Take an easy 40-minute drive south from the Perth CBD and you’ll find Whitelakes Brewing, created via a substantial makeover to the Old Barnyard function centre in Baldivis and launched in July 2016. As with most brewery stories, what seems obvious and fully formed now has roots that stretch back many years.
The brewery is headed by Sean Symons, whose 20 years-plus brewing career kicked off in the mid-90s after the young brewer asked Chuck Hahn eight times whether he had any work going. A part-time gig on the Malt Shovel packaging line followed, opening up a path that led to Sean working around Australia for Tooheys, XXXX, Swan and – last stop before Whitelakes – Louisiane, a brewpub on Vietnam’s Nha Trang coast.
When approached to found a brewery in Perth, the search for the right location took some time; however, when it came to brewery design, his experience ensured this took place rather quicker – and led to one of the most considered setups in Australia. Whitelakes’ unique 25 hectolitre HGM brew kit is anchored by a hexagonal brew deck designed so a single brewer can easily deal with multiple vessels at once – all while having space to enjoy a coffee – as well as providing ample room for growth.
From this platform, the brewery creates seven core range beers that are matter of fact when it comes to style and intent, free of hubris in name and execution. Indeed, four of the seven are lagers, something that reinforces the brewery’s approachability model, with the strongest barely scraping above 5 percent ABV.
Sean describes the mantra behind his beer design as the “second beer theory”, in that Whitelakes’ drinkers are ready to have a second beer without feeling they’ve been hit with a hammer by the first. It’s an idea he eloquently sums up as being “part of the Australian fabric of sessionability”.
With multiple tertiary degrees, brewing qualifications and years spent as chief judge for the Perth Royal Beer Awards, as well as judging at other competitions, it’s perhaps little surprise the lineup has amassed quite the haul of silverware in its short life. Whitelakes Summer collected a 2019 Australian International Beer Awards gold, with its siblings winning accolades both locally and nationally.
The Whitelakes range also services a group of local hospitality venues, including Whistling Kite, Port Kennedy Tavern, The Chase and Vernon Arms, as well as appearing further afield at Western Australia's rotating tap venues.
Located on a vast corner block, the building's modern glass, steel and wood stylings hold a small bar area within the brewhouse. The alfresco deck looks across a large lawn – typically filled with families on the weekends – to Lake Walyungup, the inspiration for the brewery’s name and artwork.
Despite the saline appearance of the protected wetlands, the "white lakes" are actually fresh water, with the illusion the result of a limestone cap beginning at the lakes and running south more than 200 kilometres to Yallingup (so there goes any thoughts of a hyper-local gose…). It’s a vista that provides a unique backdrop – often complete with stunning sunsets – for sipping on fresh Whitelakes beers before filling a growler to take home. If you’re after a feed too, options run from classic English pub meals to modern Australian-influenced fare.
The Whitelakes brewhouse is open Friday evenings and all-day Saturdays and Sundays, although you can see what the product of more than two decades of brewing experience tastes like any day of the week at Vernon Arms, the on-site tavern next door.