Crafty Sprawls: The Shoalhaven Region

May 29, 2024, by Benedict "Benny" Kennedy-Cox

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Crafty Sprawls: The Shoalhaven Region

Ask any of the 100,000-plus locals what Shoalhaven is like and pretty much the standard response you'll get it: “I tell you, I could never live anywhere else.” Lying around 200km south of Sydney, the Shoalhaven municipality spans 4,567 square kilometres, with its biggest towns Nowra, Huskisson and Ulladulla. 

As you might be able to tell from your Sydney mate’s Instagram stories, the biggest draw for tourists is the region's almost patriotic abundance of stunning scenery. To this day, the land of the Tharawal and Yuin Nations boasts an awe-inspiring natural beauty of postcard shorelines with blinding white sand, bushland as wild and untamed as a ranger’s beard, and rolling hills that seem to have been deliberately positioned to ensure you enjoy the perfect sunset.

With all this in mind, it seems pitifully trivial that I must now make a segue into beer. But this is The Crafty Pint, after all, not Ernest Hemingway describing a mountain, and presumably you arrived here specifically to read about beer. And the good news is: you’re in for a treat because in recent years Shoalhaven has boomed with opportunities for visitors to pair beautiful views with beautiful beers.

Given the distance between the breweries (and other beer venues) in this guide, we've opted to put it under our lesser-spotted Crafty Sprawl, rather than Crafty Crawl, banner, and have presented the breweries in geographical order if travelling south from Sydney. There's so much on offer in the region – beer and otherwise – it's a sprawl you'll want to take in over a weekend at the very least.


Stop One: South Yeast Brewing

Inside South Yeast's warehouse home. Photo from the brewery's Instagram.

 

Nowra is sometimes referred to as the donut of the south coast. Some locals informed me the nickname is due to there being nothing interesting in the centre of town as all the fun things happen on the outskirts. Others said it was because tourists skip Nowra entirely, favouring the surrounding towns. Donut or not, beer tourists are making their way to the outskirts of Nowra for a visit to South Yeast Brewing.

Formerly full-time musicians and coffee roasters, brothers Simon and Joey Panucci grew up around the corner from the brewery, tucked away in a residential pocket of North Nowra. In a cosy garage with motel brick walls, South Yeast is a community hub attracting a mix of young drinkers, families and dogs stopping by for some live music, food truck fare and a natter.

Of course, there is also beer, which you can navigate with ease with a hand from the knowledgeable staff. Alongside seasonal releases is a core range featuring a nutritionally juicy NEIPA that holds a head like an executioner, a refined red ale that’s not here to make friends, and a Voyager malt XPA that’s so well rounded you could fall into it and land safely.

Head South Yeast at Unit 6/11 Geary Place, North Nowra, and read our Who Brews...? feature on the brothers from 2021 here.


Stop Two: Husky Brewing

Your travel guide Benny, tucking into a Husky paddle.

 

On the other side of the donut, in South Nowra, is an industrial estate in the bush where one roller-door conceals the squeaky clean, family-run Husky Brewing.

Across ten taps pour a variety of beers, with highlights being the sweet and superb Ellmoo’s Cherry Sour, the kicking and resinous Flinders Aussie XPA, and the sticky Winchester Witch, an English dark ale that would take over Instagram if it were made into a chocolate bar. The Little Boat Italian Pilsener is a clean and sharp mid-strength choice that pairs nicely with their wood-fired pizzas or locally-curated cheese boards, which perfectly sum up the South Coast smallholding culture.

And yes, it is named for their pet dogs (which means they are pet-friendly) and not for the nickname of the town to which where our Sprawl will take us next.

Do the dog at 1/4 Cumberland Avenue, South Nowra.


Stop Three: Jervis Bay Brewing Co

 

Sticking out from the NSW coast like a crab claw, Jervis Bay boasts a stunning marine park home to bioluminescence, the world’s whitest sand, and an outdoor activity list that keeps the locals well-stocked with weekend plans and tourist dollars. Among the more recent activities to bond tourists and locals alike is a drink in the sunny courtyard of Huskisson’s first brewery, Jervis Bay Brewing Co. 

Born under the black sun of the 2019/20 Black Summer, Jervis Bay Brewing Co emerged from those catastrophic conditions like a phoenix from the ashes. The subsequent COVID challenges they faced saw them receive tremendous support from a local community that is at the heart of all they do. 

There’s a custom-built jungle gym for the kids, a take-what-you-need herb garden, and events seemingly every night of the week, including live music, open mics and trivia, the latter of which I’ve found myself doing with a table of people I only met that night.

Perhaps the best way the mates behind the brewery give back to their community, however, is via their beers, most of which are named after local legends and icons. Alongside an innovative rotation of seasonal brews are the refreshing Point Perp Pilsner, the bold Bay of Plenty IPA and Bright Idea XPA, a crisp single hop beer. If you like pale ales, Jervis Bay Brewing Co have two: the Cow and Calf Tropical Pale Ale and 11 Days Pale Ale – duelling siblings that are sort of a local Ford versus Holden equivalent.  

Order yourself a pint or paddle, something from the 5 Little Pigs food truck, strike up a conversation in the courtyard on a sunny day, and the word you’ll be looking for to describe your experience is "perfection".

Become part of the community at 3 Duranbah Drive, Huskisson.

Crafty Cabal Member offer at Jervis Bay Brewing Co: 2-FOR-1 Tasting Paddles!


Stop Four: Flamin Galah Brewing Co

Not your standard regional brewery-in-a-warehouse. Photo from Flamin Galah's Facebook.

 

As recently as 2018, there was nowhere to get a locally-brewed beer in Huskisson; now there's a hearty debate over who brews the best one. Making up 50 percent of this argument at time of writing is Flamin Galah Brewing Co, a locally-owned brewery just a hop, skip and a jump down the road from Jervis Bay. And, although they share a street, they're two very different breweries.

Almost everything you see here was built by husband and wife owners Claire and Sam Hewson, with their design choices leading to Flamin Galah becoming the designated date spot of Huskisson. Amid the pink detailings of the warehouse brewery is an Instagrammable selection of indoor and outdoor seating areas, offering the perfect place in which to enjoy a seltzer or cocktail from their custom menu. 

On the beer side of things, Flamin offer one lager and a strong focus on ales in all their various forms. The XPA is a veritable lip-smacker at a repeatable 4.8 percent ABV, while the NEIPA continues to be a fan favourite due to tasting like tropical fruit juice with a head on top. In colder months, the family Christmas recipe-inspired Lattice Biscuit Stout makes for a sweet and heady night-ender. 

The Nest Café’s on-site food truck provides the perfect date share plates, with chicken bao and fish tacos my personal picks.

Get pretty in pink at Unit 8/5 Erina Road, Huskisson. And read more about Flamin Galah in the feature we ran when they opened a second venue in Sydney.


Stop Five: Dangerous Ales

 

What’s so dangerous about Dangerous Ales? After all, its home just looks like a classic gastropub following its renovation by the brewery team, warmed by the south coast sun and the glow of the brick oven. And what’s dangerous about that? 

Well, from a business point of view, there was certainly a fair amount of risk involved when founder and head brewer (and chef) Dangerous Damien Martin and co purchased the old Milton Hotel, got rid of the pokies, overhauled the joint, took the menu in a brave new direction, and replaced the mainstream lagers with his own frequently weird and wonderful beers. And when it comes to the backstory, pop the terms "Damien Martin" and "bodyboard" into a search engine and check out the videos that pop up.

Thankfully, the rebirth of a beloved pub (in the middle of scenic Milton, no less) is a daring feat that has paid drinkable dividends as Dangerous Ales has become a hotspot for travelling foodies attracted to the Australian beer world's first ever hatted restaurant and beer tourists eager to tuck into one of the broadest selections of beers you'll find under any one brewery's roof: from the Knappstein Reserve Lager reborn that is flagship Crispy Boi to unlikely meetings of ingredients that are a reminder of Damo's past as a chef in some damn fine restaurants.

Elsewhere, there's the vibrant Backyard Pale Ale and the luxurious Uncle Damo’s Oatmeal Stout if the weather calls for it. Limited releases and collaboration brews are frequent, while Damo seems to have developed a modern fixation on thiolised beers – one of which picked up an Indies trophy in 2023 – so expect something outrageously tangy, unique and unforgettable.

Enter the Danger Zone at 74 Princes Highway, Milton.

Crafty Cabal Member offer at Dangerous Ales: Take Home Some Discounted Dangerous Ales


Stop Six: Cupitt's Estate

 

If you’re from New South Wales and you’ve been on Tinder, there’s a 50 percent chance you’ve seen the images of emerald green hills basking in the beams of the warm sun as it sets on another perfect day at Cupitt’s Estate. Although first and foremost a winery, this family-owned estate (yes, you can meet a Cupitt) focuses on local flavour in all of their cuisine, wine and beer.

Cupitt’s features three seating areas: the outdoor lawn ideal for day drinks; the patio for group lunches; and inside for dates and special occasions. However, the best spot to enjoy a Cupitt’s Estate beer is wherever you’re sitting. 

The Vienna Lager is a malt masterclass while the Ulladulla IPA is a sticky hop bomb, perfect alongside some local cheese. Designated drivers will be delighted by the Mosaic-driven South Coast Session Ale and the adventurous among us should most definitely delve into some of brewer Liam Jackson's wine/beer co-ferment releases.

Another thing worth pointing out about Cupitt’s Estate is how sincerely everyone wants to be there. The passionate staff are so happy and welcoming, although given the views, brews and food on offer, why wouldn’t they be?

Take a sip, tuck into something tasty and soak in the scenery and pretty soon you’ll be glad that you’re there too.

Follow Cupitt's arrow to 58 Washburton Road, Ulladulla.


Stop Seven: Wombat Brewery

 

For our final stop on this long and diverse Crafty Sprawl, we’re off to Wombat Brewery, a proper old school local Australian brewery.

Despite being in what is essentially a big ol’ shed, Wombat manages to feel very cosy, not least due to the lived-in decorating touches and the fact it's buzzing with locals every weekend. Some come for the food trucks, others for the sausage sizzle or because it’s family-friendly. Many enjoy the live music which takes place under the Wombat stand in any weather, but almost everyone is here for the beer.

According to owner Aaron McKay, Wombat is a nanobrewery, one that doesn't have a traditional core range, instead serving whatever he deems best and fresh that day. When I visited, this included the crisp and floral Pilsner, the smooth and sweet Viking Ale, and the Dark Emu Porter.

Get cosy at Unit 6/1/3 Coller Road, Ulladulla.


And, by jove, you’ve done it! You have defeated the Shoalhaven Crafty Sprawl and your reward is now you get to be the person who recommends good places to drink beer to other travellers. Unless, of course, you're after a little more...

Other Options

 

If you're still looking for more good beer options while in the region, here's a couple of non-brewery crackers you might like to check out.

  • Justin Lill Wines, 112a Queen Street, Berry: Yes, this Berry bottlo is primarily a wine shop but the eponymous owner Justin Lill is also a big champion of craft beer, which is why you’ll find an incredible variety of exceptional brews inside. Not only is Justin Lill Wines a great stop to pick up a milestone beer from Aussie innovators such as One Drop but you’ll also find some scarce releases from international heroes including Omnipollo, The Bruery and Chimay. Most of the beers are sold as singles with many kept at ambient temperature, so be sure to pop them in your esky right away if you want to enjoy them at your campsite later.
  • Salty Joe's, 1/54 Owen Street, Huskisson: In Huskisson, a lot of bloated beer tourists might find themselves at Salty Joe's working off a hangover rather than working on another one. Which is a shame, because although this café does make a helluva breakfast to knock the dust off, it’s also a great place to crack open a cold one and sprinkle a little dust back on. Alongside their collection of brunch favourites, Salty Joe's puts the "fully" in fully licensed with a brilliant collection of canned limited releases from all over Australia as well as fresh independent beers on tap. While I recommend waiting until after midday to get started, their bacon and egg toastie is best enjoyed at any time of day.

You can find other Crafty Crawls and Sprawls here. All of the venues above are featured in the free Crafty Pint app, designed to help you find your nearest good beer, wherever you are.

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