There is a lot to like about a trip to Holgate brewery. It is located in ‘The Country’ which is a place that inner city people talk about escaping to like it has some magical recuperative powers. Of course going to ‘The Country’ for most of the inner city crew means loading up your car with an iPad, laptop, mobile phone, hair dryer and designer straw hat (that is just the right balance of jaunty and stylish) and heading down to Portsea to see the same people you see in the city, sit in cafes that are a facsimile of the ones you frequent in South Yarra and drink the same ‘imported’ beer at the Portsea Pub that you drink at the Royal Saxon.
Well I’m here to tell you to put down those imported beers, throw away your hat (or keep it on I don’t care) and go west (well north west). Better still you can throw away the car keys too. Just jump on the Bendigo bound train at Spencer Street and an hour later you are stepping on to the platform at Woodend, mere metres from the Keating’s Hotel, home of Holgate.
The hotel is a pleasant place; sprawling would be a good description. There are four or five different rooms where you can choose to drink your beer, including a restaurant with some truly outstanding food – the beef pie made with Temptress porter was a corker, and dessert was a step up again.
And just to prove that this is a working brewery you can go have a look at it, placed as it is behind glass on the way to the toilets, there are the usual array of stainless steel tanks. Unfortunately I was there on a Sunday so there was no activity behind the glass, but I do like the idea of watching the brewers work like they are zoo exhibits (I assume that like most zoo animals they would spend most of their time sleeping).
But the star of the show is the beer and the Holgate guys know how to present it too, for a very reasonable cost (I feel it might have been $15) you can get a tasting paddle of 8 brews (and these are not one sip tastes either, they are more like a third of a pot). There are a few other beers available by the bottle only, here are my (very brief) thoughts on some of the beers we tried:
The Pilsener (if you are following along with the pic above the pilsener is on the top right, and we are working through the paddle clockwise): This had a thin body, a grassy nose and a hint of honey in the taste. It finished dry and was refreshing but not all that interesting – Schooner
Mt Macedon Ale: A pale ale, but actually not what I was expecting. It has almost no aroma and the flavour was outdoorsy, with maybe a hint of pine, very sessionable – Pint
White Ale: If the pale ale had no aroma, this one made up for it. It was a flowery brew, Holgate claims this appeals to the non-drinker, perhaps that’s why I was left unmoved by it. – Schooner
Big Reg: Marzen is a style I love and this didn’t let me down. It had some great biscuity, caramel flavours coming through. It was perhaps a little light on the carbonation and it runs the risk of getting a little cloyingly sweet, but hey I’d be happy to take that risk – Pint
ESB: which stands for English Special Bitter. Again I thought it a little under carbonated, even for an English style beer. It started sweet, but then the hops came through to create a well rounded beer – Pint
UXB: Just like the ESB but bigger and stronger, it is not sessionable at all, rather it is a beer suited to contemplation, and cheese – Pint
Road Trip: The stand-out on the paddle. This is the type of beer you taste before you drink it and that’s all in the aroma, great big American hop tones. This is really an outstanding beer, it has all of the depth of flavour that hops can impart on beer, but not in an overly aggressive manner – Jug
Double Trouble: Now the really smart amongst you might think that the eighth beer on that paddle doesn’t look like a Dubbel Abbey ale, and that’s because the eighth beer on there is Temptress, which is a beer I love and have reviewed before, so I shant discuss it here except to say this example was hand pumped, which I actually though made is less enjoyable than usual. But back to the Double Trouble, the overwhelming thought on this was that it is very sweet, it was like a Christmas pudding in a glass. I found it a little too sweet for my liking though – Schooner.
So if you are looking for an awesome afternoon out I’d suggest heading to Holgate, it’s easy to get to, they have amazing food and the beer is pretty darn good as well. Oh and they do growler fills, so you can go home with 2 litres of your favourite beer, like I did with the Roadtrip.