The nature of my job sometimes takes me out of the office and onto the open road. As of today, I will have (hopefully) wrapped up my involvement in a long-running project with a visit to the town of Maryborough. The work I’ve been doing recently has been great because it takes a day at work and turns it into a long road trip up the Bruce Highway, usually with only two hours of what I would consider actual work buried in six to seven hours of driving. It’s bit like having a day off, except that it earns money for the company.
While planning the trip, I realised that if I made an early-ish start, I could be heading homewards by lunchtime. That would put me on the Sunshine Coast in time to grab afternoon tea at Queensland’s newest microbrewery, Brewbake, and pay a visit to the Sunshine Coast Brewery. This was an opportunity too good to pass up.
I ended up taking the exit to the Big Pineapple at 2PM. I was 100 kilometres from home and needed a bathroom, leg stretching and a gas station. The Big Pineapple offered these plus an opportunity to grab a pie from Brewbake.
The Big Pineapple is an odd facility – a tourist attraction-slash-marketplace – and I’m not sure I’ve ever set foot there before. The place reeks of thirty-year-old bowls club decor and, on a Tuesday afternoon during school holidays, is mostly populated by parents with their kids. I can deal with the interior design with a self-aware sense of ironic detachment but children drive me nuts.
I found Brewbake on the other side of the indoor jumping castle (charging $4 per kid per ten minutes and I’m the kid-hating douche?) from the bathroom. Brewbake has a pretty good concept: beer plus baked goods. Unfortunately, it’s been open for two weeks and has already sold out of all their beer, except their pale ale, and on the afternoon I was there, had sold all but four pies. Well, that’s a good thing for the owners, not for me.
I spent $20 on a refillable one litre bottle of pale ale (refills are $10, bottle itself is $5) and a mince pie. I regret the latter but not because it was bad, mostly because mince pies are never that great and I should have spent another dollar to go gourmet. Though I was prepared to sample the beers there and then, I opted for the takeaway beer because drinking a diuretic that would make me drowsy with an hour-plus of driving ahead of me was not a good idea.
Also because I didn’t want to spend any time there. I was probably the only person there without children, which as a mildly creepy looking gentleman, makes me uncomfortable. A thirty-something couple approached the counter and looked like they were more on my wavelength. Nope, three kids were around the other side: “Mum. Mum. Mum!” Fuck that noise. I’m out.
250 Beers has a better summary with more background information and a perspective from the other side of the child-having fence
Eight kilometres down the road, in the back streets of Kunda Park, an industrial suburb that sits halfway between the Bruce Highway and Maroochydore, is the Sunshine Coast Brewery.
This is not my first visit to the Sunny Coast Brewery cellar doors. I dropped by briefly a couple of weeks ago on my way up the coast for other work-related activities. I didn’t have time to stop and sample but there were no customers in the bar when I got there. Judging by the uni textbooks, the barman spent more of his day catching up on coursework than tending to thirsty tourists. Hardly surprising, as I’m guessing their site doesn’t get much foot traffic. The loss of their Maroochydore bar must be hard on direct sales, although I see them pop up at the Archive from time to time.
This visit was worse. One of the brewers had just finished locking up when I arrived an hour before their “official” closing. The chairs were up on tables and the place deserted, again. While I was prepared to sit, on my own if necessary, and have a beer, I decided to just settle for more takeaways. That was probably for the best. I suppose.
I left five minutes later with four-packs of their Rauch Bier and Porter. After thirty-five minutes, my microtour was finished with precisely no beer consumed. While that’s odd, I was resuming my drive home with eight stubbies and a squealer in the back. Except I forgot to re-fuel. Dammit!
Back home, I decided to have a few samples to see if there was any value in buying direct from the brewer. The Brewbake pale ale is surprisingly imbued with the flavour and aroma of honey, has a nice head, is a cloudy golden colour and has a watery refreshment to it. Quite sessionable and though I doubt the beer nerds will go gaga for it, it’s a decent entry-level craft beer for the less adventurous public that will make up the majority of their patronage.
There was less of a need for the Sunshine Coast beers. I could’ve picked these up from the bottleshop but probably wouldn’t have been as low as $16 per four-pack. The Rauch Bier is a malt-laden smoked beer, which I generally hate, but this lacked the medicine taste that ruins so many of that genre. The Porter is nothing special, with hints of chocolate and roasted grains but lacking a bit of body. I previously bought their Rye ESB (very good!) and their Best Bitter (too similar to the Rye ESB), so I have a foursome of very malty beers from two visits.
While a visit to a brewery cellar door has the potential to be interesting, I’ve learnt the following in the last few weeks:
- A brewery is a place to make beer, less so provide you with the comfort in which you’re accustomed to having it served. Given the above, if the choice is drinking next to a jumping castle, on my own next to a brewery or on my own at home, the latter will always win.
- A quiet afternoon at the cellar doors is a great way to meet brewers. I’ve been to five now and four had brewers at the bar.
- If you plan on talking to the brewers, have some questions ready. I was greeted by the brewer at both stops today and I didn’t think of anything to ask until I was walking away (idiota!). Don’t leave your friendly inquisitiveness in Maryborough.