Many of those who enjoy hunting down locally brewed beer on their travels will be aware of the High Country Brewery Trail. It’s the ever-expanding route beer lovers can follow through (well, kind of up and down and in and out of) the Victorian High Country, stopping at the region’s many small breweries. But you needn’t restrict yourself to just breweries and brewpubs.
The region is also home to a handful of pubs a far cry from what anyone walking through the doors of a country pub would have expected a few years ago. So, if you’re someone with an aversion to run of the mill beers, here's a selection of pubs you’ll want to seek out on your next visit to North East Victoria: four venues that make up an alternate High Country Beer Trail.
The Snowline Hotel, Harrietville
Starting in the heart of the mountains, you find The Snowline in the picturesque town of Harrietville, a year round base for people looking to enjoy the High Country’s diverse range of outdoor pursuits. It’s not uncommon to drive past and see the veranda packed with people – and braving the crowd is well worth it, particularly if you can snag a table on that veranda to indulge in a spot of quiet meditation, beer in hand, looking over the tree lined Main Street.
The taps have a modest yet diverse selection that leans towards the local, such as Two Pot Brewing’s Dunkel, Bridge Road Pale Ale and Blizzard Brewery 1550 Lager with the occasional tap from further afield. The selection in the fridge, however, goes further still: Quiet Deeds, Stone & Wood, Mountain Goat, 4 Pines and Bright Brewery to name a few, ensuring there’s enough for a decent session. The food is great too, covering bases from an excellent cheeseburger to slow cooked lamb with pearl barley couscous. Certainly, it’s a cut above your average pub fare.
The Snowline is at 237 Great Alpine Rd, Harrietville.
Wandi Pub, Wandiligong
This pub – previously known as the Mountain View Hotel – is found around ten minutes drive (or a longer, thoroughly enjoyable bike ride) from Bright and the detour from the Great Alpine Road is one that's well rewarded. Just approaching this venue feels akin to walking into a house party held by a mate with good taste. The outdoor seating area is spot on, often packed with people sitting under the trees with their dogs and families enjoying good beer, good food and good company.
The team here prides itself on using local produce in its meals: fish and chips from Lakes Entrance, smoked trout from Harrietville and so on – what’s not to love? There a great offering on tap too, including a range of Hawkers beers and some limited release Bridge Road brews. Delve into the fridge and you’ll uncover the likes of Feral, Serra Nevada and Two Birds.
The Wandi Pub is at 580 Morses Creek Rd, Wandiligong.
Punka Pub, Porepunkah
The Punka Pub serves up a touch of the cosmopolitan in the small Alpine town of Porepunkah. This impressively slick establishment, complete with polished concrete floors and a fish tank in the bathroom, is a fine spot in which to sit, gazing at the mountains and enjoying a brew or two. Taps here are dedicated to the region’s breweries and the pub rotates through each brewery’s beers regularly too.
That means you can sample beers from the likes of Blizzard Brewery, Bright Brewery, Bridge Road and King River Brewing (whose Smooth Alt is proving a hit) all under the one roof. According to the pub’s food and beverage manager, Erica Gibbs, it’s indicative of a rise in popularity for European styles. Again, the fridge here is well stocked – locals are supplemented by the likes of 4 Pines and Pirate Life – while you’ll find cocktails on tap too. Food is typical pub fare with the odd twist, completing a package that could see you very easily losing an afternoon.
The Punka Pub is at 13 Nicholson St, Porepunkah.
The Goods Shed, Wodonga
Head north from the heart of the High Country and you’ll find another crafty spot worth checking out in Wodonga. The Goods Shed is located in the rejuvenated Junction Square area, a former goods shed dating from the 1870s that has grown into the border’s own foodie precinct. Here you can enjoy silver service at Miss Amelie’s, tuck into brekkie at the Bean Station, explore an array of delicious street food at Andiamo’s, sip on a great coffee at Piccolo Pod and get your fill of craft beer and food at The Goods Shed.
The guys here have curated a selection that should satisfy all but the most extreme of beer geeks. The dozen taps are always rotating through the likes of Bridge Road, Bright, Balter, Stomping Ground, Nail and Colonial Brewing but there’s much more to explore in the beer fridges. They have a wide selection of all Australian craft beer, everything from pilsner to stout, pale ale to Berliner Weisse. In there you’ll find Boatrocker, Fixation, Fortitude, Black Dog, Modus Operandi and many more. What's not there is anything from the country’s major players; as they state: “You won’t find any CUB or Lion Nathan products at The Goods Shed. It goes against our ‘being awesome’ policy.”
The food offering is made up of burgers, pizza, pasta and salads while, for those unable to decide where to start, they offer six beer tasting crates too.
The Goods Shed is at 1/71 Church St, Wodonga.
If you’re after a crafty roadie or still you're not sated, the following are worth checking out:
- Alpine Cellars, 2 Delany Ave, Bright – Proclaimed as the biggest selection of local craft beer, ciders and wine in the region.
- Elgin’s Bottle Shop, 51-53 Elgin Blvd, Wodonga – A modest selection of craft beers, but there should be something here to slake your thirst.
- First Choice Wodonga, 73 Elgin Street, Wodonga – Recently, First Choice expanded its selection of craft beer so you can expect to pick up the likes of Stone, Tuatara, BrewDog and many more.
- Mountain View, 4 King Valley Road, Whitfield – You'll find a selection of beers from the region's brewers – and a seriously impressive wine list – here.
- Star Hotel, 30 High Street, Yackandandah – Another High Country pub where you can enjoy a small, rotating selection of beers from local brewers on tap.
- Tomahawks, 15 Camp Street, Bright – A small bar and eatery quickly making a name for itself in Bright.
About the author: With a long history of working in the alcohol industry, Jack is passionate about all that is craft and drinkable.