Brewery tours: the best invention since beer

May 23, 2011 in Australia,Places,Victoria

I’ve always been a beer girl. I’ll never forget as I knocked back my after-work pint of lager while working in France: my British coworkers gave each other a look of appreciation: “Only a Yank could drink a beer like that.” I spent high school and college drowning red cups of cheap keg beer and cans of Keystone Light: you knew it was a classy party when they had Bud Light.

Christine Amorose & Valissa Warren at Red Hill Brewery, Australia

Eventually, my beer tasting palate became slightly more sophisticated. I splurged on Coronas with lime and Blue Moon with orange and learned the difference between pales and porters. So when  Good Beer Week rolled around in Melbourne, I was keen to embrace my inner beer snob when a friend invited me on the Mornington Peninsula Aussie Brewery Tour. Wine often steals the spotlight in Australia, with world-renowned wine growing regions in most states. I tasted the offerings in Yarra Valley a few weeks ago, but I’d take a pint over a pinot any day.

Aussie Brewery Tours is still quite new to the game: they won’t even have their official launch until mid-June. But the recipe for success is certainly there. Scott, the owner and tour guide, has a real passion for craft beer and microbreweries, and his enthusiasm is infectious. On the road to the first brewery, he shares the basics of beer making, a hilarious overview of the history of beer and spot-on insight into Australians’ relationship with beer–along with a bevy of beer trivia facts, like that a former Australian prime minister was once the beer drinking champion of the world. Seriously, only in Australia.

Tasting paddle at Red Hill Brewery, Mornington Peninsula, Australia

Red Hill Brewery: Nestled in the wooded hills, the rustic Red Hill Brewery feels ages away from the urban allure of Melbourne. Since it was Good Beer Week, Red Hill was doing a Good Beer Swap: the tasting paddle featured three beers from other wineries, as well as their latest hop harvest. While the Red Hill brew was delicious, it was the Holgate Temptress Porter that was the overwhelming favorite. With hints of caramel and vanilla, it was dessert in a glass–and so good that none of us could resist having it with our lunch. (I quickly decided that this was going to be a “steak and beer” sort of day, opting for a succulent steak sandwich.)

Steak sandwich at Red Hill Brewery, Mornington Peninsula, Australia

Mornington Peninsula Brewery: The Mornington Peninsula Brewery doesn’t exactly warrant a second glance the first time you drive by. Plopped down in an industrial area, it looks more like a manufacturing facility or unassuming office building than a beer lover’s destination. But at just eight months old, it’s already got a great thing going: passionate owners, buzzy atmosphere and, most importantly, incredible beer.

Mornington Peninsula Brewery in Victoria, Australia

It has a sparse but ideal set-up for a Sunday session: live music, good beer, hot pizza. The décor is straightforward and open, with a wood-fired pizza oven and beer-making facilities taking center stage. The crowd ranged from young families (complete with babies on hips and toddlers creating mayhem) to older couples and groups of twenty-something professionals.

I absolutely loved the Mornington Peninsula Pale, an American-style pale ale with strong passionfruit aromas. The head brewer at Red Hill said that a good beer is one you should be able to drink at least two pints of–and I reckon I could easily gulp the MP Pale all afternoon.

Christine Amorose at True South Brewery in Mornington Peninsula, Australia

True South Brewery: One of the few breweries with a female head brewer, the beer on offer is refreshingly simple. The brews didn’t seem as creative or arresting as the ones at the first two breweries, but they were good–and really, what more is there to ask for? Situated across from the water in scenic Black Rock, True South had more of a restaurant-with-a-brewery-in-the-background feel.

By the end of the day, I was delightfully beer drunk (isn’t that the best kind?) but also felt like I had learned much more about the craft of beer-making and tasted some incredible brews. It may not be as classy as going wine tasting, but beer tasting is a heck of a lot more laid-back and fun–and isn’t that the Australian way?

The $160 price tag includes two tasting paddles, three pints, lunch, one brewery tour and transportation to and from Mornington Peninsula from Melbourne. It’s completely worth it for the chance to see the beautiful Mornington Peninsula and drink heaps of beer without worrying about having a sober driver.

Have you been on a brewery tour or a beer tasting excursion?

  • This sounded like a lot of fun!  I am so looking forward to my stay in Bamberg Germany so I can try their beers!  Beer has come along way in the last few years.  They even pair it with food. . . and we thought that was only done with wine. 

  • This. Is. Epic. It sounds so heavenly. And bravo for this post. Very impressed. Australia is as the tip top of my list and hope now that I’m moving to California it will mean my chances of getting there sooner than later will quickly rise. Little surprised to see this, since like you said, Australia is known for their ever-growing wineries. 

  • Sounds like my kind of day! I actually only recently started drinking beer – have always preferred wine. Then I went to Little Creatures brewery in Fremantle – oh my yum! Have you been to the one in Melb yet? If not you should – great beer and great food, too. 

  • Katja

    I thoroughly enjoyed this review of a GBW event.  It’s one of the best reviews I’ve read, in fact.  I love seeing more women in Australia (although it seems you aren’t Aussie) realizing that beer is where it’s at.  Forget wine (although tasty).  Food and beer are a better match than food and wine… and people here in Oz are slowly figuring that out.  There’s a reason beer is older than wine… haha!  Maybe I’ll see you around at some beery events in Melbourne…

  • Kim

    Agreed!  Brewery tours are amazing.  If anyone wants some great beer I’ll show you around in Portland, Oregon!

  • Thanks for coming by, a great wrap up of a Good Beer Week event, lovely pics, cheers, Karen & Dave

  • mmmmmmmmm beer!
    When we finally meet up we need to have a beer-a-thon!!
    I envy your love for wine too though, I don’t likes it. hahaha

  • I love Beer too! I’ve only done one beer tour and that was the Budweiser one in St. Louis Missouri.  Even though its a very large facility, the building is historical, and it reminds me of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. 

    Anyways thanks for the great post!

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  • This absolutely goes on the top of my list! I love beer!

  • Anonymous

    Ah beer pairing is so much fun! My parents went to a beermakers dinner at their country club and every course had a different beer–and dessert was a beer float with a stout! Love that concept!

  • Anonymous

    Australia definitely loves their beer and the microbrewery and craft brewery thing is certainly improving. Super keen to try out their other brewery tours in the Yarra Valley! This should be at the top of your list if you make it to Australia!

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t been to Little Creatures in Melb yet, but have heard great things–definitely on my list!

  • Anonymous

    Missed the Barleys Angels event, but super keen to get more involved in the beer scene in Melbourne! I’ll take a pint any day :)

  • Anonymous

    When I’m back in the States, I’ll certainly take you up on that offer! Didn’t know there was much of a beer scene in Portland!

  • Anonymous

    Really enjoyed it–it’s a shame you’re so far away (and I don’t drive!) or I would be back in a heartbeat!

  • Anonymous

    We’ll go out for plenty of pints, don’t worry!!!

  • Anonymous

    There’s a Budweiser factory in California too–haven’t visited it yet, but I definitely want to someday! I love checking out the smaller breweries–such a passion there for good beer!

  • Anonymous

    If you love beer, you’d LOVE this! Such a fun day!!!

  • Petina / pocketvillage

    Ooh, this beer tour looks great! I’m going to have to check it out. The Holgate Temptress Porter sounds awesome!

  • Katelyn

    I toured the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam and loved it! Probably because I wasn’t 21 yet, but it’s an experience I’ll always remember and cherish. Did you tour Sierra Nevada ever? I never did but probably should have! Maybe that’s our next adventure in Chico :)

  • Anonymous

    You can find it in some bottle shops around Melbourne–DEFINITELY worth a try!!!

  • Anonymous

    No, and I hate that I didn’t!!! Next time I’m home, let’s definitely make a trip and do the tasting paddle and tour–and stay at Hotel Diamond!!! :)

  • Anonymous

    No, and I hate that I didn’t!!! Next time I’m home, let’s definitely make a trip and do the tasting paddle and tour–and stay at Hotel Diamond!!! :)

  • Anonymous

    ok love this too!! i did a brewery tour in portland! lots fun and i loved beer so much more after that. andddd love you hair- its looking super chic.

  • Anonymous

    You would LOVE this brewery tour! So much fun!

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