March 23rd, 2010
February 12, 2010 – March 9, 2010
For the last month of our trip down under we made a home in Melbourne, setting out to learn why many consider it the hub of the burgeoning Australian beer scene. The city did not disappoint. Straight off the plane, it had same tinge of excitement as arriving in Portland, OR – as soon as we starting tweeting about our visit we felt the buzz of beer enthusiasts. Though the city doesn’t have the 40+ breweries that Portland does, we wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 years it does. It feels like an exciting time in beer here as new breweries are popping up and the demand for interesting beer growing every day.
Melbourne is a huge city – about 3,400sq miles (by comparison, Seattle is 142sq miles, Manhattan is 23sq miles), so we couldn’t see it all but we did manage to hit a few breweries and pubs.
Our first stop was at one of Melbourne’s most successful microbreweries – Mountain Goat. Started in the 90’s by two guys in their backyard, Mountain Goat grew and grew in popularity and they eventually landed in their current and spacious Richmond brew house. We stopped by for the Wednesday night tour and tasting, had a Steam Ale randalized with fresh Sauvin hops and kiwi fruit, and enjoyed the informative tour. Also, wish we had our bikes in town as there was plenty of space in the taproom for bike storage!
Just outside the city in scenic Healesville we visited the pristine White Rabbit Brewery. One of the newer breweries in the Australian scene, White Rabbit has just a single beer out at the moment- the Dark Ale. Luckily for them, they are owned by Little World Beverages (same as Little Creatures), so despite having only one beer on the shelves they seem to have lots of money and resources behind them. The brewery’s new building has plenty of room for the brew house, bottling line and tasting lounge with space to expand in the future. Currently brewing once a week they have the potential to increase to three or more brews a week – which they hope will happen as demand grows and as they start making other styles of beer. On tap during our visit was an experimental batch of their second beer – a wheat beer. It’s always nice to try something new and different when you make the effort to get out to brewery!
Over the hill and down the road we made another tasty stop at the Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company. The brewery’s Yarra Glen tasting room and pub is in a beautiful old bank building, where we sat outside on a perfect summers day and had samplers of their 6 beers (loved the ESB!). The original Hargreaves Hill brewery was actually destroyed in the Black Saturday bush fires last year. In the true spirit of the brewing industry, a bunch of the other Victorian breweries let Hargreaves Hill brew in their facilities until they were able to build a new brewery. They didn’t waste any time, and their new Lilydale facility became operational this past September.
Back in the city, on recommendation from local beer bloggers, we hit up Mrs Parmas- a classier version of your typical beer bar specializing in Victorian craft beer and unique versions of the classic Melbourne pub fair, the Parma. We tried a few beers there that we hadn’t seen other places, including some very impressive pale ales from Bridge Road and Red Duck. It was a really nice place, but we couldn’t help but notice that the crowd looked a little better dressed than us in our backpacker attire (lots of suits and theater-goers). At least we know that the beer that good beer is being treated with respect!
Unable to find much variety at the corner bottle shop, we set out on an mission to see where the Melbourne beer connoisseur goes to buy beer for in-home consumption. Our research lead us to two great stores - Purvis Wine Cellars in Surrey Hills (yes, one of the best beer stores in the city is a wine shop) and Slow Beer in Hawthorn. The two shops were different in many ways, but they both had the same goal – get the good beer out to the discerning public. Purvis is a larger shop, about half wine, half beer. They have a great selection of both local and imported beers, mainly from Australia, New Zealand, the US and Europe. With the help of Simon and Craig we tasted a number of local favorites (Red Hill, 3 Ravens, more Red Duck) and then walked away with our bags filled with different beers we’d hadn’t seen anywhere else.
Next, we hit Slow Beer, the newest bottle shop on the scene and the only all craft beer shop in Australia. As soon as we arrived co-owner Chris Menichelli pulled out a bottle of Murray’s Anniversary Ale #4 to parch our thirst. We couldn’t help but think that this must have been what Beirkraft in Brooklyn and Bottleworks in Seattle must have looked like when they were first starting out – small but teeming with exotic and locally brewed beer that people go out of their way to find.
Towards the end of our stay we took a roadtrip to the Holgate Brewhouse in Woodend, a small town just outside Melbourne. We had a sampler of everything on tap – they brew a wide range of styles, all enjoyable – but the most exciting for us was their new Roadtrip IPA. They brewed that after taking a roadtrip to Oregon and Washington and were blown away by the hoppy beers in the region, a feeling we can relate to!
Not far from Holgate in the town Daylesford we stumbled upon an awesome little café called Breakfast and Beer. We were super impressed by they selection of bottled micro brews, both local and imported. We had a few beers in their back garden while listening in on the locals discussing, of all things, American economics. Apparently we Americans are doomed- so the bike and brew crew is doing their part: click here.
Extra special thanks to Tracy’s OTHER friend Sarah who put us up in her amazing house AND was designated driver for our road trips.