Beer Travels Abroad – Australia and New Zealand

February 4th, 2011 · 7 Comments · Beer Travels

When my lovely new wife, Jeanne, and I were discussing places to visit for our honeymoon, a few locations kept coming up again and again in our conversations. We were planning on going for several weeks, and we definitely wanted to go somewhere neither of us had ever been before. Somewhere that gave us the opportunity to both relax by the beach and explore different landscapes was appealing. After awhile, we were both in agreement that we’d set our sights on Australia, and after some deliberation on whether we had the time or not, New Zealand. We somehow each negotiated almost 4 weeks away from work in October and then went about planning our trip.

Photo sets:
Australia & New Zealand Beer Highlights
Australia & New Zealand Food & Wine Highlights
Australia General Photo Highlights
New Zealand General Photo Highlights

Australia and New Zealand are a world away from the U.S., it seems like. But, in reality it was just a “short” 16 hour flight from Vancouver, BC for us. For our itinerary, we’d scheduled two and a half weeks in mostly the Eastern portion of Australia, with a trip into the center of the country to Uluru, and then a week on the South Island of New Zealand. Overall, this was the trip of a lifetime. 4 weeks isn’t enough time to see more than a small fraction of everything we would have loved to, but we did pretty well

At Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth, AU.

fitting in as much as we comfortably could with the time we had. We spent lots of time exploring, relaxing, enjoying the local culture, and just going with the flow. Without a question, one of the major focuses and highlights of the trip was the local food and drink. Everywhere we went, the food was outstanding. We had a few meals that would probably land in my top 10 meals of all time. All of the various regions we visited had their own specialties, and we feasted on local seafood, meat, and produce the entire time we were there. I could get into more details, but I’ll leave it at that. As far as drinks, we drank more than our share of local wine and beer. This was most certainly not a beer trip (um, it was my honeymoon), but as beer and wine are a part of what we both enjoy in our lives, we definitely had our share of the local offerings. I have to say the wine impressed me more than the beer, but that is really just a testament to how great the wine was.

I could go on and on about how great the trip itself was. But, that’s not why you come to a beer blog. Following are some general thoughts about the beery discoveries we encountered on this trip.

  • My favorite stop of the trip was at the Twisted Hop in Christchurch, NZ. We visited with my friend Ryan, who went to go study

    Casks at Twisted Hop

    abroad during college in Christchurch and never came back, on our last night before flying home. Lots of great house-made brews, as well as several guest taps and bottles. We even brought a couple of bottles home! This was also the only place I remember seeing cask beer. My favorite of the bunch was their cask Golding Bitter. At just 3.7% ABV, this is the epitome of what our local beer scene is missing. It was fresh and full-flavored while remaining ridiculously sessionable.

  • My favorite beer of the entire trip was probably the Knappstein Reserve Lager. This was one of the first beers I sampled on our first night in Australia, and it set the benchmark for the rest of the trip. Knappstein doubles as a winery and brewery, and this lager is very well-made and has a nice floral quality from the use of Sauvin hops.
  • The best bar we visited in AU had to have been “The Local Taphouse” in Sydney. They had 20 well-chosen craft beers on tap, plus an array of bottles. The atmosphere was welcoming and friendly, and the bartender was knowledgeable. This is their second location, with the original being located in Melbourne. It is pretty much a can’t miss bar for any craft beer drinker visiting Sydney or Melbourne. Here is the taplist from our visit.
  • We took several days to drive from Sydney to Melbourne, and we followed the breathtaking Great Alpine Road through the high country. In addition to some great wineries and one of the best meals I have ever had, we hit up Bright Brewery and Bridge Road Brewers along the way. Both were very relaxed, small breweries in beautiful mountain settings. They offered some quality beers and lots of customers were on hand to try out the lineup.
  • Overall, I preferred the beers we tried in New Zealand vs. the beers we tried in Australia. I obviously had a very small sample size, but Jeanne and I both agreed that the offerings in NZ were more interesting and enjoyable. Green Man, Emerson’s, Three Boys, Twisted Hop and Epic were just a few of the breweries that helped NZ stand out.
  • The beer I drank the most of would probably be Victoria Bitter. It’s not a great beer by any means, but when we were in the Whitsundays this lager hit the spot after a day of snorkeling. We were on a ship for 3 nights that was well-stocked with VB. Your average AU pub also doesn’t have much of beer selection, and I often found myself calling for a glass of “Vitamin B”. I realize this is probably the equivalent of an Aussie coming to the US and drinking Budweiser, but I have no shame in saying I enjoyed it in the setting.

If one were to take a dedicated beer trip to AU/NZ, you would have plenty to keep you busy. This was just the tip of the iceberg…

If anyone has any questions about our trip, feel free to contact me.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • Kendall

    So jealous. It sounds like an amazing trip. Congrats to you both, by the way. I’ve heard other people say the same thing about NZ vs AU for beer. I think it’s a tribute to what great beer them Kiwis are brewing these days. I’m glad to hear a realistic opinion about VB. I’ve always wondered.

  • Tweets that mention Beer Travels Abroad – Australia and New Zealand --

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Donnie Pfletzer, Beer is King, Meg Zuker, D Zuknick, bottlechasers and others. bottlechasers said: sounds like a great trip Down Under!. RT @SeattleBeerNews: Beer Travels Abroad – Australia, NZ: […]

  • Dean

    how did Blue-Tongue Lizard beer compare?

  • Bamster

    Congrats to you and Jeanne my friend. very jealous of such an amazing adventure. Out of curiosity, are they doing anything interesting with imports at all? Could you find things like Delirium or Chimay? Could you find any American imports (even like Sam Adams?). Hope all is well.

  • Kaiser

    Hey Ben – While we didn’t go to many places that specialize in imports, I’m pretty sure they get their fair share. I would guess they get quite a few Belgians and such.

    We walked by one wine/beer store in Melbourne that was unfortunately not open yet, but they looked to have a great selection. Including, Rogue beers, Mikeller, and all kinds of things I didn’t recognize through the window.

  • ahsan

    nice, I wish I had found blogposts like this before my trip to NZ and sydney! in sydney, lord nelson had some great english style beers, but redoak was by far my favorite. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a brewery with such a range of styles (english, belgian, german, a couple american), and most of the ones I tried were great!

    I tried a lot in NZ (mostly south island), but didn’t take any notes… the ones I remember being great are sprig & fern in nelson, mussel inn in golden bay, emerson in dunedin… I don’t recall the brewery’s name (possibly green man?) that had interesting historical styles (like grut), but nothing that I’d drink for the flavor.

    u may like this video montage of NZ south island breweries!

  • Ann

    We are looking forward to heading to the Twisted Hop in the next few days…tried Greenman Pilsner in Dunedin yesterday – it was very good ~ as a huge Scarlet Fire fan, was sad their IPA wasn’t up yet, though….

Leave a Comment