Head back five or so years and not only could you count the number of High Country breweries on one hand but you could visit them in a day, too. Well, that's if you kept your eye on the clock and visits painfully short...
Today, there’s so many breweries – and so much road to travel – that even making it to all the High Country breweries in one weekend is a bit of a struggle. The area even seems to be growing by the day too, with the Murrindindi Shire – which incorporates the likes of Alexandra, Eildon and Kinglake – added to the High Country tourism region in 2020.
But, whether it's for a weekend or a week, the High Country has to be one of Australia's premier destinations for travelling with beer in mind. Picking up in Beechworth where part one of our guide ended, here’s the rest of the breweries The Crafty Pint visited in March, before the world closed down.
Before we get started, however, a note on two of those we did visit. Blizzard Brewing’s owner Mark Hubbard sold the brewery and moved on at the end of October, although the new owners have plans for the brewery and Beer Above All into the future. We’ll bring you updates once they’re public. Social Bandit, meanwhile, was put up for sale earlier in the year but is still operational.
So, beginning in Myrtleford and looping back around to Melbourne, here’s more breweries of the High Country.
Old Factory Brewing Co
The Old Factory Brewing Co was starting in 2018 by brothers Benni and Tim McKechnie, but visitors to the High Country may well have tried the brothers’ work before then. The siblings not only share a love of beer but also a love for food and used to regularly haul their smoker to events, including Bridge Road’s High Country Hops, so punters could enjoy low and slow meats alongside fresh beers.
In Myrtleford’s historic butter factory, Benni and Tim found a place to combine their passions permanently. As the sign says as you walk towards the taps: "BEER & BBQ: BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER".
The best spot to enjoy those two things together is in the brewpub’s beer garden, which wraps around the front of the old butter factory, and where Benni’s expansive smoker burns throughout the day. It can make leaving without trying some food with your beer a Herculean feat.
The beers tends to lean towards the hoppy and, when you’re located so close to one og Hop Product Australia’s farms, that seems about right.
Find a spot near the smoker at 15 Myrtle Street, Myrtleford.
There are few breweries that enjoy quite as beautiful location as Bright Brewery, which sits on the banks of the Ovens River. The brewpub was launched by Scott Brandon and Fiona Reddaway in 2006, after they moved to the small town from Melbourne to become among the region's pioneering craft brewers.
There’s a lot to love about Bright, given the natural beauty that surrounds it and the fact the town itself is basically the dictionary definition of “idyllic”. And it really wasn’t too long after launching that the brewery became another reason to visit the Alpine town; head in to the much-expanded brewery today (when it started out, it was essentially a shed and beer garden) and you’ll soon see why.
A long bar greets you as you walk in, pouring their broad and ever-changing lineup of beers. There's always something new alongside classics like Blowhard Pale, Razor Witbier and Fainters Dubbel that continue to amass medals and other silverware. The food menu offers beer matches, and the decking that looks onto the Ovens is a majestic place to try the two together.
These days, there’s a larger production brewery nearby to help keep Bright’s beers flowing further afield, but when people mention the word Bright and beer in one sentence, there's one image that comes to mind for anyone who's ever been there.
It's little wonder they've picked up so many tourism awards they had to turn away Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton when Melbourne's Ring of Steel fell...
Try to catch the man himself by heading to 121 Great Alpine Road.
Mick Piera launched Crank Handle Brewery late in 2019 in the Tawonga South, a town at the base of Mount Beauty. But the brewery has a much longer history. Previously, it was home to Sweetwater Brewing and, as a longtime and longterm homebrewer, Mick decided to go pro and launch a brewery of his own once the former inhabitant of the site ceased operations.
Located at the base of the Kiewa Valley, the brewery offers views of Mount Bogong, the highest mountain in the region and one that can be seen from the opposite angle at Mitta Mitta Brewing. The brewery’s built largely to keep its own taps pouring, with the 500-litre brewhouse a small one that takes centre stage inside.
Take your pick from the lineup and, if the weather's suitable, take them outside and pair them with views of the surrounding mountain ranges and the brewery's tight but hearty food menu.
Enjoy Crank Handle by heading to 211 Kiewa Valley Highway, Tawonga South.
King River Brewing
The stretch of highway between Milawa and the King Valley might be known as Prosecco Road but anyone driving along it would be remiss if they skipped King River Brewing. The brewery in wine country was launched by Nathan and Brianna Munt in 2016 on Brianna’s family’s farm, which was once part of the region’s tobacco industry then home to a popular restaurant.
Today, the King River bar is located inside an old tobacco kiln, where six taps rotate through Nathan’s beers and where Brianna’s old man, Walter, can usually be found tending to two woodfire pizza ovens. Precious few know the secret to Walter’s pizzas – he only recently (and reluctantly) divulged how they're made to his daughter. The ideal place to enjoy them is on one of the tables in the brewery's garden, where huge old trees cast shadows across a leafy, vibrant space.
As a brewer, Nathan is a lover of classic European styles. As such, many of his beers, from saisons to altbiers, are about as true a representation of tradition as you’ll find anywhere in Australia these days. That’s not to say he won’t push boundaries, though, regularly brewing newer styles and taking the path less travelled, whether via the use of hops grown on the farm to other homegrown crops like the figs that go into his delicious annually-released Fig Porter.
Try Walt's pizzas for yourself at 4515 Wangaratta-Whitfield Road, King Valley
On the way back to Melbourne, between Lake Eildon and Mt Buller, you’ll hit Mansfield and, with it, Social Bandit Brewing. The brewery was started in 2015 by Jeff and Jeanette Whyte, who previously ran Jamieson Brewery in the town of the same name.
The Social Bandit brewhouse is something of a showpiece inside the taproom, and that's quite fitting too. The Austrian-built, copper-lined system looks like few others in Australia’s craft beer industry, and its arrival in the country with instructions only in German and Japanese caused more headaches than most brewery builds.
Jeff has picked up multiple awards for his beers over the years, while also brewing one of the country’s earliest IPAs (The Beast) while at Jamieson so it should be no surprise you’ll find a diverse mix pouring through the dozen taps. Step in and you’ll generally find the find beers that are clean and accessible, while the brewery’s sour beers are often talked about, including a house favourite at team Crafty Pint, the sour ale Sookie La La.
Pull up out front of 223 Mt Buller Road, Mansfield 3722.
Also in the area...
Also nearby but in spots we couldn't make it to this time around are:
- Jamieson Brewery & Grill
The original home of The Beast IPA, the brewery has undergone a few changes and different iterations over the years, but continues to operate to this day. You'll find it and its beers at 5953 Eildon-Jamieson Road, Jamieson.
- Bonfire Station Microbrewery & Farmstay
Located in Taggerty near the Cathedral Ranges, this small operation offers accommodation and beer brewed onsite. It can be found at Lot 1 Yellow Creek Road, Taggerty.
- Reed & Co
If you're looking for some delicious drinks that aren't beer, Bright's Reed & Co Distillery creates a wide range of gins. It's right in town at 15 Wills Street, Bright.
- Hurdle Creek Still
Also making gin and other spirits is the team at Hurdle Creek Still, which was started by a former Bright brewer and is located at 216 Whorouly-Bobinawarrah Road, Milawa.