A recent long weekend proved to be the perfect incentive to take a road trip around some northern NSW breweries that we’ve not been to before.
Apart from the great beer on offer, it’s always great to catch up with brewers and owners and learn of their future plans.
Stop 1 – Deepwater Brewing Co, Deepwater
First stop, just off the New England Highway in the small town of Deepwater is the recently renamed Hilly Billy Brewing. Now trading as Deepwater Brewing Co. after some legal issues with the original name.
Marshall Wiles has been putting out beers from his small homemade 100 litre three vessel system for a couple of years, which will soon be replaced by a larger system to supply a few local venues and his own tasting room currently under construction next to the brewery shed. We look forward to heading back soon when the renovations and improvements are in place.
Beers tasted: Lager, Kolsch, Black IPA, and a Russian Imperial Stout (8.7%). All very impressive with the Black IPA really standing out.
Stop 2 – New England Brewing Co, Uralla
Base for the night was Uralla and the New England Brewing Co. One of the few Australian breweries using open fermentation vessels for their predominately English style ales, and serving them in the traditional cask conditioned way.
The brewery is in an old woolstore at the top of the town, on the main street. The building has been sensitively converted with a bar at the front and the brewery openly visible to the side.
Great to visit this rarity and try the beers at the source, especially the Smoked Porter and the Dark Farmhouse Black Saison. Both perfect for the cold winters in this part of the world.
Beers tasted: Euro Pale Ale (5.0%), Frederick India Red Ale (6.9%), Smoked Porter (4.7%), Dark Farmhouse Black Saison (5.5%), New Englander Golden Ale (4.2%), New Englander Pale Ale (4.8%), with New Englander Brown Ale (4.5%) also direct from a cask on the bar
Stop 3 – Dobsons Brewery, Kentucky
Into the second day, and a quick stop at Dobsons Brewery and Distillery down a small country lane near Kentucky. Essentially a bar and restaurant behind a small farmhouse, their beers are only available here. Especially now that bottling of them has ceased with the company focusing on distilling. The brewery is a small 50 litre Braumeister.
A curious place, but one I doubt we’ll be heading back to as all of the beers were poor versions of more well-known beers. Clearly the change in focus is showing in the quality of the beers. Not the best start to the day.
Beers tasted: Fudpucker Curiously Pale Ale (5.4%), Longdog Hefeweisen (5.3%), Old Trout Best Bitter (5.2%), New England Pale Ale (5.2%), Sick Puppy Belgian Abbey Ale (5.2%), and Ol Black Betty Dark Brown Porter (5.4%)
Stop 4 – Black Duck Brewery, Port Macquarie
After a couple hours’ drive it was onto Black Duck Brewery in Port Macquarie. A 600 litre brewery opened by Al Owen in 2012. And his horse of a dog called Murphy, a very friendly black Great Dane. Every brewery should have its own dog.
The brewery bar was busy with locals having a few beers and then buying take away bottles. Al also brews a range of soft drinks and there was a pleasant strong aroma from the ginger beer he’d brewed earlier in the day.
Eight beers on tap, which was perfect for a couple of 4 sample tasting paddles. A strong range with the heavier beers certainly being the best, especially the Irish Red.
Beers tasted were: Summer Swallow Mid Strength Ale (3.5%), Zebu Draught Aussie Lager (4.8%), Beach House Blonde Ale (4.8%), Proper Gander English Pale Ale (4.0%), Golden Goose American Pale Ale (4.0%), Mother Duck American Pale Ale (5.5%), Heron’s Craic Irish Red Ale (4.0%), and Indian Runner India Pale Ale (6.0%)
Stop 5 – The Little Brewing Company, Port Macquarie
Less than 5 minutes away is The Little Brewing Company on a nearby industrial estate. Open now for nine years the venue is currently a large 12Hl brewery with a small tasting room. Plans are being formulated to expand the tasting side of the site with the creation of a more suitable bar.
The tasting room is very small, and impressively dominated by two huge fermenters and the rest of the Brewhouse. Usually there are four beers on tap to taste, with the rest available in bottles. As they are one of our older craft breweries, they are now in the process of rebranding their beers. Look out for the new graphics with each label telling a story. A very impressive selection of beers especially the IPAs.
Beers tasted: Wicked Elf Kolsch (4.9%), Wicked Elf Witbier (5.0%), Citra IPA (6.5%), and Death between the tanks (7.8%)
Stop 6 – MooreBeer Company, Port Macquarie
The other Port Macquarie brewery is MooreBeer. They currently contact beer their beers nearby but are in the process of building their own brewery in town. We tried a couple of their beers on tap at the Burger Rebellion restaurant in the middle of town. One of the best burgers we’ve had for a long while. The beers were a perfect accompaniment being solid examples of their styles although the Golden Ale was the preferred choice.
Beers tasted: Copycat Session Pale Ale (4.4%), and Gold Digger Golden Ale (4.7%)
Stop 7 – The Bellingen Brewery, Bellingen
After spending the night in Port Macquarie, we headed back north along the Pacific Highway.
A convenient lunchtime stop was made in the small town of Bellingen, just off the Highway. Here, hidden away tucked behind the main street is the Bellingen Brewery. A small bar with a mezzanine that holds the small Brewhouse. Below, at ground floor are the fermenters on full view from the bar area.
Four beers on offer which were variable. The Harvest Ale and Ginger Beer were by far the better beers.
Beers Tasted: Harvest Ale (4.5%), Ginger Beer (3.5%), Black Pig Porter (4.5%), and Darkwood Ale (4.5%)
Stop 8 – Balter Brewing, Gold Coast
Last stop on the journey back was the new Balter Brewing bar and brewery on the Gold Coast.
Probably one of the biggest hyped new brewery openings in the country. Also, one of the biggest in scale with its 35 HL main brewhouse and 600 litre “pilot plant” tucked away at the back of the building. Due to the huge demand for their XPA, especially in cans, they’ve already committed to bringing in some new fermenters. Demand has been so high, that no cans were available at the brewery.
The venue is certainly impressive, with little expense spared in creating a tasting room with a number of separate and distinct seating areas. The layout echoes other brewery bars in industrial estates – just a little bigger and better.
Beers tasted: XPA, (5.0%), Alt Brown (5.2%), Little Red (5.2%), and Honey Bucket (4.7%).
And then it was back home.
An interesting and varied three days on the road. Some great conversations with the owners and brewers, some great beers tasted, and a few not so great. The more we travel to our great country’s breweries the more it’s clear that there is no set size, layout or set up. Each is as individual as their owners and brewers. That’s one of the things that makes craft beer so good.