Australia: Beer culture grows amid vineyards

By Kate Roff

Boutique breweries are making their own way around Australia's Margaret River, writes Kate Roff.

A tasting paddle at the Colonial provides a sample of the finest Margaret River has to offer, near Perth in West Australia. Photo / Supplied
A tasting paddle at the Colonial provides a sample of the finest Margaret River has to offer, near Perth in West Australia. Photo / Supplied

When we first meet Richard Moroney, he tells us he is trying "dry July" - a month without drinking.

This might have sounded plausible if he wasn't the manager of Colonial Brewery, a trendy establishment in Western Australia's Margaret River.

"I don't know how I'll go," he admits. "It's like being a kid in a lolly shop around here."

Richard then goes on to tell us about a rather private injury he's sustained from jumping fences in the middle of an alcohol-induced night - which is the reason he has decided to cut back on the drinking.

His shameless confession to being just as indulgent as his customers makes him appear a little bit crazy, but then you would probably have to be to start up a beer brewery in a place that is known throughout the world as a wine region.

Surrounded by vineyards, the Colonial is one of the few boutique breweries forging ahead with its own growing reputation in Margaret River.

When asked how long the Colonial has been open, Richard quips, "since 11am this morning", but then goes on to explain that the Colonial is one of a handful of breweries in Margaret River.

Few others have braved the beer culture amongst the grapevines, including the Bootleg (a well-established venue, opened in 1994), The Duckstein Brewery (a German-themed newcomer) and Eagle Bay Brewing Co (a third-generation operation, led by a brewer who once worked at New Zealand's Dux de Lux).

A popular newcomer to the beer club is Cowaramup Brewing Company, a family-owned microbrewery just north of Margaret River township.

This little gem opened in 2006 and the brewers use hops grown on-site, keeping it a very local affair. Head brewer Jeremy Good says that breweries along with Margaret River's cheese and chocolate factories are increasing the diversity of the area.

"Breweries in the region are making it more appealing to a wider tourism market," he says.

Winning the prize for the trendiest labels in the region, the Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Cidery have come up with the quirkiest names for their beers, such as the Travelling Monk (a red ale) and the Crooked Tale (a cider).

They even showcase a Kiwi import, the Hatseller - a pilsner made with New Zealand-grown hops.

With Kiwi hops and former Dux de Lux brewers, it's little wonder the beer culture is beginning to stand out in Margaret River - watch this space.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air New Zealand has begun flights from Auckland to Perth. From Perth, hiring a car to get to Margaret River is the best option.

Where to stay: Waterfall Cottages takes advantage of all the charms of the region - quaint, secluded bungalows in forest surroundings. It's also very family friendly.

Kate Roff drank her own way around Margaret River (with a sober driver, of course).

- NZ Herald

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