Where it all began... Any lover of Aussie craft beer worth their salt will be familiar with the story of the Sail & Anchor, the Fremantle venue formerly known as the Freemason's, where a young brewer who was working at the Swan Brewery and a couple of his mates decided to turn the beer world on its head. Brewing and selling their own beers direct from an onsite brewery back in the early 80s when Australian hotels were more likely to be serving nothing but the local megabrewery's swill to rooms full of men, they went on to found Matilda Bay, take their venue concept across the country and, much later, help launch Little Creatures.
Today, the brewhouse at the back of the imposing corner pub in the heart of Freo is out of operation, with the house ales brewed instead by Feral. Yet the pub remains a key player in the Aussie craft beer scene, having had fresh life breathed into it - as well as heaps more taps added to its bars. It was named Australia's Best Beer Venue in 2011 and with good reason. You'll find beers from all over WA and Australia pouring alongside some of the finest drops from overseas, as well as a couple of handpumps on the bar too. With 40-plus draught beers to choose from, they offer tasting paddles for those looking to explore the list.
It's a sprawling venue that features a large front bar area, where most of the taps are found either side of a U-shaped bar, plus plenty of outdoor seating, upstairs function rooms and a wraparound balcony that hosts guest DJs on Fridays and Saturdays. You can tuck into quality pub grub wherever you choose too.
With so much great beer on offer, the Sail is never shy when it comes to finding fun ways to showcase it. Regular events include tap showcases, public tastings hosted by brewers such as 2011's Beer Royale, and the annual home brewer competition which draws a huge number of entrants. They're set the challenge of reproducing a beer from the Sail & Anchor's brewing past, with the brewer of the best getting to brew a commercial sized batch with serial trophy winner Brendan Varis at Feral.
Since the Sail & Anchor kickstarted Australia's craft beer culture, it has been joined in Freo by the likes of Little Creatures, The Monk and Clancy's Fish Bar, making a tour of the coastal town a must for any self-respecting beer lover.