Beer trails are becoming a popular way of enticing beer lovers to discover more of the growing number of breweries around Australia. The one in the Victorian High Country is well established and continually expanding while the Tasmanian Ale Trail launched in the middle of 2015.
Most recently, in January 2017 – just in time for the return of the Ballarat Beer Festival – the Ballarat Beer Trail took flight. The aim is to shine a spotlight on the people and places bringing small scale brewing back to a city that was once a thriving brewing centre.
Says creator Scott Wilson-Browne of Red Duck Brewery: "The Ballarat Beer Festival gets people from Melbourne and interstate up here for one day and they tick Ballarat off their list. But there's a bigger story than that.
"Ballarat is a beer destination where people can come for a weekend."
The Crafty Pint’s SA correspondent, Matt King, was in Ballarat for the 2017 festival and took time out to visit and chat to many of the people behind the city’s craftiest operations to put together this city guide.
Being a town with a population of just over 100,000 people, the places below are within walking distance or a short cab ride of each other, making a bar/brewery crawl eminently possible. What's more, with Broo, whose owner we spoke to following its purchase of Mildura Brewery, announcing plans for a $100m green brewery in the city, it only seems likely more attention will be paid to the birthplace of Ballarat Bertie.
Red Duck started brewing in 2005, just as the second wave of craft beer was beginning to make itself known in parts of Australia. Admittedly, it wasn’t operating in Ballarat at the time, instead calling an old dairy building on the Purrumbete Homestead home.
Founders Scott and Vanessa Wilson-Browne moved the brewery closer to their Ballarat home in 2011 and have continued to plough their unique journey through the world of beer, combining a pretty traditional core range taking in the likes of pale ale, porter and amber with exploratory voyages to the beer’s outer realms: sour Egyptian bread beers, barrel-aged and blended Belgian styles, hop free gruit beers, braggots and so on.
You can find the widest range at the brewery cellar door, situated less than 10 minutes outside the city centre 11a Michaels Drive, Alfredton.
O’BRIEN BEER BY REBELLION BREWING
Also launched in 2005, O’Brien was brought to life to meet the needs of beer lovers with gluten intolerance. Owner John O’Brien discovered he had coeliac disease in 1998 and refused to give up one of his favourite drinks. Along with Andrew Lavery, who also has coeliac disease, he developed a broad range of beers brewed with sorghum and millet sourced from Australian growers and malted in-house using specialised equipment instead of malted barley.
Located at 36 Gregory Street West, Wendouree, Rebellion Brewing’s core O'Brien range consist of four beers: a lager, pale ale, light lager and brown ale with regular seasonals thrown in for good measure. Of those, an IPA and Belgian Ale are highlights, with the latter becoming the first gluten free beer judged good enough to win a trophy at the Australian International Beer Awards in 2013.
CUBBY HAUS BREWING
Childhood nostalgia hit Malcolm Sachs as he began his own brewing journey; he likened his brewery build to building a cubby house as a kid. Most of his brewery (apart from the fermenters) has been hand manufactured from random secondhand parts and retrofitted to his own specifications and designs.
He produced five beers for the brewery’s opening in late 2016, including an Australian pale, a Bavarian wheat, an ESB, an oatmeal stout and an AmericanbBrown, which have since been joined by seasonals. You’ll find Cubby Haus Brewing a mere 2.5km outside the city centre, at 884 Humffray Street South, in close proximity to some of Ballarat's crafty venues.
ATHLETIC CLUB BREWING – NOW CLOSED
When Peter Parry decided to retire in 2015, he found the days long and somewhat boring, so he made the decision to invest his retirement money in a brewery. Having made the decision, he didn’t mess around.
He kitted the place out with new equipment from Australian brewery manufacturer Spark, including a 15hL brewhouse, two double batch and two single batch fermenters, a 50L pilot kit, a couple of kegarators for on the run requirements and a 12 tap setup in the bar area. To help, Peter enlisted the help of family members behind the bar and snapped up local brewers fresh from the Federation University brewing course.
Take a stroll down Hop Lane, past the bright Ballarat mural, under the red and white umbrellas and head towards the end of the laneway where you’ll find Hop Temple. A rustic-industrial Mecca to beer featuring reclaimed furniture, walls of greenery and with bikes hanging overhead. More importantly, it's been offering 16 taps and five fridge doors worth of beer since first opening its doors in 2015.
The staff are welcoming and knowledgeable in all things beer and good food. Be it a good pale ale, an IPA or even a sour or Berliner Weisse you’re after, chances are Hop Temple will be able to satisfy what you need.
THE MALLOW HOTEL
Meander south, up the gentle incline of Armstrong Street, then right on to Skipton Street and you'll discover The Mallow Hotel, a pioneer among Ballarat beer venues. Opened by a couple with family connections to some of the best pubs in Melbourne, these days it offers 12 taps dedicated to craft beer ready to entice customers through the doors to quench their thirst.
The Mallow always boasts a seductive selection, with the likes of Holgate, Two Birds, Boatrocker, Temple, Red Duck, Athletic Club and KAIJU! regularly gracing the taps. There are options to sit and eat in the dining room, absorb some vitamin K in the beer garden or challenge a friend to a game of snooker in a pub that will have Melburnians who’ve taken the trip to Ballarat feeling right at home.
Also check out...
For drinking in...
- Munster Arms – New owners took over before Christmas 2016 and started pouring craft beer, with plans to install more taps too.
- The Main Bar – Focuses on pouring beers from local brewers through its taps.
- The Forge Pizzeria – A pizza restaurant that's long been a supporter of craft beer.
For takeaway beers...
- Coach House Ales
- Jack's Fine Wines
For festival action...
BALLARAT BEER FESTIVAL
The Ballarat Beer Festival has been filling the City Oval with more brewers and more beer each year since launching in 2012. It's traditionally seen the weather gods treat drinkers to a pleasant day in the sun, where they can drink and eat while listening to music (often from some big name bands) and checking out beer education sessions and fun activities – with plenty provided for kids as well.
Ballarat Beer Trail
You can pick up copies of the Ballarat Beer Trail booklet, which contains more places to check out as well as ideas on where to stay and things other than beer and breweries to see and do around the city, at the above breweries and venues as well as at the Avoca Hotel and the Ballarat tourist information centre.
Or you can download it in PDF form here.
About the author: Matt is our main SA contributor – and you can check out his SA craft beer focused site too.
Photos for Cubby Haus and O'Brien taken from their respective Facebook pages.