The elder statesman of the Victorian microbrewery scene, Grand Ridge began offering full-flavoured ales to a nation of lager drinkers more than 20 years ago. Since then, Eric Walters - one of six founders of the brewery back in 1989 but sole owner since 1997 - has helped many others follow in his footsteps, including Mountain Goat, who used his brewery when making the move from backyard brewers to fully fledged commercial micro.
The two beers with which Grand Ridge announced itself to the world - strong Scotch Ale Moonshine and the rich, malty Gippsland Gold - are still central to the brewery's lineup, although it's been steadily expanded to offer everything from a surprisingly rewarding light beer to the massive Supershine barley wine and, as of 2010, a roster of limited release specials that started with the hugely hopped US style red ale Mirboo Madness and was followed by the rich, dark, barrel-aged Mirboo Midnight.
You'll find the brewery in Mirboo North, atop the Strzelecki Ranges just under two hours east of Melbourne. It's supplied by the area's pure natural spring water - Mirboo means "magic water" - and is expanding as fast as the Australian craft beer scene. Over the course of 2009/10, the existing bar was greatly expanded onto a mezzanine over the brewhouse that reflects the town's timber heritage while a covered outdoor balcony area overlooking the local rail trail, an impressive live music venue, recording studio and beer garden were also added.
To complete the experience, there's a restaurant serving hearty food, including beef from cattle reared on the brewery's spent grain. And, if you want to make a night of it, Eric owns two cottages - Grand Ridge West and East - that can sleep nine and ten people respectively.