The Great Ocean Road is arguably one of the world’s greatest road trips. The stretch, which officially starts at Torquay and runs through to Allansford near Warrnambool, is a pleasure to drive (other than at the busiest times of the year, unless you’re a fan of lengthy, albeit picturesque, traffic jams) and makes for a spectacular ride or flight if you’re so inclined.
From the surfing mecca of Bells Beach to the iconic 12 Apostles and countless stunning walks, inlets, waterfalls and beaches, it’s easy to understand why the Great Ocean Road has long been one of the country’s most popular tourist experiences. Yet, while the natural beauty has always delivered in spades, visitors weren't as well catered for on the beer front.
Thankfully, these days, that's changed, with a healthy selection of craft beer to quaff at the various breweries and pubs along the way, much of it brewed by the growing number of breweries that have followed in the footsteps of Prickly Moses and made the region home. Starting at Blackman’s Brewery in Torquay all the way to Sow & Piglets in Port Campbell, you’ll find plenty of reasons to stop, rest and refuel in this rather extended Crafty Crawl.
Blackman’s Brewery Bar and Restaurant
If you’re heading westwards along the Great Ocean Road, this is the ideal place to start your adventure. Boasting a core range that shifts from a flavoursome lager to their flagship West Coast style Reginald IPA, taking in the likes of a witbier and smoked porter along the way, the brewery opened by Jess and Renn Blackman in Bell Street has a reputation that stretches well beyond the Surf Coast.
Do yourself a favour and grab a tasting paddle to try as much of what’s on offer as possible, particularly as that’s likely to include a limited release or two. Depending on the season, you may have the chance to try beers such as their Blackberry Gose, a double IPA or something even more experimental, such as a smoked beetroot saison. And that’s just the beer.
There’s also a big emphasis on beer friendly food, with a menu to rival most other craft beer venues in Australia, and, if you can snag a spot, a colourful beer garden to the rear of the restaurant in which to soak up the rays. It’s just 500 metres from Torquay’s beaches too, thus setting you up perfectly for the coastal tour that lies ahead.
While you’re in Torquay also check out…
- Frontbeach Taphouse & Restaurant, 16 The Esplanade – Only a short walk from Blackman’s, and with prime views of the beach, Frontbeach offers 12 rotating taps, mostly featuring craft beer and the majority local and regional. There’s a comprehensive food menu, which includes a Stone & Wood Pacific Ale Battered Flat Head, too.
- Corks Crew Cellars, 5 Bristol Road – If you want to stock up for your journey, Corks Crew Cellars is the place to do it, with a large range of local and international craft beer on offer, plus regular tastings too.
Rogue Wave Brewing
After taking in the sights of the iconic Bells Beach, just a short drive from Torquay, head through the seaside town of Anglesea and it’s time for another stop. Housed inside the popular Aireys Pub, in the small seaside town of Aireys Inlet, you’ll find Rogue Wave.
The pub was bought by locals determined to keep it from the hands of developers in 2011 in a remarkable story of survival and persistence. The spirit that saw the owners refuse to bow to far bigger players – be that the property developers or the brewers determined to buy their taps – is one they bring to their beers too, as epitomised by a quote on their website: “Our beer is a continuation of our lifestyle. We won’t be told what mass produced beers we have to put on tap by some foreign owned, multinational, beer factory.”
The beers that come from the brewery to the rear of the venue range from the easy drinking Salt, a popular pale lager with label art that wouldn’t look out of place on a surfboard, to the rather lager Cranky Missus, a medal winning 8.2 percent ABV double IPA, with plenty in between. Best known is their Moby Pale Ale, a fruity but balanced affair with the tagline “Drink a Pale, Save a Whale” from which they donate part of the profits to the Sea Shepherd organisation.
The kitchen serves up fine pub grub, there’s plenty of space for kids to burn off some energy, they host regular gigs out back and, if you follow them on social media, you’ll regularly find one of the owners providing updates on surfing conditions.
Aireys Pub is at 45 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet.
Wye Beach Hotel
After checking out the lighthouse at Aireys Inlet and taking a break in the picturesque town of Lorne (head uphill and inland from the beautiful bay to explore the forest and waterfalls if you have time), you’ll eventually reach the tiny village of Wye River. It’s a place that punches above its weight, thanks to a top notch café and the iconic Wye Beach Hotel (not to mention an ace holiday park if you're so inclined).
It’s at the last of these, sitting above the beach and enjoying awe-inspiring views, that you’ll get your next quality craft beer fix. With a healthy tap list mostly dedicated to local and regional breweries and a quality food menu, not to mention a solid takeaway booze offering, you’re guaranteed to leave feeling well and truly sated.
The Wye Beach Hotel is at 19-21 Great Ocean Rd, Wye River.
Once past Wye River and through Kennett River you'll hit Skenes Creek, just outside Apollo Bay. This is where you may well wish to take a detour, not just to enjoy the hinterland and the splendour of The Otways but because two of the region’s longest established breweries are found there.
Forrest Brewing Company
A mere half hour detour from Skenes Creek and the Great Ocean Road, a trip to Forrest Brewing Company is easy to justify. Promoting itself as “Equal parts microbrewery, eating place and mountain biking hangout”, it’s surrounded by abundant rainforest and mountain bike trails and its home in a restored general store is an easy place to wile away a relaxing afternoon.
Their full range of beer can be enjoyed on tap (including seasonal and limited editions) or taken away in bottles. If you’re sitting in for a feed from their seasonal menu, which makes a point of celebrating fresh and local ingredients, they recommend beer pairings for each dish.
Forrest Brewery is at 26 Grant St, Forrest.
Otway Estate (Prickly Moses)
A further half hour drive inland and just ten minutes from Colac, Otway Estate is the home of Prickly Moses beers, Forbidden Fruit ciders and a range of wines – all produced onsite.
They’ve been brewing here for more than a decade, producing an approachable core range, a handful of bolder beers, such as the Black Panther black IPA and a Chardonnay IPA, as well as occasional farmhouse style ales. The brewery outlet is open to the public each Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm, with light meals offered between 12pm to 2pm. All beers and ciders are available in tasting paddle, pot or pint form while relaxing on the deck or, if it’s too cold, inside on the couch in front of the log fire.
Keep an eye out for the annual Oktoberfest too. It’s one of the largest and longest running put on by any microbrewery in Australia.
Prickly Moses beers are brewed at 10 Hoveys Road, Barongarook.
Back to the coast...
Great Ocean Road Brewhouse
Well before the Great Ocean Road and surrounds was home to a number of small breweries, the Otway Estate team had managed to get its beers into a number of venues along the route. And now they have two Brewhouses in the wider region that pour the full Prickly Moses range while offering scores of beers from other breweries in their fridges too.
One is in Queenscliff, but the first was opened just over 30 minutes drive from Wye River, in Apollo Bay, the town called “paradise by the sea” by locals thanks to its natural beauty and relaxed charm. The Great Ocean Road Brewhouse offers guests 16 taps of craft beer and cider to choose from, around 200 Australian and international beers in the fridges and a comprehensive food menu focused on local and regional.
Next door is Tastes of the Region, another operation conceived by Otway Estate director Andrew Noseda. It’s a venue dedicated to showcasing local produce, from the Prickly Moses range to local and regional wines plus cheeses, jams, chutneys, chocolates, honey and much more.
Great Ocean Road Brewhouse is at 29-35 Great Ocean Rd, Apollo Bay.
Sow & Piglets Brewery
Named after the nearby 12 Apostles, which were known as the Sow and Piglets until the 1920s, Sow & Piglets Brewery opened its doors in Port Campbell for the first time in early 2017. The brainchild of John Moloney and Marion Klink – owners of the award-winning Port Campbell Hostel – the brewery is found a mere 120 metres post-swim saunter from the main beach, within the hostel premises.
Open to the public from 4pm daily, when The Crafty Pint called in they were pouring a core range that included a Kolsch, Hefeweizen, IPA, and Dunkel Lager. Depending on availability, seasonal and limited edition beers such as a coffee porter, a strawberry yoghurt stout, a hazelnut brown ale, and even an Eisbock, for those game enough to try it, may also be on tap.
As you may have surmised from the beer styles, their brewer, Julian Widera, is from Germany and is more than happy to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for German beer styles, with his own, where possible, brewed with ingredients sourced locally or within Australia.
Sow & Piglets is at 18 Tregea St Port Campbell.
If you’re still thirsty…
Odyssey Tavern & Brewery
If you’re still on the hunt for more, be that pre- or post-trip drinks, then only ten minutes by car from the start of the Great Ocean Road back towards Melbourne is the Odyssey Tavern & Brewery. Opened in 2012 by Grant Byrne, it’s one of the pioneers of the Geelong craft beer scene.
With eight rotating taps, most of which now pour their own Odyssey Craft Brewing beers, brewed at Cockie’s brewery in Geelong, it’s a great place to kick back – family friendly and, if you time it right, with live music too.
Odyssey Tavern is at 611 Surf Coast Hwy, Mount Duneed.
Mt Duneed Brewing Co
A 20 minute drive from Torquay (or an easy stopover if travelling inland from Geelong toward Colac to get onto the Great Ocean Road) Mt Duneed Estate is well worth a visit. Originally known for its wine, Mt Duneed Estate has branched out into craft beer and cider, with two core beers, the Festival Lager and Pale Ale, available on tap and in tinnies.
Seasonal and guest beers are also available on tap and can be enjoyed inside an impressive dining area set amid wine tanks and old oak barrels – the aptly named Barrel Hall.
Mt Duneed Estate is at 65 Pettavel Road, Waurn Ponds.
You can check out other Crafty Crawls here.
About the author: Mark is a writer and craft beer enthusiast from Geelong who sometimes writes a column at www.runnerstribe.com.