Boutique brewing is big business across Victoria. What was once restricted to the garages of home brewing enthusiasts in the late 1970s, 80s and 90s has long gone mainstream, and according to Visit Victoria the state is now home to no less than a third of the nation’s craft brewhouses. Wherever you choose to travel, you’re likely to encounter characterful breweries and passionate small-batch-brewing barons keen to tempt you with their latest sessional lager or intriguing take on the IPA. It’s worth noting that those crafty majors are also trying to muscle in on the act, so if you’re an independent brewing purist, it’s worth doing a bit of digging to determine who’s behind your latest hop-fuelled find.
Here are some destinations that should be on every craft beer lover’s Victorian itinerary. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.
It will come as no surprise to learn that Melbourne is home to a swag of amazing craft brewhouses. However, they tend to be out in the burbs, so you’ll need an Uber account to clock the best of them. Go west to Australia’s first female-owned brewery, the award-winning Two Birds Brewing in Spotswood (which was acquired by Fermentum in early 2021), or north to the Temple Brewing Company in Brunswick East and Tallboy and Moose in Preston. Much loved Moon Dog offers stellar experimentals infused with ingredients like watermelon, pumpkin, champagne, chocolate and chilli. They have two locations to check out: the original brewery in Abbotsford or the go-big-or-go-home Moon Dog World in Preston.
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Located just an hour’s drive from inner-city Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is best known for its wine scene, but brewing and distilling also thrive in those rolling green hills. Some of the must-visit venues include the pioneering Hargreaves Hill Brewing Co at Lilydale, Coldstream Brewery (which no longer brews on site, but has its heritage firmly rooted in the region), the Riders Brew Company at Kellybrook Winery at Wonga Park (where you can pair your tasting paddle with an awesome array of scrummy grazing bites), and The Public Brewery in Croydon. In addition to producing their own core range, the Public Brewing Company’s team regularly share their expertise with would-be brewers during a full day beermaking experience at their Kilsyth brewery.
Need a place to stay? Lilydale is the gateway to the Yarra Valley, and the Econo Lodge Lilydale makes the perfect base for exploring the region. The hotel is located within walking distance of cafes and restaurants, and guests enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi and parking.
Those lucky enough to live in Ballarat are bending their elbows with glee, thanks to a craft brewing scene that just goes from strength to strength. In fact, Ballarat is well on the way to becoming the country’s craft brewing capital, thanks to the recent opening of the Australian Craft Beer Centre of Excellence. It’s partnered with popular tasting hub Hop Temple to open the Aunty Jacks brewpub, which joins well established craft breweries around town like Cubby Haus Brewing and Red Duck Beer. Brewers from across the state converge on Ballarat in February to showcase their liquid wares at the Ballarat Beer Festival.
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It’s hard to discuss the craft beer industry in Australia without referencing Fremantle’s Little Creatures. The opening of Little Creatures’ Geelong plant in 2013 put Victoria’s second city on the map as a brewing hotspot. Sister brewery White Rabbit relocated from the Yarra Valley to the Geelong site in 2015, and today the ‘brewery village’ always has plenty going on. It’s well worth a visit. Local craft brewers, in the truest sense, include Barrabool Hills Brewing Company (which produces the super popular Cockies Ocean Road Pale Ale) and bustling Brewicolo in Ocean Grove on the southern side of the Bellarine Peninsula. Also check out the popular Queenscliff Brewhouse which bottles a range of beers on site and stocks the Prickly Moses range from its sister brewhouse in the nearby Otway Ranges.
Need a place to stay? Quality Hotel Bayside Geelong is located on the Esplanade and offers amazing water views. It’s the ideal base for exploring everything the Bellarine Peninsula has to offer.
Like Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula, East Gippsland has been building quite a name for itself as a food and wine destination, and there are some great boutique breweries to seek out in this neck of the Victorian woods. Bullant Brewery is located on the Great Alpine Road in Bruthen and produces all-natural ales, stouts and pilsners. Everything is brewed at the Bruthen site. Red Bluff Brewers is Lakes Entrance’s one and only brewhouse, and unique in every which way. Set yourself up in their retro-styled taproom and try small-batch brews like their Coota Kolsch, Blush and Desire Strawberry Gose, and Cow-A-Bunga Milk Stout.
Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn & Suites Emmanuel boasts a lakefront position in the heart of Lakes Entrance. The hotel is also within easy walking distance of cafes and restaurants and makes the perfect base for exploring everything the Lakes region has to offer.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.