This article was contributed by the Independent Brewers Association.
Something wonderful is happening in Australia. Down inner city laneways, in urban industrial warehouses, in picturesque country towns and tropical beach enclaves, independent brewers are offering the freshest, most amazing variety of beers Australia has ever seen.
In a sense, all tourism is beer tourism. Having a local beer upon arrival is a rite of passage. It means you’re somewhere exciting and new. Things look different. Things smell different. Things taste different. It’s why you’re here.
Independent Brewers in Australia are a group of artisanal brewers who are independent of large corporate interests. With more than 500 dotted around the country, some offer their beers nationally, others only in the state or region of Australia in which they’re located. Amazingly, some of the best brewers only offer their beer from their brewery taprooms, so it’s well worth your while to track this award-winning stuff down. Leading travel brand Expedia is at the cutting edge of this travel trend with its Kegs of Glory campaign, inspiring travel throughout Australia’s craft beer communities.
Most Australians live in the major cities and there’s stiff competition between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane for the title of craft beer capital of Australia. By rights, Melbourne got there first, with a high-density range of city taprooms from Collingwood to Spotswood. You can go on a total craft beer adventure with a tour through Sydney’s “inner west” breweries, but remember that The Rocks and the Northern Beaches also have some cool beer destinations. Further North, Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley/Newstead area is coming up strongly, but in every direction you’ll find some excellent local ales.
Then there are the regional brewers. The heat of South East Queensland – from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast and into Northern New South Wales – encourages local brewers to turn out thirst-quenching lagers, pale ales and IPAs that utilise tropical hops to complement the beaches and palm trees that come with the territory. While a little drier, Western Australia from Perth to Fremantle to the Margaret River region and beyond offers a journey full of local brews and regional taprooms.
Some brewers farm their own barley and barrel age ales on their property. In cool climate regions like Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, other brewers handpick berries and elderflowers to produce beers with a flavour profile amazingly like the wines of the region. Think the High Country and Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, the Adelaide Hills or Tasmania’s Huon Valley. Increasingly, Australians are embracing their cold weather and thanks to annual cultural events like Tasmania’s Dark Mofo in Hobart, we’re seeing excellent dark beers celebrated during the Winter Solstice right across Australia. The nation’s capital, Canberra, can provide you with special local brews after a mind-expanding visit to the National Portrait Gallery or Parliament House.
There are no rules. You’ll find inner city brewers using regional fruit and funky experimental yeasts in collaboration with regional brewers. Most Indie Brewers plan small-batch experimental seasonal beers released for a short time only. They always have stories behind them, so be sure to ask for the seasonal lineup and have a chat to the brewer about his or her inspirations.
While more than half of Australia’s Independent Brewers have taproom premises, there are plenty of other venues to explore this country’s most exciting beers, along with our food, wine, art, theatre and live music. Each capital city has fantastic specialty beer bars offering local, Australian and international craft beers. Increasingly, pubs are supporting their local brewers and offering craft taps and ‘tap takeovers’, where a particular brewer’s whole range is on show. The guy or girl behind the bar will be happy to talk you through your decision and offer a taster before you commit. Restaurants too are increasingly curating their beer lists alongside their wine lists and waitstaff will guide you to the right beer for the occasion.
The Independent Brewers Association’s website has a listing of our members across Australia’s different tourism regions. You can click through to their brewery website to check out what they offer and include a visit as part of your itinerary. Happy travels!