Australia’s best craft beer

Last week I visited three iconic Melbourne pubs to taste the best beers from Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. This week we head south and west and find out which state has the best craft brew – according to me.

It’s a cold Sunday morning and what better way to start the day than with beer and donuts for breakfast at The Gertrude Hotel in Fitzroy. We stop in at Donut Shop Donuts and Coffee to pick up a couple of its delectable cinnamon donuts and then settle in at the pub for a midday mouthful. The Gertrude is another Fitzroy landmark bar that has had a recent renovation but still maintains its ‘pub’ feel. And the bar staff are some of the finest around – super friendly and very knowledgeable about the beer they serve.

happy barman at the gertrude hotel in fitzroy

Anyway, what was the beer like, you ask …

Hobart Brewing Iron Pot Rye Porter – 4.8%
Nice dark, rich porter, a hint of coffee in aroma and taste. Not too heavy, in fact, it’s quite crisp for a porter. No obvious chocolate, caramel or biscuit flavours as are typical of a lot of porters. Full-flavoured dark beer that matches very well with my cinnamon donut. If you’re ever going to be naughty and have beer for breakfast, then this is the one to drink.

Van Dieman Brewing New Harvest White IPA – 7%
Big hop punch at first sip. Nice and fruity on the nose, full-bodied beer with a thick head and clean hoppy finish. Cloudy but not too wheaty.

Tasmania winner: Hobart Brewing Iron Pot Porter

lucy eating a donut outside the gertrude

South Australia
Next, we head to The Palace Hotel for the South Australian brewer showcase. The Palace is known as the most dog-friendly hotel in Melbourne, and it certainly lives up to this moniker. Friendly furry faces everywhere, as well as a very happy crowd. I mean who wouldn’t be, surrounded by all these wonderful doggies? We find a spot in the beer garden and order a couple of pints…

the bar at the palace hotel south melbourne

Big Shed Californicator West Coast IPA – 5.3%
Big hops at the front with a slight mango, passionfruit and apricot vibe. Nice thick IPA, very well balanced and easily the best beer I’ve tasted this week.

Big Shed Nuts and Malts Hand-pulled Brown Ale – 5.6%
After the big hit that was the Californicator, I just have to try this special hand-pulled brew. Mellow hazelnut and light smoky aroma and flavour. Very subtle, tastes a bit like Nutella, a little sweet but not sickly. Quite a light bodied brown ale.

Barossa Valley Brewing Easy IPA – 5%
Fruity punch, big hops but not too bold. Nice thick, creamy head. A dark amber IPA with a slightly bitter finish. Very sessionable.

Pirate Life IPA – 6.8%
Clean, light and not too hoppy (which may work against it). Quite fruity, very sessionable, but not very flavoursome. Not my favourite beer, which is a shame, because I do like the Pirate Life Double IPA.

I am lucky to meet the brewmasters, Jason and Craig, from Big Shed Brewing, which is great, because I’m able to express my utter awe at their Californicator IPA. The pair have been brewing with the big boys for only two years, but have been backyard brewing since 2002. Their homebrews were so well received by everyone who sipped them that they got sick of people telling them ‘you should do this for a living’, so they did. Lovely guys, lovely beer. They even shouted us a round, which was nice of them. So, cheers fellas!

South Australia winner: Big Shed Californicator IPA

Western Australia
The last stop on our weeklong tour of Australia’s best craft beer has us at The Royston in Richmond. The Royston has a shady past, operating as a strip club and a hub for organised crime, and it’s almost as if this history has bled into the walls. It’s a nice little local, but not the quintessential ‘pub’ by any means. Still, I’m here for the beer, so let’s get on with it, eh?

slow day at the royston

Mash Brewing Sarcasm IPA – 9.5%
Big hop blast with a malty finish. It almost feels as if it’s going to be stronger than it actually is, if that makes any sense. Slightly alcoholic taste with a syrupy mouthfeel. Quite flavoursome.

Mash Brewing Challenger IPA – 5.8%
English style IPA, a little bit flat, but that may be to do with the hand-pulled technique. Malty overtones and maybe a bit too ‘mashy’ for my liking. Still, it’s very smooth and a little reminiscent of Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale. Not my favourite.

Western Australia winner: Mash Brewing Sarcasm IPA

So, who takes the 2016 Pint of Origin crown?
After a week of sampling and sipping, my choice for the winner of this year’s Pint of Origin is the Big Shed Californicator IPA from South Australia – by quite the margin really. Second place would have to go to the Stockade Brew Co 8-bit American IPA from New South Wales, followed by the wonderful offering from Hobart Brewing, the Iron Pot Rye Porter.

hanging with the crew from big shed brewers

The crew from Big Shed Brewing Co take out this year’s Pint of Origin crown

So, South Australia is the big winner, but really, Melbourne beer enthusiasts were the biggest winners at Good Beer Week. It’s no wonder this festival is rated in the top 20 beer festivals in the world. I highly recommend stepping out next year when the festival rolls back around from 12-21 May 2017. You won’t be disappointed.

I must give special thanks to my partner-in-crime and designated driver Lucy, for partaking in a few pots, giving me many laughs and great company along the way.

Stay tuned for next year’s Pint of Origin series – you know I’ll be there!

Cheers to good beers and what’s between your ears!

Related articles:
Pint of Origin: Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales
The beer essentials

Nine reasons you should drink beer

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