The Prickly Moses name has been well known along the Victorian Surf Coast for longer than most people knew craft beer was a thing. Beers brewed at their Otway Ranges home have been a mainstay of venues along the coast for well over a decade but, more recently, the founders have been expanding their operation in new directions.
First came the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse. They took over an iconic pub in Apollo Bay, refurbished it and made it a home from home for the Prickly Moses range as well as introducing scores of other Australian craft beers to visitors. Then, in 2016, they embarked on a similar mission at the Esplanade Hotel in Queenscliff, albeit this time going a few steps further.
Now known as the Queenscliff Brewhouse, the historic exterior and many of the classic old bones of the building remain in place, but there’s more to be discovered within than at any time in the past. And, for readers of The Crafty Pint, of most interest amid the new features is the in-house microbrewery.
Small in stature at just 300 litres, it’s responsible for the hotel’s own line of beers. As with their Prickly Moses stablemates, they have approachability at their heart: the core range is based around an Aussie lager and ales of the cream, steam and English mild variety. But, at time of writing, they were being brewed by Mattias Isaksson, one-quarter of Old Wives Ales and known to enjoy more than a little experimentation and innovation when on the tools. So you’re likely to find them joined by an off-kilter limited release such as the Swede & Sour raspberry Berliner Weisse released for summer 2019/20.
Beer isn’t the only drink produced onsite either. Head down the stairs into the cellar and you’ll find a still with which the team has been developing a range of spirits since it was installed in 2019.
You’ll find the Prickly Moses beers plus the Queenscliff beers and spirits on offer in Taste of the Region, the bright and airy, two-storey deli and provedore attached to the pub. Peer over the taps on the bar and you might catch Mattias at work; alternatively, peruse the shelves and fridges upstairs and down for a mouth-watering selection of produce amassed from across the wider region. It’s the second such venue for the team, with a similar operation found adjacent to the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse.
But back to the historic pub, because there’s plenty more to check out there too. You’ve got the classic front bar, complete with font after font of the owners’ beers complemented with other Aussie independents in the fridges, plus various spaces in which you can select from the bistro menu, one that mixes pub classics with gastropub fare.
To the rear, there’s a welcoming beer garden where the back wall is lined with barrels decorated with the names of various beer styles. And upstairs is a treat for lovers of spirits: the Whisky Bar & Restaurant, home to more than 400 varieties of spirits sourced from all over the globe. It’s a space that comes with a suitably timeless feel: all deep hues and comfy chairs. There’s a separate menu there too, one of the sort to make you feel like pulling on your Sunday best.
Adding to the feel that the Queenscliff Brewhouse is as much about the experience and education as is is about being a good pub – something confirmed when it won Best Specialty Bar at the AHA Victoria State Awards in 2021 – there are all manner of masterclasses, special dinners and other events you can join too. If you’re in the area and don’t have a designated driver, it’s a popular stop for the Bellarine Peninsula’s many bus tours.
Alternatively, given they stock beer, wine, cider, spirits, cheese and pretty much anything else you could wish to pop in your mouth from much of Victoria, it’s the sort of place where you can embark on a grand tour without actually leaving your chair.