The South West of Western Australia is increasingly fertile ground for beer lovers. With so many breweries and good beer venues to explore, we set off for a weekend break down the coast to put together an extended Crafty Crawl featuring much of the best the region has to offer.
The article first ran in 2017 but has been updated to reflect the changes since then. Here's part one – or should that be day one?
Time your visit to one of the most famed and spectacular parts of Australia and this trip could take in internationally renowned surf, truffle festivals or whale migration while sampling beer from the 20-plus breweries between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin in one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet. What's more, we've heard there’s also a few wineries if you’re into that sort of thing *removes tongue from cheek*.
The South West region of Western Australia’s natural beauty and relaxed lifestyle translates to a passionate local focus in every venue. Such is the area's appeal that bookings are highly recommended at venues that will take them during peak seasons and public holidays.
Author's note: This article has been written with a weekend getaway in mind. With so much choice and a few country miles between venues, we've limited the suggested Crawl to a handful of venues each day with the driver in mind as well as the passengers. A week’s holiday could easily cover everything featured in both articles and the many notable mentions too.
For those who don’t want to drive, operators like Margaret River Brewery Tours can take the decision making and risk out of a day sampling beer in the South West too.
The easy two and half hour drive south from Perth is enough time to let the cares of the world fade away without becoming boring. For most West Australians, it’s a familiar drive – one that makes a weekend getaway achievable – and, for tourists, the lack of congestion on the dual carriageway, outside long weekends, will be a welcome surprise.
Your first stop is the popular seaside town of Busselton.
You may have been tempted to stock up before hitting the road for the region, but there's no real need as this retailer at the start of the trip has you covered. The award-winning Cape Cellars has been operating independently for nearly 20 years in the seaside tourism gateway town of Busselton.
The 2015 move to its current location allowed for a greater focus on sourcing the very best local, national and international beer, wine and spirits – the result is a selection to give most metro retailers a run for their money. A sister store in Dunsborough opened the same year, spreading the local knowledge and independent mindset further around the bay. The love of all things crafty has seen the Cape team collaborate with the likes of Cheeky Monkey Brewery, Bootleg Brewing, Cellarbrations Carlisle and Rocky Ridge Brewing Co. GS
Cape Cellars Busselton is at 170 Bussell Highway, West Busselton
The Fire Station
With supplies sorted, it’s a quick drive to one of the most charming venues you'll encounter on this tour. Originally built in 1936, it was a working fire station until 1990 before hosting local charity stores up until its renaissance as a small bar.
The community-minded spirit of the former occupants extends to eight craft-focused taps plus natural wines sourced from the region. Pizzas and share plates can be enjoyed inside surrounded by the tasteful renovations that include a fireplace – that’s right, a fireplace inside a fire station – or on benches in the outside courtyard area that overlook a local park, before you get back in the car and head further south. GS
The Fire Station is at 68 Queen Street, Busselton
Darleen's Taphouse is brought to you by the good times guys and girls at Rocky Ridge. Their ethos at the venue is simple: give punters a relaxed neighbourhood style bar and keep the fresh beers flowing.
From local favourites to far out, hard to find international beers, Darleen's boasts one of the more impressive craft offerings in the region across its very many taps. Share food and regular events like Kolsch and Karaoke reiterate the fun and welcoming vibe that often kicks on well into the evening. A good option for the traveling night owl. JO
Join the fun at 43 Prince Street, Busselton
Dunsborough & Surrounds
Moving on from Darleens, the 30 minute drive from Busselton to Dunsborough will see the heart rate slow further as the coastal sand beside the road turns into an ancient ochre gravel and the buildings become less and less frequent as the pace of life slows, rather appropriately, to a crawl. While there are crafty options in town, your best bet is to let this calm lead you with the salty breeze to Eagle Bay.
Pro tip: In the warmer months, a pre-lunch dip in the turquoise waters of Meelup Beach should be taken to fully ensure a clear mind and resting heart rate below 70bpm.
Eagle Bay Brewing Co
When the d’Espeissis family arrived on a dirt track in the late, post-war 1940s Eagle Bay they would have been hard pressed to imagine the Modernist pavilion that now crests their third generation farm. It's there that the siblings, Nick, Astrid and Adrian, run the brewery responsible for a solid core range of beer that’s supported by en pointe seasonal releases, a growing number of single batch beers and annual barrel aged collaborations.
Long lunches spent watching the afternoon sun arc over the farm, Meelup National Park and Geographe Bay is indisputably one of the best beer views in Australia. If in doubt, check their social media accounts that feature some of the most alluring photos you'll see of the South West.
Takeaway beers, growlers and more are available from the onsite providore and bookings are highly recommended if you're in the mood for a feed from their excellent kitchen. GS
Eagle Bay Brewing is at 236 Eagle Bay Rd, Naturaliste
A 20 minute drive south, take a little detour down Wildwood Road and you’ll find Wild Hop, one of the more recent additions to the region's beer scene. Within this vast, family-friendly venue nestled among sprawling bushland you’ll find an array of seasonal beers served alongside pub style food utilising homegrown and locally sourced produce.
Head brewer Andrew Caldwell hails from Tennessee and his influence can be seen throughout the lineup with mostly hop driven and modern style sours dominating, although a Kolsch is the stalwart and the beers on offer typically range from mid-strength lagers to barrel-aged imperial stouts, depending on the timing of your visit. Wild Hop hit the ground running after opening in early 2019 so be warned: peak periods can get a little bit crowded. JO
Get Wild at 1301 Wildwood Road, Yallingup
And There's More...
If you've got more time on your hands (or are making a return visit) here's a few more places to check out:
- Lost Bills – 41 Victoria St, Bunbury Bunbury – This self styled "badass tiny bar" focuses on local beers and wine, while also offering a burgeoning whisky range, and has quickly become a beacon in the port town. Look out for regular tap takeovers.
- The Goose Bar & Kitchen – Geographe Bay Rd, Busselton – Sitting at shore end of the longest wooden jetty in the world, the Goose hosts tap takeovers you can enjoy while watching the sun set over Geographe Bay.
- The Pourhouse – 26 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough – A family friendly, beer-centric venue that boasts ten taps of beer, live music and is just a two minute walk to Dunsborough town.
- Occy’s – 12/34 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough – Dunsborough’s own surf shack has 18 taps, many of which pour the venue's own rotating lineup of beers.
- Rocky Ridge Cellar Door (pictured above) – 10 Marine Terrace, Busselton – Located close to the Busselton foreshore, here you’ll find every Rocky Ridge release on tap plus fridges full of can stock and merch. The beers are tasting size only, which is ideal given there’s more than 30 beers available to try and three tasters is the same price and volume of a middy.
- Monkey Bar Vasse – 44 Commerce Road, Vasse – In the newly established but thriving town of Vasse (15 minutes from Busselton) you’ll find the home of Cheeky Monkey’s production brewery, which has the capacity to brew four million litres of beer per annum. The roller doors are thrown open to the public daily serving Cheeky beers and pizzas amid the brewery’s active fermenters and canning line.
- Clancy's Fish Pub – 1710 Caves Road, Dunsborough – The most modern of the Clancy’s Fish Pub fleet inhabits a cavernous building that opens to a sprawling outside deck and terraced lawn overlooking bushland and devotes many of its 24 taps to breweries located between the two Capes.
- Shelter Brewing – And coming in late 2020 is Shelter Brewing on the Busselton foreshore. You can view the progress of the brewery if you head to the famous Busselton Jetty.
You can read part two here as we head south and deep into brewery territory. Original article by Guy Southern; 2020 updates (including image at top) by Jono Outred.