The birthplace of the contemporary craft beer scene in Australia has never been better when it comes to good beer. Pretty much wherever you turn in Fremantle you'll find a brewery or beer bar with character.
We revisited the port city in part one of this two-part Crafty Crawl, one designed to be undertaken on foot. Here, Graham Frizzell returns to visit the last of the beery haunts not captured in other Freo Crawls, this time doing so via the Blue CAT bus service. Hop aboard and join him for the ride!
Here at The Crafty Pint, we believe the Blue CAT service ought to be renamed The Freo Beer Bus. The route takes in two leviathan brewpubs, a legendary bottleshop, one of Perth and Fremantle’s earliest small bars featuring a sharp beer focus, a BYO beer-friendly eatery that will knock your socks off, plus another supersized brewpub also dabbling in distilling.
(Heck, we could have just as easily dubbed the Blue CAT the “Clockwork Orange” in honour of the bus’s orange livery and the direction it takes but the Glasgow subway already took it and this is a beer webzine, not a Stanley Kubrick fan page after all…)
As an added bonus, the bus is completely free, and if you are staying outside Fremantle its route begins and ends at Fremantle railway station. So grab your backpack (you’ll need it for stops two and three) and get set for the best hop on, hop off, bus-based beer tour the west has to offer…
Stop One: Who’s Your Mumma
Ding the bell at the hospital and you'll arrive just across the street from a true West Aussie small bar originator: Who's Your Mumma.
This neighbourhood institution on the inside and out is about as hip as a pair of odd socks, but that's just how the locals like it. The rustic interior, world-weary hardwood floor and furnishings, and loos only a well-seasoned Melburnian wouldn't get lost in not only speak of an amiable charm, they do well to juxtapose one of the most serious drinks programs this side of the Nullarbor.
Before craft beer arrived, Who's Your Mumma specialised in top tier spirits and "craft cocktails". By our reckoning, that means carefully-curated drinks using fresh ingredients of known local provenance highlighted in some unique way by the beverage (the vegan-friendly espresso martini was a favourite of yours truly). It therefore follows that similar care is taken with the more recently initiated beer program and, sure enough, Who's Your Mumma's reputation exceeds itself.
The focus here is tightly honed in on the best of the west, as evidenced by their Cheeky Monkey tap takeover during WA Beer Week 2022. For the remaining 355 days of the year, the taps pour everything from Nail VPA to Beerfarm's Cherry Bomb Sour.
If nothing on tap takes your fancy – which we'd wager is highly unlikely – Who's Your Mumma cheerfully slings a selection of packaged beers too. Think tinnies like Moon Dog's Timothy Tamothy Slamothy stout, Nail Red Carpet RIPA and the highly sought after Whitelakes 100 Day Pilsener. The offering of seasonal brews and one-offs is what makes this wonderful spot the perfect middle ground between neighbourhood hangout and craft beer destination in its own right.
As this is also the first stop among many where you might be considering a bite to eat. If you don't like or fancy hotdogs (as per stop three) we suggest getting around one of the most colourful bar snacking menus on the strip. Choose from bean mix tacos (with the option to add vegan cheese), cheesy sausage rolls, fried brussels sprouts and smash burgers. I wouldn't like to be the one deciding between bar bites and loaded hotdogs!
Say hi to Your Mumma at 142 South Terrace, Fremantle.
Stop Two: The Freo Doctor
The second stop, located just a short walk from Who’s Your Mumma, is a long overdue one. In context, however, it’s a perfect fit.
The friendly Freo Doctor staff have seen it all. You might say they are in the perfect position to perpetually monitor the pulse of the port. Who better to chat to about WA beer's changing tides than those at the helm of this time-honoured institution?
If time permits, we recommend visiting The Freo Doctor twice. When you set foot inside this hardwood-clad haven of good beer, wine and spirits the reason becomes abundantly clear. You will not want to be lugging around the many goodies (for which temptation will ultimately prove an exercise in futility) for a whole day. The purpose of your first visit is to embark on a quest for an ethereal food and beer matching experience (neatly connected to the next stop) unlike any other.
Distraction is painfully easy. Here, stood before you, is a gateway leading into the finest beer Western Australia has to offer. The lengthy row of fridges to the back of the store carries the best core range delights and seasonal offerings – many of which don't see the light of distribution into the eastern states – alongside plenty of limited releases. Time your visit right and you may even happen upon an exclusive collab.
There's also a mighty offering of beer from further afield: think North America’s best craft beer, English ales and continental classics, all of which conjure up nostalgic images of beer shopping in the mid-Oughts. But what makes The Freo Doctor a destination in its own right is the sheer number of cellar-stuffers lining its shelves.
You might be lucky enough to happen upon an ancient bottle of KAIJU! Betelgeuse, or among the last confirmed sightings of 3 Ravens' The Druid. Cantillon and Drie (3) Fonteinen are no strangers here either. Short of resorting to costly international collector sites, the Freo Doctor is the place to come for sought-after oddities and rarities.
But before you get all misty-eyed and whimsical, remember you are here on a food and beer matching mission. Before you begin your shopping, we thoroughly recommend whipping out your phone and loading up the menu at Run Amuk Hotdogs (stop three). From there you can decide whether you'd like a Beerfarm IPL to go with your Punk hotdog or if you'd prefer a red IPA to really rev up your Rude Boy dog.
As Run Amuk has a BYO licence, you may grab a beer or two from The Freo Doctor and enjoy it on-premises. It doesn't matter how knowledgeable you are in food and beer pairing: there are no rules except that beer and hotdogs are made for one another. Best of all, you are about to embark on a wholly unique Freo experience only the most seasoned of locals know about.
No appointments needed to see the good doctor at 27 Arundel St, Fremantle.
Stop Three: Local Hero – Run Amuk Hotdogs
With your backpack loaded with goodies it's time to hop aboard the Fremantle CAT bus once more from outside the hospital. In so doing you’ll be swapping the area's brutalist architecture for the art deco charms of South Beach, where Run Amuk Hotdogs and lunch await.
But this is no ordinary lunch. This, friends, is food and beer pairing perfection.
In a city famed for its burgers, Run Amuk dares to be different by flying the flag for the humble hotdog. This light-filled, family-, beach bum-, hipster- and doggo-friendly eatery takes the good old fashioned bratwurst – or kransky if you'd prefer – and elevates it to all new levels of flavour. Think gourmet toppings such as the Punk's caramelised onion, smoky bacon and hickory barbecue sauce, or the Ninja with its creamy guacamole, zingy pineapple relish, savoury steamed rice and zippy Japanese mayonnaise. Vegan options are available upon request (however, they come sans veganised sour cream, cheese or mayo).
These dogs hustle with style and each one of them is begging to be enjoyed alongside a matching beer.
If you are a food and beer matching novice, you can't go past the simple pleasure of a classic pale ale or Pilsner paired with The Brat (served with caramelised onion, tomato sauce and mustard). This is a pairing that's perfect for people watching; after all, man-bun counting is a participation sport around here.
The more adventurous among you might like to pair a toasty dark lager with the similarly caramelly flavours of The Scoundrel. Those with sound food and beer pairing knowledge will know almost instinctively what they fancy before arriving. The incendiary delight that is The Daredevil, for instance, is perfectly suited to a black IPA’s robust hop-driven flavours.
Name a more unique and fulfilling food and beer experience in Australia. I’ll wait.
Run Amuk let the dogs out at 386A South Terrace, South Fremantle.
Stop Four: Running With Thieves
After having your skull blown off seven ways from Sunday by the best hotdogs this side of South Chicago you might be wondering just how much more Freo you can handle. But as you descend upon Running With Thieves, with the sun setting over South Beach, you’ll soon discover there is no such thing as a Freo-verdose…
It may prove difficult peeling your eyes away from the wholly unique view, replete with a hodgepodge of native and not so native coastal greenery, railway tracks, and that big West Australian sky set magnificently above Running With Thieves’ front porch. Trust us, you can always go back to it once you have a pint or tasting paddle in hand. The front of the venue is flanked by a bench where South Freo locals put their feet up while watching the sun go down.
If the weather is unkind outside, Running With Thieves is cosy and inviting inside. Wooden tables line the venue ahead of a sprawling main bar that offers up a range of brews, including a choc-orange porter, schwarzbier, Japanese lager, west coast IPA and even a ginger beer. Take a look around the bar and you’ll notice the shiny brew tanks from whence the beer came juxtaposed against an impressive collection of copper stills and wooden barrels.
That’s right, Running With Thieves is a functioning distillery in addition to pumping out some of Freo’s finest pints. We strongly recommend taking home a piece of Freo with you for later consumption in the shape of one of Running With Thieves’ house-made gins – created with everything from classically bitter London botanicals through to modern rosewater and Middle-Eastern spices. Naturally, if you are a gin and tonic lover, the friendly barkeeps will happily mix one up for you.
There really is something for everyone here, but it’s done with panache rather than pander. This philosophy extends to the beer-friendly pan-Asian dining menu too: think hot n’ spicy tofu bao, crispy prawn wontons, chicken karaage and char siu pork belly bites. With such great food, incredible drinks, coast-meets-suburban surrounds and an old-skool hip hop soundtrack, Running With Thieves is so South Freo it’s almost criminal.
You can run but you can't hide from good beers and great times at 218 Marine Terrace, South Fremantle.
Stop Five: Freo.Social
If your love for good beer is matched only by your love of quality live music you’ve officially arrived at your happy place. Welcome to Otherside Brewing's Freo.Social!
Freo.Social is as Fremantle as it gets. Located just a stone’s throw from Fremantle Oval, the markets and all the great pubs as covered by the OG Freo Beer-Ho Crawl, the venue was previously a rifle range and the Fly By Night music hall. When it opened in its new guise in 2019, Freo.Social boasted a pilot brew kit (visible from the bar and the rustic indoor area surrounding it), sprawling wooden outdoor seating flanking the street, shaded beer gardens, a food truck wonderland and – most impressive of all – an impeccably-specced 900-capacity live music space.
There is every chance you may be in town specifically for a gig taking place here. The Avalanches famously blew the roof off prior to the arrival of the pandemic on New Year's Eve 2019/20. Smaller acts cut their teeth at Freo.Social, and every so often punters are treated to nights dedicated to blues, soul, disco and punk. You might even be in town to catch bands paying tribute to heavyweights such as The Killers, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Metallica and Arctic Monkeys.
If you are here first and foremost for the beer you won't be disappointed. While brewing no longer takes place onsite, the full Otherside core range happily sits alongside Headliner and Experimental releases, plus selected “Friends of Otherside” beers, all pouring from the venue's imposing 56 taps. As you're in for a long day or weekend we suggest grabbing some takeaways from the fridge if you fancy something stronger for another day. Oftentimes Freo.Social (along with the OG brewhouse in Myaree) serves as a the last chance to pick up bygone limited releases.
Less intense offerings besides beer might be just the ticket should you seek something refreshing before hitting the mosh pit. You’ll find a range of fruit-forward hard seltzers perfect for dancing the night away during Perth’s warmer months. Sometimes change is as good as a holiday, especially when enjoying high energy music, and you can always go back to (responsibly) enjoying a Lo-Fi Citrus Wit afterwards. Freo.Social has done exceptionally well in changing the game in Freo's beer and live music scene.
Live music the West Australian way awaits at Parry Street, Fremantle (near the old Fremantle Oval).
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As we mentioned in the Day One feature, this Crafty Crawl is backwards-compatible with Guy Southern’s Freo — South & North Crafty Crawl and the original Freo Beer-Ho expedition. Both feature beery destinations close to Blue CAT bus stops along its route.
You can also find all of the breweries and venues featured in these Crawls, plus more than 1200-and-counting others across Australia in the free Crafty Pint app.