Change in the place that changed everything for beer in Australia has always ebbed and flowed. Much like the currents flowing into and out of Fremantle Harbour, the past decade has seen long periods of stagnation, punctuated by the opening of a small bar or two with an interesting beer offering, and then: "Boom!" A tidal wave of monumental brewpubs and beer-focused venues crashed upon Freo’s shores as if out of nowhere.
Remarkably, recent developments – including the announced relocation of the iconic Little Creatures (you can read about the harbourside stalwart in the OG Freo Beer-Ho Crafty Crawl here) and the opening of two additional beachfront brewpub behemoths – occurred during the greatest change some of us will ever see in our lifetimes. The timeliness thereof only adds to the sheer defiance Freo has shown in reclaiming its mantle as a bucket list beer destination.
Visitors with a taste for beer are spoilt for choice whether they are seeking a quiet pint following a visit to the famed Maritime Museum or a full-fledged weekend of (responsible) beer-themed exploration. Want brews with views? You’ve come to the right place. Fancy a next level live music experience replete with good beer you can’t find at your local? You’ve arrived! And there’s so much more besides.
With so much to choose from, it’s good to know the Freo Beer-Ho! Mk II Crafty Crawl is completely backwards-compatible with the original. Locals and visitors alike can easily choose their own adventure in and around the Freo town centre, South Terrace and the harbour – the free Crafty Pint app, which contains all of these venues plus more than 1200 others around Australia, is your ideal companion. Moreover, it also serves as a handy jumping off point for the equally awesome North vs South Freo Crawl and future crawls centred around Perth's metro-like railway.
For all intents and purposes, however, we’re going to assume that you are already well versed with Fremantle’s old guard. To that end we have split the guide into two parts.
Day One: Lace up those walking boots for an afternoon spent wandering the historic boat sheds, town centre, east and west ends. Day two: Let the Fremantle Blue CAT bus be your guide to Freo’s south side as you take in the changing tides of the city’s beer scene.
DAY ONE: THE WALKING TOUR
Stop One: Gage Roads Freo
Picture yourself in a shed at the harbour… With 84 taps and... Wait, what? 84 taps?!
The sheer number of taps – all pouring Gage Roads’ core range, limited releases and a handful of local guests – servicing WA’s largest independent brewery’s new home should give you fairly clear indication of the biblically-proportioned size of the venue. But it’s not until you step inside that you realise just how impressive this seaside beery amusement park is.
The venue is so ginormous it needs a signpost indicating individual sections and attractions. For table service beside the imposing sandstone-lined main bar, head left. Kids in tow? Keep going in the same direction until you find a play area with a hollowed-out vintage fourbie and cray boat that’ll keep them amused all afternoon. Fancy a T-shirt or even a surfboard? The gift shop is straight ahead. For beach-bum vibes, kaleidoscopic murals and low-slung wooden benches plonked beneath the venue’s in-house brew kit: bear right.
The signpost is surplus to requirements, though, as you’ll want to be overlooking Gage Roads (the body of water separating Freo and Rottnest Island itself pictured at the top of this article). Panoramic views don’t get any grander in scale. On a sunny day the water looks simply hypnotic against the clear blue sky. It won’t be long before you’re settled into your seat, middy of Single Fin in hand, and gazing in wonderment as pleasure boats cruise by.
If you’re new to Fremantle, you may find yourself in a fugue state of love at first sight and you’ll never want to leave. If you’re a jaded local, you’ll find yourself reconnecting with your hometown on a whole new level. If you’re a lager lover, you’ll find the only taps of the 84 you’ll ever need is those pouring Pipe Dreams – which took out top spot in the Getting Blind With Crafty’s pale lager tasting challenge of 2021.
Whatever you’re coming for we suggest coming early! Gage Roads Freo’s capacity might register a mighty 1,500 but it fills up fast from lunchtime onwards – especially on weekends. Naturally, those seaside seats are the first to go and the last to be emptied as families and groups of sun seekers nestle in for a long lunch.
If you’re feeling peckish the massive onsite kitchen has got you covered with everything from locally caught seafood to pizzas. There’s a handful of vegan and vegetarian options plus a kids’ menu. We recommend fuelling up on a share plate or two as there is plenty more beer, food, walking and adventure yet to come on the other side of the tracks.
Look for the beers and locals with the sun in their eyes at Peter Hughes Drive, Victoria Quay, Fremantle.
Stop Two: Union Brewery & Distillery
Remember we recommended lacing up those walking boots? The treks between stops one, two and three are equidistant at 1.6km each. But along the way to Union Brewery & Distillery you’ll have the chance to burn off those empty calories while taking in both the charms of Fremantle's west end and the quirky architecture of its east side.
Once at your destination, found within The Sunshine Harvester Works, you’ll be greeted by a tap list that's arguably Western Australia’s best kept beery secret.
Every possible palate is sure to be appeased at Union. In fact, the experience for some of a particular vintage may prove positively nostalgic. British beer once upon a time flowed freely through Perth and Fremantle. Now it's as rare as spotty old chickens' teeth. However, Union Brewery & Distillery have come to the rescue of lovers of a good British pale ale and London porter by brewing versions of their very own, hence if you are that way inclined you may have found beery heaven.
More modernist tastes are catered for too as the beer list runs an autumnal American amber, crispy session lager and even a spicy white IPA. The onsite brewery churns out different beers for different occasions – think a full-fledged selection of German-inspired beers to ring in Oktoberfest celebrations. Moreover, as Union Brewery doubles as a distillery you'll also find woodsy barrel-aged Baltic porters, Belgian dubbels and saisons.
The embarrassment of riches continues on the spirits front. The list is headed up by a Limoncello, a lemon liqueur originating in the south of Italy that's a legend around these here parts. Summery gins and golden whiskies feature prominently too. If you are watching your ABVs (as well you should be) it's good to know all of the products on offer are available takeaway for later enjoyment.
As an added bonus, The Sunshine Harvester Works is in essence a small food court (in terms of vendor numbers) with big ideas. If you have yet to fuel up, neighbouring vendors will happily oblige. Pick from whopping great smash burgers served up by Two Stacks, tropical Mauritian street food at Pantry 92 (Sundays only) and delectably chocolaty sweet treats to go with your stout from the legends over at Fatboi Brownies.
We daresay the surrounds at Union and The Sunshine Harvester Works aren't the easiest place from which to pry yourself. The bar is integrated within the food court as well as having its own cosy corner, replete with onsite brew kit, all of which sits beneath an enormous vaulted industrial roof. Grab your beer, an accompanying bite to eat, and seek out a spot among the long benches that call to mind a German beer festival tent. Bonus points if you find food and beer pairing nirvana while you're here.
Get reunited with old world classics at 1 James Street, Fremantle.
Stop Three: The Old Synagogue
Get ready for another 1.6km walk, or possibly power-waddle after filling up at the last stop, this time taking in Freo’s striking parklands and old terraced housing. You're now setting a course for The Old Synagogue. (You'll know you're heading in the right direction if you pass Freo.Social – but we recommend saving Otherside's Fremantle outpost for day two.)
Entertainment mega-complexes are the thing in Perth and Fremantle these days. From bowling alleys to basement band rooms you won't go wanting if variety is your jam. The Old Synagogue complex, located at the corner of South Terrace and Parry Avenue, is one of the OGs in every sense of the word.
You immediately get a sense of Fremantle's Jewish history upon setting foot inside the chuffing massive building, originally erected in 1902. There are four venues to choose from: Chaim (an intimate cocktail bar), Tonic & Ginger (specialising in piquant South-East Asian cuisine), Arbor (a 500-seat beer and wine garden) and Mr Chapple (the place to go for craft beer, wine and spirits).
Naturally it's the latter two spots we are interested in at The Crafty Pint; however, the open-plan layout of The Old Synagogue is such that patrons are free to move about at will. If you have yet to eat, Tonic & Ginger may very well be the place to start before pulling up a pew at an outdoor table at Arbor.
Without a doubt Mr Chapple is the place you and your crew will be talking about for years to come afterwards. Grab yourself a fresh as can be Eagle Bay Kölsch and then make your way up the stairs outside to find one of the mightiest views in all of Fremantle. Beer gardens don't come much better than this.
Peeling yourself away from this majestic spot is going to prove difficult, especially considering Mr Chapple boasts a well-curated selection of local favourites including those from Beerfarm, Nail VPA, Feral Biggie Juice and Bertie Cider. There are seasonal specialties too, such as Boatrocker's Life Is Peachy, along with a wine list with a strong local focus. Time your visit right and you may be treated to a top takeover by a favourite WA brewery too.
Time moves just a little bit slower at this beautiful spot. While waiting for your beer at the bar don't forget to gaze up towards the elevated glass window revealing the venue's gabled roof, adorned by an enormous concrete Star of David.
Sip beers below the vaulted windows – but good luck finding the Bimah! – at the corner of South Terrace and Parry Avenue, Fremantle.
Stop Four: Beerpourium
Beer history runs bone deep in Freo. Occasionally it collides with coffee too, hence we'd be criminally remiss if we didn't suggest a visit to the mighty Beerpourium.
Well-seasoned beer aficionados will be familiar with the name Phil Sexton. What you may not know, however, is that after departing Matilda Bay and later co-founding Little Creatures, he did so while abandoning plans to bring Starbucks to Australia. However, Phil went on to help establish WA's Dome Café chain instead.
Although the first Dome opened in Cottesloe, Beerpourium proudly sits atop the Fremantle outlet, situated on South Terrace in the beating heart of it all. On the inside Beerpourium is bright and airy with beer trinkets lining its cream-coloured walls, and occasionally an indoor bowling green makes an appearance for a spot of weekend fun. But we imagine you'll be making a beeline for one of the hotly-contested seats outside on the balcony.
Beerpourium wears its heart on its sleeve when it comes to beer. This is the place to come for a selection of (seldom seen elsewhere) local lagers, ales and ciders, such as South Fremantle Brewing's dark lager, Eagle Bay's Citrus Ale and Boston's tart and tingly Double Afterglose. Time your visit right and you will be greeted by a tap takeover or a chat by local brewing luminaries on topics such as barrel programs and ageing beer with wood. On any given day, there's live acoustic music and a beer-friendly bites menu loaded with burgers and pizzas too.
If that's not enough to make you feel full to bursting, the view from the aforementioned balcony will surely have you feeling sated. Much like many of the pubs overlooking South Terrace, Beerpourium offers a striking view of the strip – however, we’d wager it’s the best view of the lot. We're hard-pressed to imagine a place that embodies the past, present and future of beer in Fremantle quite like Beerpourium.
Beers above and bog laps down below greet you at Level 1/13 South Terrace, Fremantle.
Stop Five: Calamity’s Rod
Head back onto street level and it's only a short walk from Beerporium to the next stop: Calamity's Rod, a nanobrewery located down the quaint laneway that is Bannister Street. Along the way, those familiar with Fremantle might spot another familiar beery site: The Monk (as featured in the OG Freo Crafty Crawl). It's now sadly a relic of Freo's beery history with an uncertain future (at the time of writing) having since housed another (now closed) brewpub operation in the shape of Kahuna Brewing.
Calamity's Rod clearly isn't going anywhere. It's the living definition of a West Aussie pop-up bar albeit with a post-ironic twist. It popped up after lockdown 1.0, did so well it refused to pop back down, but instead of pretty young things taking glamorous selfies at the bar here you'll find friendly locals that are more Fremantle than the statue of Bon Scott.
Aesthetically speaking, this neighbourhood haunt is more Melbourne laneway small bar than Freo beer barn. Bricked floor: check. Shipping container bar and brewkit: check. Rustic tippy, tacky black furnishings: check. Demountable toilets: check. OK, that last one is definitely more Freo than Melbourne, but this is the logical paradox that is Calamity's Rod.
With the venue being so tiny it follows that, before too long, you're surrounded by chatty locals enjoying their knock-off pint. Strangers sharing their table with other strangers is not uncommon, something the friendly barkeeps will tell you is an endearing feature of the place.
And what of the beverages these friendly barkeeps are pouring? Calamity's Rod has got just about every taste covered with rotating fruited kettle sours, bold West Coast IPAs, cruisy hazies and a small but carefully-curated list of spirits, wines and cocktails. We suggest coming to try everything (yes, they have paddles) and staying for a full pint of the wintry dunkel (dark German lager).
Call in at the right time and you can pair your pint with complimentary cheese and charcuterie. However, if you love your food as much as you love your beer, we recommend saving just a little real estate for the delights on offer at the next stop on the Crawl...
Big things in small packages are around the corner at 15 Bannister Street, Fremantle.
Stop Six: Old Faithful Fremantle
The first day of Freo pub crawling comes full circle as you make your way back towards the railway station from Calamity's Rod and through the west end's historic backstreets to Old Faithful Bar & BBQ Fremantle.
As its name suggests, the Fremantle outpost of the Perth original (as covered in the Perth City Crafty Crawl) is a temple to all things barbecued meat, beer and whisky. But unlike the Perth OG Old Faithful, Freo is less razzle-dazzle and more quiet and intimate. Entry is via a laneway replete with ample tables and chairs plus a Chesterfield or two. Soon you'll find yourself immersed in beer-soaked barbecue heaven among imposing exposed brick pillars beneath a low ceiling.
Trust us when we say you'll want to take your time perusing what's on offer as shown by the 32-strong beer list displayed on a gigantic digital screen. Locally brewed IPAs – in keeping with the Americana theme – feature prominently alongside classic pale ales, lagers, sours and even a hefeweissbier from Blasta (located up the road in Burswood) come in for support. With such an impressive tap list, one begins to ponder the many boilermaker possibilities: Old Faithful’s whisky selection spans some of the very best drams from the US, Scotland and beyond.
Lovers of American-style BBQ will have found their happy place here no matter their drink preference. Visitors can pair their beer, whisky or house-made cocktail with platters big enough to feed six; there's brisket, pulled pork, hot links, burgers, maple-fried potatoes, fried pickles and plenty of vegetarian options too. Wednesdays are wings day with beer specials, while Sundays are all about nachos and tacos. You'll be satisfied no matter what day of the week you choose to visit.
Eating here isn't mandatory (although low 'n' slow barbecue lovers will likely beg to differ) especially if you have filled up earlier in the day. Crucially, Old Faithful serves as the perfect place for a nightcap. The venue, its offerings, and its surrounds take on a charm all their own after dark. But don't forget there is another full day of beery fun to get through yet...
Visit an old mate at new digs at 1 Pakenham Street, Fremantle.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE…
- Freo Harbour Bar: E-Shed Markets, Peter Hughes Drive, Fremantle – Live music, pizzas and local beers by the water.
- Holy Smokes: Shop 8, 17-23 Collie Street, Fremantle – Another temple of barbecued meats with a considered beer selection and emphasis on spirits and cocktails.
- Strange Company: 5 Nairn Street, Fremantle – Quirky small bar serving local beers, wines and cocktails.
- Short Order Burger Co: 3 William Street, Fremantle – Burger bar with a small selection of beers including a collaborative house beer brewed alongside Rocky Ridge.
- Republic of Fremantle Distillery: 3 Pakenham Street, Fremantle – House made spirits and high-end cocktails next door to Old Faithful.
- Emily Taylor: 19-29 Henderson Street, Fremantle – Sister venue of Calamity's Rod.
- The Left Bank: 15 Riverside Road, East Fremantle – A little further afield but worth the walk along the scenic Swan River for a solid selection of draught craft beer.