I recently spent a few weeks in Australia, driving down the East coast from Cairns to Sydney. Australia immediately reminded me a lot of Canada, just warmer and more tropical. Australia also reminded me a lot of the UK and there’s a good reason for this. Unlike Canada, immigration to Australia was almost exclusively from the UK and Ireland until the fifties. As such, Australia boasts much more of a pub culture than Canada. It’s possible they’ve taken drinking and partying to levels beyond those of the old countries. People in Australia love to party. When you throw in some pretty nice beaches, you might say I enjoyed my time there.
You know what? Nobody in Australia drinks Fosters, or at least I never once saw any. Australians do drink a lot of beer though, and I was mostly impressed with the selection. The area between Cairns and North Brisbane is not densely populated. We stayed in a few small towns along the way down and most decent bars and restaurants had a quaffable beer selection. There were many macro lagers available, but also tasty pale ales from Coopers, James Squire, and Fat Yak. We did encounter the odd craft beer as well, particularly at higher-end restaurants. The most common craft brand we came across was Pretty Things, from Fremantle, Western Australia. You can buy their beer at the better Vancouver beer stores. One other note about beer in Australia, it’s very expensive, like $5 for a ~300ml ‘schooneer’ or $10 a pint, yikes.
It wasn’t until Brisbane that we found a truly fantastic beer bar. The Archive Beer Boutique menu lists hundreds of Australian beers of all different styles. I noticed that most of the breweries were located in the southern portion of the country, where the climate is more suited to brewing and drinking interesting beer. I was disappointed that our beer was served in chilled glasses, no need for those if you want to actually taste beery goodness. We had a Bridge Road IPA and a Holgate Chocolate Temptress. Both were good, though not as impeccable as what can be found here on the west coast of North America.
In Sydney we visited the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, which was established in 1841 making it the oldest active brewpub in Australia. It’s highly recommended to stay there, though we didn’t. The location is fantastic and the establishment is very atmospheric, like a classy English pub. We tried each of their beers, preferring the Nelson’s Blood Porter and the Old Admiral Strong Ale. The beers here were brewed in the English style and, while good, did not especially stand out. I still recommend a visit here.
We also visited the Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe in Sydney, an upscale brewpub. I found the atmosphere to be very strange. The downtown Central Business District location might have something to do with the overall stuffiness of the joint. Not to worry, it’s all about the beer and they had a good many styles available. We tried the Kolsch, Honey Ale, IPA, and Framboise Foment. All were good, none were outstanding. I can’t say I loved hanging out at this place; it lacked the cosiness I expect of a brewpub. If you’re into beer, it’s still worth checking out if in Sydney, but don’t plan a day around it.
Australia was great, but it’s good to be back in BC.