UPDATE (March 2020): Temporarily closed due to COVID-19
WA's South West is one of the better served regional areas of Australia when it comes to decent beer venues. Sure, the growing number of breweries calling the region home get more of the attention, but you've long been able to find a bar with a solid selection of crafties on tap from near and far too.
None, however, has done it quite like Darleen's. Were someone to kidnap and blindfold you, pop you in the back of a van and drive you around for a while, then walk you inside this Busselton bar and remove your blindfold* you're likely to assume you'd ended up in Northbridge or one of the cooler suburbs in one of the state capitals than this seaside town almost three hours south of Perth.
From the murals and artwork – the venue's icon is a granny flicking you the bird – to the extensive and adventurous tap lineups scrawled colourfully in chalk behind the bar, from the cushy lounge chairs and dart board to the events that take in beer yoga, a "Kolsch and Karaoke" night, bingo, live music and even their own take on a popular TV cooking competition, this isn't your typical country bar.
Little surprise then that it's quickly become a hub for craft beer in a region better recognised for boutique wineries and tourist attractions. Opened in late 2018, the Darleen’s team (which includes members of the Rocky Ridge Brewing Co crew – and you thought they had enough on their hands releasing 40 beers a year...) has committed to providing local punters and tourists alike with a variety of fresh beers from the growing number of South West craft brewers.
You'll find more than just Rocky Ridge, Eagle Bay, Beerfarm and friends on offer, however. International and collaboration beers also feature on the generous taplist. These harder-to-find beers are complemented by the occasional rarity too – the likes of Tilquin or Cantillon will make an appearance but, as is often the case, don’t last long between bustling sessions at the bar.
As for the vibe, Darleen’s Taphouse feels like a friendly neighbourhood bar first and a craft beer hub second. Impressive beer offering aside, they offer cheap and cheerful snacks like cheeseburgers, pork crackle and fish tacos, as well as local wines, house mixed cocktails and a slew of year-round beer-friendly events.
There's plenty of space and different settings to suit your mood too, from an outdoor kerbside beer garden featuring high stools, wine barrels and shady trees, to naturally lit seating at the bar. If you work your way to the back of the long, narrow building, you can sink into one of those lounge chairs with the option of pulling out a board game or taking in some live sport.
Like the wider South West beer scene, Darleen's thrives on good vibes and has wasted little time in passing them onto all and sundry. Whether you're a local or passing through, it’s the neighbourhood bar every town and suburb deserves, with a beer offering that puts most to shame.