If you're in Wollongong and you're looking for local beer, there's only one place to go. Really. The Illawarra Brewing Company (IBC) is Wollongong's only brewery and therefore, by default, its home of handcrafted beer. But if you think a captive market means they're trying to pass off an inferior product, you couldn't be any further from the truth with their brews continuing to pick up big awards and medals at major competitions right across the country.
Shaun Blissett and Ashur Hall are the brewing duo responsible for the top drops coming from the North Wollongong brewery. Since taking over the reins of what used to be the Five Islands Brewery and rebranding to Illawarra Brewing Company, business has been steadily increasing in every direction. Helped by the aforementioned accolades, word is getting out about their beer and it's becoming increasingly available in the bigger markets of Melbourne and Sydney.
With growth in popularity and availability, there's also growth within their own range. Outside the regular beers, there are frequent seasonal releases which push the brewers stylistically as well as letting them have a bit of fun (case in point with the increasing number of beers inspired by cult Australian figures). And, as if that wasn't enough to keep them busy, they also make use of the brewery's relatively large tank capacity by taking on contract brewing from other craft brewers.
Aside from getting down to the brewery to chat with the guys as they're brewing up a storm, there are a couple of other options for you to get a taste of the Illawarra beer. The first is to grab a growler from the brewery (usually available 2pm-6pm) and take your favourite beer home with you - it costs $10 to buy a branded growler and $15-$35 for each successive fill, depending on your choice.
The other sure bet is to pop down to the Illawarra Brewery bar at the nearby beach where they always have a wide range of Illawarra brews pouring at any one time, including the latest seasonal releases. While the brewery may be the engine room of the operation, it's here at the bar where the battle to get locals to drink their local brews is really being won. And when you're sat there on the deck in the South Coast sunshine, overlooking the Tasman Sea with a fantastic fresh beer in hand, it's not hard to see why. NO