Newcastle Roadtrip – November 2018
Back in November we took a few days off and hit the road to check out a few of the breweries in northern New South Wales. It’s been on the radar for a while, especially after hearing great things about Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, so we decided to take advantage of a slow work week and see what the fuss is about.
Because a few months have passed – and the fact that most people don’t want to read a heap of detail about other peoples’ travels – we’ll share the basic outline and a few thoughts but remove all the boring bits.
Leaving the Gold Coast, our goal was to head straight to Newcastle. A later start than anticipated meant we didn’t stop much along the way and got in fairly late, so the first order of business was beer. Of course there’s no better venue in Newy than Foghorn, so off we went!
Trey, our paddle guide at Foghorn, helped us select some of the finest IPAs on offer along with a few browns and fun limited releases. The accompanying pizza was absolutely delicious, perfectly paired with cold brews and the best way to satiate our road-trip hunger pains.
*FOGHORN BEERS: Better Than James Brown Ale, Extra Extra Special Bitter, Jumpin’ Jack Mash Spiced Pumpkin Ale, 12:03 India Black Ale (the winner!), The Greatest IPA, Young Americans IPA, Braveheart IPA, Edmund Fitzgerald Imperial IPA.
The next morning we were up (relatively) early for a sumptuous breakfast at Goldbergs before gearing up for more driving. Because we aren’t idiots, we shared paddles all day (except our first stop) and one of us was always drinking less than the other to ensure we were more than capable of driving. Please ensure you have a designated driver if you set out to do this trip, as there are lots of places to visit and no one wants anyone to get hurt.
Hunter Valley Beers
Due to opening hours and without wanting to back-and-forth too much, there are the venues we visited (in order) and the beers we tried at each:
IronBark Hill where we met the owners and chatted with head brewer Andrew and gushed over the incredible view. Honestly, we could have pulled up a bench and sat in the midst of the vineyards drinking local beer all day! It’s highly recommended to give yourself plenty of time for this visit, as long as the weather’s good, because you won’t want to rush.
*IRONBARK HILL BEERS: Summer 38 Ale, American Pale Ale, IPA, Hefeweizen, Fest Bier, Hazelnut Brown Ale, ’43 Red Ale, Black Forest Stout
HOPE is a must-visit venue when in the Hunter. Catering to beer and wine lovers, situated on a stunning plot of greenery and grape vines, the entire setup has been well thought out. Wish we lived closer so we could attend some of the incredible performances they host here! Props for the cool paddles so we knew what we were drinking!
*HOPE BEERS: FKA Mango Sour, Pale Ale, Robust Porter, Extra Stout. Can of Black IIPA (freshly canned!) for home.
Lovedale/Sydney Brewing Co. was probably the least exciting venue, simply because the brewery is within a clubhouse on a golf course. It was a confusing atmosphere, with a private event (very posh looking) outside while we enjoyed some chips and a paddle inside. Didn’t take note of the 4 beers we tried – sorry!
Hunter Beer Co. is another spectacular venue with a larger range of beers than we expected from this fairly small system. We tried 5 beers here, but clearly weren’t into taking as many pictures as we started out doing….
Malt’n’Hops had only recently opened their venue, so it was fairly quiet when we first arrived. It was easy to drive past, as the brewhouse is in a semi-industrial estate, but we anticipate they’ll do well. With new tanks (already) ordered and on the way, there was a lot of empty space to be filled! We were lucky enough to meet Cameron, one of the owner/brewers, who took time to chat with us about his brewery, as we sampled our way through a few.
*MALT’N’HOPS BEERS: IPA, Red, Brown, Dark Ale.
Murray’s is a beer we have been familiar with – and fans of – for years. However, after losing their QLD rep a couple years ago, we see less of their product on shelves. (Gee, that guy musta done a good job!). Many of their core range are beers we’ve tried, had in the fridge, and enjoyed, so even though the brewery is a bit of a destination venue, it was nice to finally get there. Great setup, gorgeous venue overlooking more vineyards, and cool merch area, even though the actual brewery is not housed here.
*MURRAY’S BEERS: 262 Blonde Ale, East Coast Lager, XPA, Angry Man Pale Ale, Coco Hops Coconut Porter, Fred IPA
Before finding a place to stay for the night and indulging in a delicious Indian dinner, we had to stop by the infamous Warner’s at the Bay bottle shop. We certainly weren’t disappointed (especially because Jos found Nail Red in stock!) and chucked a few tinnies in the esky! Some of our purchases included: Clare Valley Red IPA, Mornington Peninsula Common Brown, EKIM Vinlander, and Styx King Tide. All to enjoy when we got back home!
Around Warners Bay
After overnighting at the Bay, we had leftover Indian food for breakfast (brekky of champions) and started making our way even further south! We were so close (yet so far) to Six String that we just couldn’t miss it. Huge fans of their Dark Red, along with their anniversary beers and special releases, we had to plan a visit.
Six String was waiting for us, too! We had sent a message hoping to pop in a bit earlier than opening but ended up getting there pretty much right on time so it was no issue at all, but they knew we were coming. Jacob, their head brewer, had a really good chat with us and even invited us to participate (as punters, of course) in the brewery tour he had scheduled. We filled up on mouth-watering burgers, washed down with tasty brews!
*SIX STRING BEERS: Coastie Lager, TPA, Pale Ale, Dark Red, FIRE Chilli Belgian Ale. Walked out with a bottle of their “Five”, a barrel-aged imperial stout. Might be a birthday beer in August…
A quick visit to Forster to check out The Coastal Brewing Co., who – even though they were technically closed and in the midst of canning – welcomed us with open arms. Having a yarn – of course! – we sampled four of their beers on a surfboard-shaped paddle.
*COASTAL BEERS: One Mile Aussie Pale Ale, Elizabeth English Bitter, Cellito IPA, Black Head Milk Stout
An overnight stay in Port Macquarie meant that we had a long northerly drive home on our final day! But of course, we can’t road trip without beer!
Port Macquarie and Northern NSW Beers
Our first port of call after breakfast was The Little Brewing Co., which we have previously visited many years ago. They’re in a new space with a bigger kit and more beers to sample. Don’t remember which ones, but we definitely got a bottle of Mad Abbot Christmas Ale to enjoy during our cooler months in Queensland.
Black Duck was next, another tucked-away spot with their doors wide open to invite visitors in. With four samples on the paddle we picked up another four to enjoy at home.
Seven Mile, the final brewery of the trip, was highly anticipated and certainly didn’t disappoint! Big space, big beers, big personalities. We got a tour of the venue from owner/brewer Matt and tried everyone on offer. Already having ordered more tanks, these guys are going places and we can’t wait to get back down to Ballina (since we quickly polished off our canimal full of Rye Don’t Know)!
*SEVEN MILE BEERS: Cali Cream Ale, Australian Summer, American Pale, West Coast IPA, English Mild, Belgian Tripel, Rye Don’t Know
What can we tell you? If you’re in Brisbane/Gold Coast and have been thinking of taking a few days to conduct your own brewery tour of the region and check out the southern breweries, hopefully this little guide will help. If nothing else, at least you know of a few more indie breweries making some cracking beers to enjoy.
Thank you to everyone we met along the way who took their time to welcome us and talk to us about your story, your beers, and your goals. We are more than happy to support you any time you come up this way!
Cheers and beers,
Jos and Matt