It’s amazing how the shoulders ease when turning onto West Swan Road. As the warm light dapples beneath vines of Australia’s second oldest wine region the pace of mind slows, calm takes hold and the delights of the Swan Valley whizz past, just 25 minutes from Perth’s CBD. But for all of its grape-centricity the Valley needed a pub.
And in 2016 the Henley Brook arrived ready to serve locals and tourists alike with plenty of postcode personality to celebrate.
It’s not as if the area hadn’t been without beer beforehand. Few would argue the Australian beer scene wouldn’t look like it does if Feral hadn’t worked their magic at their Swan Valley brewpub for a decade and a half, while the likes of Mash and Duckstein have introduced visitors to something other than Swanny D and Export over the years too.
Yet, while brewery venues have become a welcome addition to the hospo scene, there’s little to match the familiar comforts of a pub. And the venue affectionally known as The Hen certainly brings familiarity and comfort – and does so within a family-friendly environment to suit the Valley’s changing demographic.
Its ethos is arguably best highlighted by the lack of screens: there are no TVs, just an environment to share with friends and family without distraction, whether that’s over lunch or, for the younger guests, while enjoying the free-range play options on the expansive lawn area. It’s the pub experience as being together, being present. The Henley Brook’s colonial-style architecture was inspired by Richard Edwards house, which resides on the property. Built in 1837, this heritage-listed building was part of the original Swan River Colony – the first European settlement of Western Australia.
Inside, the double-sided, reclaimed brick fireplace commands the open space, one crested with blue gum beams. A mix of couches, high and low tables, plus broad verandah seating offers something for every diner. As do regular quiz nights and the kids’ face-painting on weekends, cuddly animal farm visits, laser tag and occasional inflatable obstacle course.
Parmis and wood-fired pizzas pulse from the kitchen, with regular specials and kids’ menu options. And we won’t miss the opportunity to highlight the delightfully named Bumnuts: mozzarella and cheddar-stuffed, beer-battered jalapenos, that arrive ready to be lashed with ranch sauce.
The drinks menu showcases local wines as well as a mix of local indie beers that share the 17 taps with offerings from the country’s bigger brewers. In keeping with its all-are-welcome approach, there’s still a few well-known lagers plus around half a dozen crafty drops from CUB/Asahi-owned brands such as Pirate Life, Mountain Goat and Balter.
But as tastes continue to evolve in time with the Swan Valley’s changing nature, so is the selection the beer-loving venue staff is rotating through the remainder of the taps. As such, you can expect to find both core range and limited releases from the likes of Blasta, Gage Roads, Nail, CBCo Brewing and other WA indies pouring.
Bundled together, the Hen captures the Swan Valley’s bucolic charm via a classic pub experience, and that alone should ease anyone’s upper torso tension.