Bush Shack Brewery

Bush Shack Brewery 2I like to think of Bush Shack brewery as the MONA/Moo Brew of the West.  Moo Brew is of course the very stylish beer with a brewery/cellar door which is housed within MONA just outside Hobart in Tassie and is owned by a multi-millionaire.

Bush Shack is a little ramshackle brewery at the end of a dirt road in the middle of a forest about two and half to three hours south of Perth, and is owned by someone I don’t know but probably isn’t a multi-millionaire (although it is WA so you never know) but they are connected in my mind as right next to the brewery is an art gallery which is filled with lots of interesting modern art.

See how they are almost exactly the same?

I have to say Bush Shack was a little bit of a revelation for me.  I had read some information about it and thought their beer selection seemed a little gimmicky and their approach was perhaps a touch inauthentic, but after trying a range of beers I now realise that they are actually a good brewery, so have a couple of gimmicks to get the tourist in but actually also produce some great solid beers.

All up we tried five beers:

Strawberry Blonde – a blonde lager made with fresh strawberries and although it has a nice sweetness in the aftertaste, I wouldn’t have picked it as strawberries, but it was a nice sessionable lager though – Schooner

Chilli beer – have to say not getting much chilli, a hint of heat in the aftertaste but it’s not blow your head off obvious. Having said that I’m not sure I want a blow your head off Chilli Beer. This was okay but not great – Schooner

The Bush Shack brewery, where life is wonky

The Bush Shack brewery, where life is wonky

Dark roast wheat beer – Finally we moved into the more traditional beer styles, which were always going to appeal to me a bit more. This was pretty good too, it smelt of a nutty wet coffee, had some nice lacing and a smooth mouthfeel. It could be a bit bigger, but really quite good – Pint

Yallingup Old – this was also a good beer, nice dense body, but still maintaining a smooth mouthfeel. Perhaps a little light in colour, but really very nice, good hint of old world bitterness in the aftertaste as well which is apt – Pint

Chocolate beer – which I think was a brown ale rather than a stout which is more normal for a chocolate brew. This smelt of burnt malt and had a hint of dark chocolate, great velvety mouthfeel, bitter dark chocolate, very drinkable not at all cloying – the pick of their beers – Pint

After the samplers it was time to pop across to the gallery which is called Red Cloud Art Space –I have to say this was also a revelation, there was a great selection of quite contemporary art at reasonable prices – so reasonable we bought a great little painting there. As a bonus it took them a little time to work out the shipping cost to Melbourne so we had time to pop back over to Bush Shack and have another beer – the chocolate beer.

Bush Shack is different to the other breweries we went to, it was a touch rustic and just a little bit school campy but you know, with beer. There were large gum trees, a playground made of logs which reminded me a bit of the ‘Big Fort’ at St Pat’s primary school before they rebuilt it and made it safe after someone fell from the top.  I guess childhood safety regulations haven’t got as far as Yallingup yet.

Cheeky Monkey

The Travelling Monk and the View

In the past I’ve been known to claim that all stories were better if they had a monkey in them. Well I’m happy to say this one must be a corker, because it’s all about Cheeky Monkey Brewery located about half way between Dunsborough and Margaret River (the town not the region).
It’s a young brewery, just seven or so months old and I can tell you they ain’t doing things by halves (it’s not the WA way). The brewery is big, even by WA proportions, and to this Melbourne boy who is more used to bars that are made up of seven milk crates and three of nana’s old vinyl kitchen chairs in a converted space above an accountants office it seemed positively daunting.

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Eagle Bay Brewery

The Cocoa Stout and a hint of the view

When you tell people you are going on holiday to Margaret River they will immediately start banging on about wineries. As both you and I are enlightened (and possibly bearded) beery folk we know that the wineries are all well and good but what is really interesting is the breweries.

Before I took the Pet Shop Boy’s advice or alternatively the Village People’s advice and went west I did a little bit of research. Now I know, as I’m sure you know about the big boys of the WA craft brewing scene, names like Feral, Bootleg, Mash and Colonial, but after a quick trip around the interwebs I discovered that there were more than a few breweries that I’d never heard of.

One of these was Eagle Bay Brewing, in the town of, you guessed it Eagle Bay. I realised quickly that this was not far from where we were staying in a town called Dunsborough which by the way is home to two excellent bars, a Clancy’s Fish Pub and the Pourhouse, which I’m putting just behind the Wheaty as my favourite non-Victorian pub. Given its proximity it’s not surprising that we made it there on our first day in Margaret River.

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Fremantle Drinking with the Monk

The Monk tasting paddle

Fremantle is considered by many to be the birthplace of the modern craft beer movement in Australia as the original home to Matilda Bay (via the Sail and Anchor Pub) and of course of Australia’s most popular craft brewery, Little Creatures. Please note that I have no proof of the popularity of Little Creature so if you are one of those nit pickers don’t make a comment that you think blah blah brewery is more popular, or indeed that Little Creatures ownership means that they are no longer a craft brewery.

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WA – Ironbark Brewery

Weird Oktoberfest people at Ironbark for Spring in the Valley

We of course arrived in middle of Spring in the Valley, a strange dress-up/piss-up type event where groups of young people move from brewery to brewery and proceed to ask stupid questions like ‘have you got anything that tastes like Corona?’ They all seemed harmless enough, although their presence did mean there wasn’t a spare seat in the rather large house so we were forced to stand at the bar for our tasting paddle.

Overall the brewery is making beer for the tourist market so there was nothing too special in the line-up for us beer geeks, but there were some highlights:

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The Ruthless Moa


The Ruthless Rye

Now I don’t want this blog to turn into the type of thing where I start each post by apologising for not posting more often. I know posts have been a little thin on the ground of late, but I haven’t been drinking many beers because I’ve been sick (tonsillitis on and off for about six or seven weeks now), also I’ve been busy with other projects. ‘Working on other projects’ is what creative people say when they mean ‘I had to do work that actually pays me money’ or ‘I couldn’t be fucked doing anything at all.’

So now that I’ve started this post by saying exactly what I said I wouldn’t do it’s time to tell you about some beers which I drank last night, when I decided I was feeling well enough to actually taste some beer again.

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James Squire Brewhouse at the Portland Hotel

James Squire may have been one of the pioneers of craft beer in Australia, but to many beer geeks they have fallen off the radar, accused of being too mainstream and not a real craft brewery.  Craft beer folk love the vision of the lone (possibly mad) brewer toiling away in a hot brewhouse, concocting personalised, evolving recipes and then getting that beer as fresh as possible to their local market.  Well I’m here to tell you this is exactly what James Squire do.

Okay not the standard James Squire range, those with a fancy back story of a convict, thief and general scallywag turned brewer named James Squire. As an aside here does anyone else think the new outdoor campaign makes James look a little bit like a weird hipster convict on his way to a gay nightclub or is it just me?  The main range is pretty standard commercial fare, brewed in volume in Sydney, pasteurised and shipped around the country. Nothing wrong with that of course, but not the thing that floats the beer snobs’ boats.

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Mildura, Mrs Parmas and Two Birds.

Stefano’s amazing Parma

On Sunday I popped along to the launch of Mildura Week at Mrs Parma’s. Mildura Week sees a range of Mildura Brewery beers on tap, including the amazing Choc Hops which I can confirm is even better on tap than it is in the bottle. In fact I’m thinking of holding an Easter egg hunt next year where the Easter eggs are replaced with bottles of Choc Hops. Safe to say best idea I’ve had in a while.

Now I’m not going to tell you much about the Mildura beers because, well I’ve done that before, but I can tell you that Stefano (of Mildura Brewery/gondoliering/owning half of Mildura fame) has conjured up a special chicken parma for the occasion featuring pesto, marinated eggplant and cherry tomatoes and it is absolutely fantastic.  If you get a chance this week get into Mrs Parma’s, for their best parma this side of the Good Beer Week smoked parma. 

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