close to various forms of public transport.

The venue is impressive with a huge bar area and spacious and comfortable for all different crowds. They even have a cool rustic kids playhouse, which is great if you care about that kind of thing. Clearly these guys have more money and hospitality expertise than the average brewery. The food is a cut above the usual pub-grub and a good accompaniment for the beers.

Oh and the beer is all really good too. Not blow-your-socks-off-amazing… yet at least … but I really enjoy all of their beers. The One Eyed IPA is punchy, there’s some nice Belgian style beers and sours, the Bearbrass nitro milk stout is smooth and creamy, and all were well made and there’s a good variety of styles, light and dark, familiar and different, on offer. They’re increasingly rolling out more complex beers including sour and barrel-aged beers so keep an eye on what these guys are bringing out next.

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 Napoleone Brewery & Ciderhouse in Coldstream

Napoleone are best known for their ciders but they also do a really great range of European-influenced beers at an enchanting venue co-located with the quality Meletos restaurant. Located in the ambient Yarra Valley, in a spacious venue with a lovely fit out containing contemporary and rustic elements. It’s an ideal stop-off in the midst of wine country for good food and good beers.

You can grab a tasting paddle from their bar, alongside the excellent food. They brew mostly a mix of English, Belgian and German style beers, as well as a few standards like an American pale ale. All these beers tend to be fairly dry and easy-to-drink while still retaining complexity. The saison, porter, ESB, and rauchbier are all good examples of the traditional styles.

Even for those who don’t love cider, I recommend trying theirs as they have some especially interesting ones. I particularly enjoyed the Methode Traditionelle Pear Cider as a more complex and dry cider.

Hargreaves Hill in Yarra Glen

The Hargreaves Hill restaurant is the only venue on the list that doesn’t include a brewing setup in the building but there’s plenty to like here. You’ll find this underrated brewer’s latest creations on tap and usually at a reasonable price in either a pot or in a paddle. The food is good and tasty, making good use of the local produce in the area. While the building is a lovely old bank building with a lot of character.

The ESB is their most recognised beer but they have a pretty solid range all-round and some interesting tasty specials too like The Phoenix, an imperial red ale, so keep an eye out for their latest seasonal and small-batch releases.

Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth

A stellar regional brewpub if ever there was one, from one of craft beer’s great innovators, this is a great venue. The only issue I ever have with it is getting a seat as it does get busy, so make sure you book ahead especially in holiday periods.

The venue has a buzzing atmosphere, malt sacks adorn the seating, and a stylish Ned Kelly symbol sits atop the tasting paddles to add some style. The food is good whether it’s gourmet pizzas or beer bread pretzels or pastrami wraps, it’s all really well done.

I love the range of beers from Bridge Road and I never worry about not finding anything interesting on their taps. If I had to pick one regional Victorian brewery to visit, this is the one.

Queensland breweries to visit

Balter Brewing in Currumbin

The venue owned by a group including Mick Fanning is awesome. It has a simple barebones industrial factory feel of many breweries but with some nice flourishes that puts it a cut above the rest. There’s the cool mural on the wall, a variety of different seating areas, a slick tiled bar with the rhetorical question ‘Thirsty?’, and a space for good food trucks like the Portuguese truck Barraca.

While the beer range isn’t huge yet, it is reliable and steadily growing. All the beers are more approachable than they are creative but they’re also extremely well made. The XPA and Alt Brown, their first two beers in cans, are a perfect combo of easy-to-drink yet flavourful and interesting beers. They’re simply some of the best core beers going around.

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Fortitude brewing in Mount Tamborine

Up in the picturesque hills of the Gold Coast hinterland, Fortitude Brewing have a great spot to stop-off and grab some top drinks and eats. The brewery is co-located with a cheese shop and a restaurant with a nice sheltered outdoor area between the venues where you can take a seat and indulge in your choice of foods while enjoying the top brews.

Fortitude have a range of really sessionable beers. I really enjoyed the Pacer 2.0, a light beer, that packs some flavour, especially fresh from the taps here, and is light, dry and easy to drink.

For the more adventurous beer drinkers, there’s plenty more to offer under the Noisy Minor banner (different name, same brewery). Noisy Minor beers include the great Imperial Red Ale, Admiral Ackbar, an IPA, and my pick of the beers there – a Belgian style black ale, Bete Noire, that was tasty and complex.

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New South Wales breweries to visit

The Rocks brewery in Alexandria

Located in the burgeoning hotspot of Sydney’s inner west, the Rocks brewery is in a nice new commercial complex that also contains a trampoline centre. It doesn’t have much old world charm, but it is a really slick venue with enormous steel tanks, state of the art brewing equipment, and comfortable spaces to drink.

There’s also tasty American-style food to chomp on, tasting paddles of their solid range including beers like a porter and White IPA, and if you come at the right time, a bit of live music to nod your head to. It’s an easy spot to drop into and get a good beer fix and a few takeaways for good measure.

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Murrays Brewing at Bob’s Farm just outside of Port Stephens

Murrays Brewing’s home base is located at a venue called Bob’s Farm, near the town of Port Stephens. On a nice day, the outdoor area is a pleasant area to enjoy a tipple.

When I ventured there a few years back, it was over Easter, the venue was busy and they had a special Easter Ale on tap with all the flavours of hot cross buns in a glass. Good stuff to go along with their excellent range of beers.

Murrays have long been one of the best breweries in Australia, and while they changed head brewer a few years back, they have reinvigorated their lineup recently with some exciting new beers while still continuing to produce some of the classics too.

Inside Murrays

Batch Brewing in Marrickville, Sydney

These next two venues as they are very lo-fi setups but they also have a lot of character and a lot of great beer that make them worth a visit in my books.

Batch Brewery is a cosy little venue that has thrown open a bar with taps of its great range and provides a fridge so that locals can pop in and grab fresh beer on tap or to takeaway. Batch produces some of my favourite beers such as their Elsie Milk Stout – the best beer I’ve ever had on nitro and they also do a wide variety of beers from farmhouse style to creative new world combos.

They do get food providers come in and set up at the front to serve the hungry patrons, again very low key.

Willie the Boatman in Tempe, Sydney

Willie the Boatman is located right next to an axe-throwing venue and feels like the inside of a big tin shed. They make a space available for food providers to come in and cook up for the patrons, and the friendly owners might even be on hand to pour beers to complete the genuine small local independent experience.

Beerwise, you’ll find the kind of experimental small batch beers that you wouldn’t find at a larger brewery, when I went this included an oyster stout and a rockmelon gose. If you find a particular beer on tap you like, they can pour you a 1L can of it to takeaway. They also have some of their standard beers in longneck bottles, like the excellent Black Bunny Dark Ale.

South Australia

Smiling Samoyed brewery in Myponga

Travelling through South Australia, I was particularly fond of this little venue in the middle of nowhere, or more precisely, amidst the bush between Adelaide and Victor Harbour in a town called Myponga,

The tasting paddles use vinyl records, which has to be one of the funkiest paddles I’ve seen. Their pale ales are hoppy delights, outside is quiet and scenic, and it’s an all-round nice spot to stop off and take a breath and drink some beers. The beautiful Samoyed dogs trotting around add to the down-to-earth welcoming feel.

Smiling Samoyed tasting paddle record

West Australia

Little Creatures brewery in Fremantle

This Little Creatures venue in was I think my first great experience of a brewery venue, it’s a magical spot for a beer on a nice day in Freo. You can sit inside by the vast steel tanks in a funky industrial space, or take a table outside overlooking the water, play some bocce, drink the classic Aussie pale ale from the source and enjoy a nice array of quality eats.

And to make this a baker’s dozen of great breweries to visit, also check out the Victorian Little Creatures brewery in Geelong in the historic old wool mill there. It’s a grand and spacious venue with personality and has the familiar recipe of good beer and good eats.

The co-location of the White Rabbit brewery also adds to the interest and variety of tastes on offer with their solid variety of core beers and some barrel aged delights to capture the drinker’s imagination.

Happy travels!

Map of the Top 100 Breweries in the World 2017 according to RateBeer

Every year RateBeer publish a list of the top 100 breweries based on the reviews on their site. For those who don’t know, RateBeer is a beer review site that is generally favoured by beer geeks as an authority on great beer. While the list, like any, is subject to certain biases, in general you know that the breweries that appear on this list are going to be damned good at making beer.

So annually I create a map of these top 100 breweries, pinpointing the main location of each brewer on the list, and enabling craft beer geeks who may dream of visiting these breweries to view where they’re located around the world.

A couple of trends this year, compared to 2016:

  • London is becoming a real craft beer hub and with the addition of Beavertown and Brew by Numbers increased the number of UK breweries on the list to 9.
  • Poland got 2 breweries on the list this year. This was a surprise to me. While Poland traditionally has a strong beer culture, I didn’t realise that they were gaining acclaim in craft beer circles, will have to look into this one.
  • Pennsylvania is now up to 4 breweries. While the West of the US is still strong, the North East, and even Midwest have a lot of top breweries now too.
  • Tree House is probably one of the bigger names to enter the top 100 as one of the leaders of the hot and trending NEIPA style.

Sydney’s best craft beer bars in 4 bar crawls

Whether you’re a resident of Sydney or travelling there like me, if you’re looking to drink the great craft beer at great venues, these 4 bar crawls give you a good introduction.

Sydney took a little while to come to the craft beer party but now that it truly has arrived with an exciting array of venues to choose from to drink good beer. From the newly opened brewery bars of the hot inner west, to classic CBD pubs, to the many bars with many taps in Surry Hills, there’s plenty to choose from for any drinker with an interest in craft beer.

Here is a guide to the very best beer bars in four bar crawls.

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On the emerging craft beer scene in Adelaide

The craft beer scene in Adelaide and more broadly South Australia is suddenly booming. There’s South Australian tap takeovers; SA beer launches; SA beers venturing up the East Coast, and SA beer all over Twitter and Crafty Pint. All this for a scene that had been conspicuously quiet in recent years as other states had experienced craft beer booms.

In the past, South Australia’s craft beer highlights focused primarily on The Wheaty, rated as one of the best bars in the country (now is brewing its own intriguing beers too); Brewboys’ Seeing Double, a smoky scotch ale that I rate as one of the best beers in the country, and the unique Thorogoods apple beers that rank highly on RateBeer.

Now there is a new breed of South Australian craft beer emerging, bringing innovation and excitement to the craft beer scene with them. Adelaide brewers Pirate Life Brewing for instance are producing their beer in cans that are not only attractive but informative, with the novel idea of sharing the brewing ingredients and process on the rim of their packaging. Pirate Life’s hop-centric range is launching in Melbourne this week and judging from the super aromatic pale ale of theirs I had, it should be well received.

Big Shed Brewing Concern are another new brewer getting some buzz. They’re sharing their facilities in Adelaide with other brewers, such as Mismatch Brewing, who have a well-regarded White IPA, and recently opened up the premises to the public. Big Shed’s own American Brown Ale, FrankenBrown, is everything you want from that style, with heaps of malt and hops flavour going on. While their BruChoc is a dark fruity sweet beer, that mimics a classic South Australian sweet.

Another emerging brewer is Prancing Pony Brewery, situated just outside of Hahndorf in Adelaide Hills, and using an old school ‘fire brewing’ method for their beers. They entered GABS last year with a daring cross-style weizenbock/IPA but also have a range of crowdpleasers. Their popular India Red Ale was sold out when i tried to get it but I did enjoy the solid Copper Ale and Black Ales.

Then there’s Smiling Samoyed brewery, who may have the coolest tasting paddles going round with their vinyl records and they don’t disappoint with any of their beers either. Balance is their strong point and I enjoyed their pale ale the most for that very reason. Their brewery in Myponga is about 20 minutes from Victor Harbor and is a relaxing spot to enjoy some quality beers.

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Whilst South Australia is traditionally wine country that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for beer. In fact, the focus on gourmet and local produce fits well with the craft beer ethos and regions renowned for their wineries such as Clare Valley and Barossa Valley now also sport breweries.

You can check out South Australian craft beer in Melbourne at the 2016 Good Beer Week Pint of Origin from May 14-23 at the Palace Hotel in South Melbourne.

Otherwise just head over to South Australia, it’ll be worth it!

Four best brewery daytrips from Melbourne

The perfect city escape involves good food and great beer in a beautiful seting. Here are four breweries that don’t disappoint on all three scores, and are well worth venturing out to.

  1. Holgate Brewhouse

One of the elder statesmen of the craft beer scene, Holgate has one of the finest core beer ranges as well as regular interesting one-offs. At their bar and restaurant located only an hour from the city in Woodend, you can taste the range with 6 taps, 2 handpumps. They offer paddles, takeaway bottles (and growlers last time I checked), so you’ll surely leave very satisfied.

Housed in a large brick building with an expansive interior, there’s plenty of space in the bar or dining areas and even on-site accomodation. The food in the bar and restaurant is also fantastic. Beer is used as a key ingredient in some of the food and the food is fresh and tasty.

Don’t leave without drinking… their chocolate porter, Temptress, is an absolute classic, but it goes to another level when you get this one on handpump at the brewery with the creamy mouthfeel and chocolatey flavours enhanced.

Also visit nearby… I always enjoy stopping into Trentham for some sourdough bread from the bakery there that uses wild yeast from its historic oven. There’s also Mount Macedon for the nature lovers, and Daylesford for the relaxers, depending on what’s your thing.

2. Hargreaves Hill

Housed in a beautiful historical building, Hargreaves Hill, pours a selection of their beers on tap, and offers up some top quality food. It’s worth venturing to Yarra Glen just for the food, which is a level up from your standard pub grub, with some delicious pastas and dishes featuring local produce.

Beer is what it’s all about though and they’re well stocked in that regard too. They have an ESB and Pale Ale in the range as well as the Belgian AD dubbel and a stout, which are good beers too. Usually there’ll be a special seasonal or two such as Phoenix the strong red ale that’s rich like a dessert.

Don’t leave without drinking… their ESB is a gem. Dry hopped with bodacious New Zealand hops you’ll probably want a large glass to enjoy.

Also visit nearby… If you have kids, the playground just down the street is a big one and will keep the little ones busy. In the Yarra Valley there’s plenty of wineries, but also the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery is not far, nor is Yarra Valley cheese.

3. Mornington Peninsula Brewery

The building doesn’t quite have the same charm as the previous two, being an industrial factory, but it has a wood-fired pizza oven cranking and a beer lineup that you’ll want to work your way through.

Don’t leave without drinking… take your pick, Mornington Peninsula’s range is amazingly consistent and you can’t really go wrong with whatever beer you choose. Try their Brown Ale for something different or their IPA for a hop kick.

Also visit nearby… the Red Hill Brewery is open on weekends and worth a trip and there’s a few nice wineries around. You can always enjoy the beaches along the coast there and the Missus or Mister may appreciate some relaxation at the Peninsula hot springs.

The pizza oven at Mornington Peninsula brewery.
The pizza oven at Mornington Peninsula brewery.

4. Napoleone brewery and ciderhouse

This one certainly doesn’t have the small-time brewer feel about it, it’s a bit more swanky, being a sibling of Punt Road wines. The rustic contemporary architecture sets a grand stage as part of a brilliant setup in a beautiful location in the Yarra Valley.

The brewery is co-located with the excellent Meletos restaurant, where you’ll enjoy some top notch culinary delights.

All the beers I tried were really solid and well made. There was a definite emphasis on producing well balanced beers in the more classic European styles rather than the hopped-up American IPAs, which is fine with me.

Don’t leave without drinking… their porter was actually my favorite when I visited. Just nicely made, chocolatey and with that perfect balance of sweet and dry.

Beers in Brazil

Beer is a favourite national beverage of Brazil, a perfect antidote for the hot climate. And beer lovers will be pleased to know that craft beer in Brazil is on the upswing. Here’s a guide to help you find good beer in Brazil.

Craft beer in Brazil

Cervejas artesenais have grown in popularity in Brazil over recent years. Some of the first microbreweries to establish themselves came from areas of Brazil with a strong German influence. The likes of Eisenbahn and Baden Baden who were at the vanguard of craft beer in Brazil have since been bought out by a bigger corporation (Kirin Brasil). But the scene is maturing and a new wave of brewers inspired by the craft beer movement around the world, are pushing the boundaries to produce some creative beers exploring the full range of the taste spectrum.

Here’s a breakdown of where to find good beer by city.

Good beer in Sao Paulo

In a city of 20 million people and renowned as Brazil’s culture capital,  you would expect to find some good beer, and you can. A few places that would be worth checking out are:

  • BrewDog bar – BrewDog, the infamous Scottish craft brewers opened a bar here in 2014! They also showcase local craft beers.
  • Emporio Alto dos Pinheiros – a huge range of beers both local and international beers that are some of the very best in the world.
  • FrangÓ – a bit out of the centre but a bar renowned for its good beer and food.
BrewDog bar in Sao Paulo
BrewDog bar in Sao Paulo

Look out for beers from these Sao Paulo brewers:

  • Colorado – one of the top Brazilian craft brewers, look out for their IPAs and porter called Demoiselle.
  • Bamberg – they have a rauchbier and other German-style beers.
  • Baden Baden – although not in the state of Sao Paulo, this brewery is within visiting distance, situated in the lovely German-style town of Campos do Jordao, and pouring a number of great beers like their Imperial Red Ale, or Golden Ale with hints of cinnamon.
  • Cervejaria Nacional – a brewpub located in heart of Sao Paulo with an array of styles on offer
  • Invicta – brewers of some hoppy beers including a 1000IBU IPA

Good beer in Rio de Janeiro

You may have to look a little harder for beers beyond the beloved chopp in Rio. But there are signs of good beer becoming available in Cidade Maravilhosa. Bars worth checking out are:

Brewers to check out are:

  • brazil0262 Cabecas are a new brewer focused on producing true craft beers with not a pilsen to be seen. Ther passionfruit IPA ‘Hello my name is Ze’ collab with BrewDog was super fruity!
  • Therezopolis – a brewery founded in 1912, offering a good pilsen and a few other styles.
  • Petropolis group own a number of brands offering a range of German-style beers, such as Petra and Weltenburger Kloster, that aren’t too bad.
  • Devassa – another owned by a big corporation, these brewpubs are best known for their sexual marketing that once featured Paris Hilton.

Beer in Curitiba

Brewers worth checking out include:

  • Hop ‘n’ Roll – a brewpub with 24 taps of beer, sounds like a winner!
  • Bodebrown – made an appearance at Good Beer Week 2013 in Australia, brewing a hoppy bock with Hargreaves Hill. Recently collaborated with Stone Brewing to produce a Cacau (cocoa) IPA that is currently the top rated beer from Brazil on RateBeer, it’s a brilliant mix of hoppiness with chocolatey flavours that is a must-try
  • Way – another brewery that is gaining some international attention – they have a cachaca barrel aged barleywine and some sours with added Brazilian fruits like Graviola and Acerola in their repertoire.

Beers from the South

brazil027Further down south, the German influence is stronger and the brewing traditions too. Blumenau in Santa Catarina is the site of the largest Oktoberfest in the world outside of Germany and a number of breweries are set up in the region. This includes Eisenbahn, Brazil’s most famous craft beer brewer, who have a solid core range and some interesting specials.

Further south in Porto Alegre, you can find the brewer Tupiniquim who have collaborated with the likes of US gypsy brewer Stillwater to brew Saison de Caju, a saison with caju fruit, and with Evil Twin to produce a fantastic funky and hoppy Brett IPA called Lost in Tranlsation.

Beers from other areas

  • Wäls – a brewer from Belo Horizonte that does some big beers including a Belgian quad, an imperial stout, and my personal favourite, the Saison de Caipira, a Belgian saison style beer also brewed with cane sugar.
  • Amazon – these guys produce an Acaí Stout using the famous earthy superfood fruit from the Amazon.
  • Xingu – a black beer that is not bad.

A map of the Top 100 Brewers in the World 2014

RateBeer has released their list of the top brewers in the world for 2014. The list features a new top brewer in the world in AleSmith from San Diego. No. 2 on the list is Hill Farmstead and no.3 Three Floyds, while rounding out the Top 5 are Russian River and Bells Brewery.

New additions to the top 100 this year came from states of the USA not well known for their brewing like Iowa, South Carolina and Arizona, showing just how widespread great craft beer is becoming there. Other interesting tidbits are that there are now 6 English breweries in the top 100, tops after Belgium and USA, while 8 Wired still flies the flag for Oceania.

UPDATE: View the map of the list of Top Brewers in the World for 2015.

Craft beer in Manly – good views, good booze

manly4Manly may be one of the more picturesque places to find and drink good quality craft beer in Australia.

A beer lover’s first point of call in Manly should be the 4 Pines brewery. While most of 4 Pines’ production now takes place at a larger brewery they still do some small test batches in Manly and have their fresh and tasty range available in tasting paddles here.

From their light spicy Kolsch to their creamy dry stout, 4 Pines offer a variety of crowd pleasing styles that offer enough taste to keep the true beer geeks happy too. Their stout was probably my favourite, it has to be up there as one of the most solid in the country and even has a crazy ‘first beer in space’ storyline.Read More »

Beers on the border of NSW and QLD

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.Read More »

Beer Highlights of the High Country

A few weeks back I finally had the chance to visit the ‘High Country’, an area in North Victoria that’s developed a reputation as a  craft beer hub.

I’ve been meaning to visit for quite a while, mainly because of my love for Bridge Road Brewers, who have been responsible for some of the more interesting and creative beers in Australia in recent years.

Bridge Road’s brewery is situated in the quaint historic town of Beechworth. Set in a lovely old brick building, the brewery has some good grub, a buzzing atmosphere and, most importantly, plenty of good beer taps.
Bridge-Road-Brewery2

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