Open a brewery. Down South. Somewhere around Margaret River. Yep, that’d be the life.
For the three families behind Margaret River Brewhouse (initially called Brewhouse Margaret River), this “If you build it, they will come” tale has become a thriving validation of vision and belief. It’s also one that’s well on its way to becoming as iconic the mermaid logo that welcomes travellers, just metres from the small wooden bridge over which everyone crosses on arriving in Margaret River town.
Securing an inclined wedge of land in 2010, nestled between the karri forest and Bussell Highway, was the physical beginning of bringing the dream to reality. After completing much of the site work themselves before finally launching in 2016, the core concept was to create a brewery that locals could walk to.
Set behind an iconic 1940s weatherboard cottage, the venue – reminiscent of a modern surf shack – sits overlooking the terraced lawn area. Inside, the airy space holds a bar pouring 12 beers – more on that later – and an open kitchen, with the large glazed windows also lending it the feel of a treehouse. Classic surfing movies play on a subtly placed screen surrounded by vintage surfboards and retro bikes. A lone contemporary mountain bike hints at the substantial MTB tracks found only a few hundred metres from the front door – one of the many nearby attractions.
The Brewhouse’s six-armed, beer holding mermaid logo may once have been inspired by the brewery’s initial offering; these days, an octopus may be more appropriate as eight core beers flow alongside ciders both sweet and dry. And, if supporting ten taps wasn’t enough, these are joined by a guest tap plus two rotating Brewhouse seasonal beers, which has included the likes of the Peter Coupan Barrel Aged Stout which won Best WA Beer and Best Commercial Beer at the 2017 Perth Royal Beer Show awards, and its trophy-winning sibling from 2018, Panther Cream. While it’s easy to enjoy these inside or on the verandah, all of the draught beers are also available for takeaway in 500ml bottle or growler fills.
Being in Margaret River, the wine menu’s focus is on highlighting the embarrassment of riches offered up by the region’s other fermented goods and is one that would cast a confident shadow over many Perth CBD venues. Naturally, co-owner’s Aaron Brown’s food menu shares an equally local and sustainable outlook, with plates designed to share or, for the hungry, not.
Behind the venue, part-owner Andrew Dykstra’s 10 hectolitre brewery overlooks the forest, kids play area and the happenings on the lawn areas. His 25 years of homebrewing experience, plus some Edith Cowan courses, work in harmony with head brewer Ryan Ashworth, whose background includes globetrotting consulting on environmental issues for mining, oil and gas.
For the first three years, the focus was mainly local, with the vast majority of their beers sold at the venue. As the decade drew to a close, the owners started looking further afield, unveiling a new look, new beers and their first cans as they set about bringing their vibe to the wider WA beer community.
Now that dream is (trophy-winning) reality, people do indeed come to what the families have built. The main challenge is keeping it easy for locals to walk to as tourists and craft beer hardcore alike are proving just as keen to soak up the easy-going vibe.