The high country brewery trail is a great little initiative by four breweries that are located vaguely close to each other. Of course this is the Australian bush so they really aren’t that close, if you start at Black Dog Brewery in Taminick it’s a 60km drive to Bridge Road in Beechworth, then another 60km to Bright Brewery, in you guessed it Bright, and then another 31km to Sweetwater Brewery at Tawonga. Total distance 151km (and then you have to get home again).
Lucky for us (fearless assistant/navigator/scribe/fellow drinker Jordan was in tow) we had the whole 4 day Easter weekend to fit in the four breweries which allowed us to go at a leisurely pace, taste most of the beers on offer and even have a few meals here and there. The brewery trail is fascinating for the simple fact that you get to see four very different breweries, with very different approaches, and all in different stages of their development; from the young upstart of Black Dog to the old school establishment (well for the Victorian microbrewery scene) of Bridge Road.
This seems a logical way to split the story as well. You have to be a real beer geek to have tried Black Dog and Sweetwater (or for that matter even heard of them), so I’m going to call them the ‘The Little Guys’ on the other hand chances are if you have even a passing interest in Victorian craft beer you have had a Bridge Road or Bright Brewery beer, so I’m going to call them the ‘Big Guys’.
Today we look at the big guys, soon (and by that I mean when I get time to write it) we will look at ‘The Little Guys’.
Let’s start with Bridge Road. As I was there on the Easter Long weekend Bridge Road was a madhouse (I only ever seem to go there on long weekends, maybe it’s always that busy, but I doubt it). This led to some very uncraft beer like behaviour like queuing eight deep at the bar and having to scrounge about for a table.
Of course it is all worth it because Bridge Road produces some awesome beers, I’m not going to tell you about them, because I have before here, here and here. I will however tell you about the only ‘new’ beer for the day which was the 2012 Hop Harvest . Not surprisingly this is a beer where the hops are on showcase, it tasted super fresh, fruity and a touch grassy. The malt profile seemed a little light to me, but that did make it very refreshing, but still with depth of (particularly hoppy) tastes, so good I had it twice (which is impressive given the level of choice at Bridge Road) – Pint.
Fast forward a couple of days and we ended our brewery trail at Bright Brewery, which I would have to say is one of the better brewery set-ups in Victoria (I say that about every second brewery though). It is a smallish tin shed that opens onto a big outdoor eating and drinking area which overlooks a playground and a river, all very country and peaceful even though it’s in the shops of Bright.
As myself and Jord worked our way through the tasting paddle (sadly the MIA was indeed MIA which did make me sad) we quickly remembered that Bright are a very consistent brewery. To put it plainly they just don’t ever miss the mark, all six brews were impressive. In fact the four full-time brews are all Pint-worthy; The Blowhard Pale has a nice body and a lingering piney bitterness. The Razor Witbier is surprisingly good for a style I’m not a huge fan of, it feels full of flavour with nice citrus overtones. The Hellfire Amber has always been a favourite of mine, it’s such a smooth beer with a thick body and a subtle hoppy aftertaste and The Staircase Porter is everything you expect from a porter, perfect for a winter afternoon.
The seasonal brews were two difficult styles, but they made an admirable job of it. First up was the Mystic Mild which was a 3% light brown beer that had more flavour in it than most mainstream full strength beers. It even had a hint of powdered chocolate in there and would have been just what you need if you were driving back to Melbourne. Schooner.
The second seasonal was Smoko – a rauchbier, or smoked beer, a style liked by very few. This was a reasonable example, although I felt it fell a little bit short for my personal taste, but then again I want my smoked beers super smokey, so much so that they probably would struggle to sell it to anyone else – Schooner.
So that is half of the Brewery Trail – and the half that was pretty much what I was expecting, great beers in a pretty standard, pretty busy bar like setting. The little guys, well that’s a whole other story……