Stemming on from our weekend in Melbourne sampling countless intriguing and inventive beers at GABS 2013 (Part 1 and Part 2), Liam and I decided to hire a car and take a whirlwind brewery crawl of the Yarra Valley on the Sunday afternoon before our flights home.
We managed to sneak in three breweries thanks to a Yarra Valley Cider & Ale Trail guide we found unattended at our first venue. So, for this Sunday’s not-a-DS you can relive our grand albeit brief journey to a few of the breweries in Victoria’s Yarra Valley.
I’d long planned a trip to Healesville and more specifically to the White Rabbit Brewery to pay homage to the brew that first got me interested in craft beer: White Rabbit’s White Ale (the Dark Ale is also very good). And so that was our starting point.
Situated approximately an hour from Melbourne on the Maroondah Highway and nestled amongst a myriad of wineries in the picturesque grape-growing region, the White Rabbit Brewery is in prime position to attract the many tourists and passers-by.
Despite being a dressed-up, industrial-sized shed there was an unexpected cosiness to the interior. A small bar and a kitchen lay smack bang in the middle of it, surrounded by a number of fenced-off stainless steel fermenters, as numerous as they are large.
A collection of bar stools and comfy armchairs were dotted in the entry. Being a Sunday the place was decently attended and empty chairs were scarce, though there was ample standing room.
While the set-up got my tick of approval I’d built up my expectations so much it was almost inevitable they got dashed. It just didn’t quite have the atmosphere I was expecting and after about 5 minutes I was more than a little bored. Maybe it was because it was a Sunday but I kind of expected to see some action in the fenced-off brewery that surrounds the bar. With only two beers and a cider on tap (and some Little Creatures take-home packs) it was a bit of an anti-climax as well, particularly given our spoils at GABS during the previous two days.
In any event we couldn’t stay very long and soon enough we set off for and arrived at Buckley’s Beer, also in Healesville. One of the proprietors greeted us energetically on our arrival and immediately got us both a tasting paddle of Buckleys’ four brews: the Original Ale, Pils, Bitter, and the Dark Bock.
The beers were all generally pretty good – the Dark Bock being the pick of the bunch – but in my mind they weren’t spectacular. While it was purely a cellar door and served that purpose it looked as though every expense had been spared in setting up the space. The home-grown hops flowers on the tables was a nice touch though and allowed visitors to experience some hands-on hops aromas. Although we couldn’t take any beers with us they offered some nifty, boxed tasting packs that’d be a perfect gift for any discerning beer-lover.
Last on our list was Coldstream Brewery which we’d driven past on our way to Healesville (it’s also on the Maroondah Highway). It was a pub set-up and by far my favourite of the three venues we visited. Coldstream have a pretty decent beer selection as well as their own cider and the odd seasonal. The ambiance of the place was spot on for a brewery/pub: there was a live band setting up as we drank, an extensive menu with some delicious-looking pub grub coming out on plates as we sat at the bar.
Alas, we’d chewed up too much time already at the first two venues and could only stay for one drink (Liam had the pale ale, while I had the porter) which we practically sculled before jumping back in the car to head for Melbourne Airport. The whole tour had only taken ninety-one minutes. It would’ve been the perfect place for a relaxed Sunday sesh too.
All in all, if you’re ever out that way I’d definitely recommend giving a few of the breweries a visit (even if you’ve come for the wine). There aren’t too many opportunities in Australia where there are so many breweries in such close proximity and situated in such picturesque countryside. There are plenty of B&B’s about, so why not make a weekend of it!