Crafty Crawls: WA's South West Corridor

September 29, 2023, by Jono Outred

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Crafty Crawls: WA's South West Corridor

WA’s South West is a famed holiday destination that's known globally for its wineries, beaches, breweries, dining and landscapes. But the expansive region, about three-and-a-half hours from Perth, is linked to the city via a bustling corridor that's a little less explored yet becoming increasingly populated.

The modern, family-dense suburbs are now melding with generations-old farming towns that dot the passage between what locals would call “the South of Perth” and the South West. With that growth, an impressive assemblage of crafty destinations have popped up too. 

These breweries and venues tend to share territory with eateries best described as hidden gems, plus a couple of wineries and farm stalls. When it comes to the beer, the slew of families and young professionals now occupying these expanding suburban areas are looking for experiences that rival their city counterparts and many of the local breweries are doing just that.

Starting from the north and eventually reaching Bunbury, the South West Corridor is a trip that, at a push, could be done in a day given it is a five-hour return trip from our starting destination. However, being en route to the South West, a great option is to split it in two to enjoy at a leisurely pace on your next trip down south: hit up half the stops on the way down and the rest on the way back up!


Stop 1: FOUND.LAB

 

Our first stop happens to be one of the freshest faces in the WA brewing scene at time of writing. Throwing open their doors in 2023, FOUND.LAB is a neighbourhood brewery, and a precursor to a much bigger project that is still to come in the heart of Perth. Situated in Byford, FOUND.LAB has, ahem, found its place as a local watering hole for those in southeastern suburbia. It’s also an ideal jumping off destination for our Crawl due to its cruisey position a mere 35-minute drive from Perth.

The founders behind the project bring decades of experience in the state's brewing and hospo industries to bear on FOUND. – and you can tell as it has arrived fully-formed as a concept and actuality. It's also a brewery for the community: the venue is polished and modest but boasts lakeside views and a very shiny brew kit on full display; and it's located just a short walk from local shops, parks, and many homes.

Importantly, the beers here are good; in fact, they’re very good. A broad range covers the expected – hazy, lager, IPA – and some house specialities – nitro stout, big pale ale, fruit sour – along with a couple of guests and seasonal offerings. On paper, the food menu is pretty classic brewery fair but the "dips" are a must try with each a unique spin on the French Dip Sandwich.

FOUND. can be found at 1 Olsen Gardens, Byford.

After your dip and a few of FOUND.'s finest, you’re just an 11-minute drive away from your next destination: a slight detour westward before we venture south again.


Stop 2: King Road

 

In the town of Oldbury, you’ll find King Road Brewery. Its street presence is unassuming, blending with the surrounding farm properties and bushland. It doesn’t feel like it's barely an hour from the Perth CBD, with a landscape more akin to the far north or the deep south farming districts of the state. While Oldbury’s history dates to white settlement in Western Australia – established as part of the group settlement scheme in the 1920s – King Road in comparison is just a baby, with the seeds of the concept planted in 2008, and the doors opening in 2017.

Despite their relative youth, King Road have amassed not only a firm following within the WA brewing scene but quite a few accolades to prove their brewing chops. In 2022, they scooped WA Beer of the Year for the WA Good Food Guide with their IPA, a beer that also won Champion International-Style IPA at the 2021 Australian International Beer Awards. Add to that a slew of medals over the last few years across the AIBAs, Indies and Perth Royal Beer Awards and it's clear the King Road team can brew.

And brew they should, as their 500-person capacity brewpub consistently fills, serving punters both award-winning beers and a food menu that jumbles classic pub dishes and a smattering of global influence, including stone-baked pizzas. King Road is family-friendly throughout with a simple setup where picnic-style benches will likely be your seat of choice, but a playground gets plenty of traffic for the youngsters. 

With the brewery displayed proudly, it's a classic brewpub with a thriving venue and mass of medals that make it a worthy destination for any traveller. 

Soak in all of King Road at 796 King Road, Oldbury.

Though you might find yourself wanting to spend the day here, there are a few more destinations ahead...


Stop 3: Whitelakes

  

Approachability sits at the core of Whitelakes beers and, at their Baldivis venue – vast and modern with lots of glass and timber detail – you won’t find humorously-named beers that teeter on the edge of style accuracy. Instead, you'll find clear-cut examples of classic styles meticulously crafted by head brewer Sean Symons, who has over 20 years of experience in the industry at breweries large and small, here and overseas.

The range includes, among others, the superb 100 Day Pilsner, a mid-strength English Bitter, a dark lager, a pale ale and a Belgian Wit – a style not only uncommon in 2023 but rarely a conversation starter unlike Whitelakes' interpretation. Notably, the range remains sessionable throughout, with just one of their nine core beers exceeding 5.5 percent ABV. Having said that, the brewers do let loose occasionally too, knocking out limited tap-only brews to test their creativity.

The brewery itself is open Friday through Sunday, but brewery tours are offered up over the weekends – and it's well worth exploring the brewery as it’s a wonderfully-crafted piece of kit. As for food, the menu covers most tastes across snacks, shareables and mains but the focus here is barbecue meats and – a word of warning – it can be a good idea to split the 1.2kg Tomahawk.

NB: At the time of publishing, Whitelakes is shut for renovations but will be back open soon. We'll update this once they're welcoming people inside again. 

You can dive into Whitelakes at 1441 Mandurah Road, Baldivis.

Now, we really start to dip south as we head to our next destination: our halfway point an hour from Perth’s CBD.


Stop 4: Boundary Island

 

Boundary Island is a family affair, opened by two families residing in Mandurah who felt the small, coastal city needed its own brewery. The venue is expansive and boasts accessibility, with ingress possible via boat, car, bus, foot or bike alongside the bustling estuary that surrounds the building. Unusually for a brewery, it's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner too.

The beers are equally accessible, with a range that includes a mid-strength lager, a 4.2 percent ABV XPA and a pilsner that also lands below 5 percent. There are some bigger beers in the mix – including a Barleywine that creeps towards double digit booze content – but all are straightforward examples of styles, designed for ease of consumption and with nautically-inspired names.

The vibe here is a relaxed one: it’s a no-fuss venue where kids are catered for and dogs are not only welcome but encouraged to come along. You’ll spot couples rolling in on fixies, dog walkers popping in for a quick drink and small watercraft pulling in at the backend of a busy day fishing or sailing.

With brekkie, lunch and dinner on the table, dining options at Boundary Island are plentiful. Classics make an appearance – buttermilk fried chicken burger and a steak sandwich play their role – but quite a few dishes lean into the contemporary pub dining space and seafood gets a very good look in, as expected. Fried coconut squid, freshly shucked oysters or the scallops all sit very nicely alongside a couple of Pelican Pale Ales or Island Lager Mids.

Park the car or the fixie and drop into Boundary Island at 21 Marina Quay Drive, Erskine.

From here, our Crawl heads another 25 minutes south as we swap estuary views for vineyards.


Stop 5: Thorny Devil

 

Thorny Devil have been on their self-proclaimed hunt to brew the perfect beer for almost a decade. For the most part, the brewery – headed by Peter McAppion – have pushed their wares via festivals and a few select tap points around the state. Since 2022, they also have a home in Mandurah, situated among the idyllic surrounds of a vineyard where neatly aligned rows of vines and the natural bush that surrounds them set the scene.

When it comes to beers, Thorny Devil’s beers play in both accessible territory and in a realm where experimentation and originality are a focus; across their ever-changing range, there's a lot to explore, from the 3.5 percent ABV Vienna Lager to their Red Rye IPA and West Coast IPA. For the more adventurous, beers such as the Bergamot Belgian Wit, Coffee Lager and Kakadu Plum Sour are there to tantalise the tastebuds further.

Thorny Devil’s hospitality doesn’t end at beers and views, with the brewery suggesting "sharing is caring" when approaching their menu. With dishes like smoked chicken wings, sticky baby back pork ribs and jalapeño poppers, sharing might not be on the cards but snacking certainly will be!

Soak in the Thorny beers by the vines at 185 Clifton Downs Road, Herron.

Our next destination is a straight 20 minutes down Old Coast Road and at this point in our journey, we’re in what most would call "the proper southwest". The city’s bumper-to-bumper traffic is well behind us and we’re trading in suburbia for pasture.


Stop 6: Old Coast Road

 

This far out, in the scarcely populated Harvey region, space is aplenty. Though Old Coast Road isn’t one of the state's loudest breweries, so to speak, they have been operating on their 60-acre farm since craft beer started to grow legs in WA. Speaking of growing, the brewery is placed among a region famed for growing and producing some of WA’s finest produce; maybe you’ve heard of or consumed Harvey Beef, Harvey Cheese or Harvey Fresh Milk? 

While Old Coast Road don't focus so much on spreading their wings like other local businesses, they do have a thousand olive trees on site, and they are producing their own wares in the form of beer, cider and bespoke spirits. Head brewer Andrew Harris likes to keep his beers classic-leaning: you won’t find any smoothie sours or thickshake IPAs here, but you will be making hard decisions between the likes of a malt-driven English IPA, porter, kolsch or pilsner, among others. 

Perhaps Old Coast’s big drawcard, after the beers, is the mini golf. It mightn’t be your standard craft brewery perk but it’s plenty of fun and a great way to take a breather after visiting half a dozen breweries. The course has 18 holes, with each one modelled after a famed, much-loved natural icon of Western Australia for a bit of a mini tour of the state. If you’re up for it, allow an hour to get through the course – perfect for working up a thirst for our next couple of stops.

Take the old road to Old Coast Road at 1238 W Break, Myalup.

For our next stop, we dip a little inland to admire some of WA’s premium lush green farming land along the way. 


Stop 7: Brugan Brewery

 

When you arrive at Brugan, things will feel a little different. The small operation brews and packs beers from within the Wokalup Tavern: a humble and old-school pub, the kind that gives you the warm and fuzzies. The Wokalup Tavern is the only pub in Wokalup, a tiny town of sub-500 residents neighbouring Harvey, meaning it's tasked with ensuring every legal-aged resident is well watered. Enter Brugan.

Brugan began producing beers a few years ago when Bruce Hathway and Megan Hardwick felt that, given they had a venue with stunning pastoral views, a captive market and plenty of space, it made sense to start producing beer for thirsty local punters and travellers alike. Though seemingly isolated, the brewery is actually only an hour from Busselton and welcomes plenty of visitors through the doors who are on their way in or out of the bustling tourist towns that surround it. 

The beers here are classically-minded, a commitment to ensuring locals have accessible beers for after work knock-offs and weekend wind-downs. A dark lager, amber ale and kolsch are big sellers while hops still get representation in an American IPA, mid-IPA and a hazy. Seasonals come and go, too, like the vanilla porter or fresh hop ale.

As with any pub, food is a focus and Brugan like to keep things local with a Paddock to Plate ethos. Expect to find pub classics nonetheless with chicken parmis, mac and cheese, fish and chips and a steak sambo flying out of the kitchen, all perfectly suited to a pint or two on the upper deck where you can watch the brewing process unfold below.

Enjoy your cold beer and the warm and fuzzies by heading to 11538 South Western Highway, Wokalup.

Our next stop is our final one for this journey and it delivers us to the heart of Bunbury.


Stop 8: Froth Bunbrewery

 

Froth actually started out life in Exmouth, which is about 1,500 kilometres north of where this Crawl ends. The coastal-inclined brewers now brew and package the majority of their beers from their Bunbury site, a locale that allows greater distribution around Perth and the south. But, importantly, the Bunbury venue has been an asset for the mid-size city since beginning operations in 2022, bringing live music, fresh beers, and solid eats to the city’s centre.

Froth boast a lengthy list of beers brewed on site: over 40 at time of writing have featured on their expansive beer list and, at any one time, expect at least 20 beers to be pouring from via quirky tap handles made from relics and old tools that line a bar built within a vintage boat hull. While the detail-driven bar is an attraction in itself, you came for the beers and the range has something for everyone; core beers include a mocha oatmeal stout, a light lager, an XPA and a pale ale, among plenty of others. 

As for limited releases, expect the unexpected among seasonal offerings like a Mexican citrus lager, mango lassi milkshake IPA, cold IPA and watermelon Margarita gose, just to name a few. A tasting paddle of four or six beers is certainly recommended here.

Asian fusion is the vibe when it comes to food and, like the beers, there’s plenty to choose from. Sri Lankan fish curry, chilli caramel pork belly, braised octopus with XO and som tam, and Korean style ribs are just a few things jumping off the page.

Although our Crawl ends here, if you’re lucky, Froth might be hosting live music on the day of your visit, a great way to wind down before you consider starting another Crawl through the South West.

Enjoy a Froth at Froth by popping into 2 Victoria Street, Bunbury.

Crafty Cabal Member offer at Froth Craft Bunbrewery, Bunbury: 10% Off All Beers At Froth!


Other Options

 

  • Liquor Shed, Jandakot: Although there will be plenty of beers up for grabs on this Crawl, you might want to pop into Liquor Shed for a couple of takeaway goodies. The range is huge, with a few special bottles waiting to be unearthed.
  • Treendale Farm Hotel, Treendale: Treendale Farm Hotel was once voted the best pub in the country. A fair accolade for a regional venue that celebrates local craft beers across their taps, plus quality pub grub and hospitality. There’s always something going on at The Treendale, whether it’s live music, tapping a limited beer, a mid-week steak night, or more elaborate events like their annual sausage-making competition or 90s party. It's found just 15 minutes from Bunbury. 
  • Small's Bar, Australind: Smalls by name but big in stature, this regional, 250-seater bar and eatery brings fresh produce and local drinks to the fore. Expect refined plates that showcase local growers while staying within beer snack territory, plus all-local, independent beers from the likes of Shelter, Rocky Ridge and Eagle Bay. 
  • Mojos, Bunbury: Mojo’s (pictured above) has been providing Bunbury with its craft beer services for 20 years, across both its contemporary restaurant and small but well-stocked bottleshop. Local beers are a focus but expect some treats from further afar – including rare and sought-after Belgian and US bottles – and a generous ranging of wines and spirits too. 
  • Rose Hotel, Bunbury: The Rose has been pouring beers since 1865, so if there’s anywhere that knows its way around a good pint, it’s probably here. Independents are peppered among the bigger guys but the modern pub menu and friendly hospitality pair well with beers that turnover quickly thanks to a dedicated and thirsty clientele.
  • All Malt Brewing, Mandurah: One of the region's newer brewing operation, All Malt brew sustainably-minded beers on their "Frankenbrewery" located in Mandurah. The team serve their wares (and provide great hospitality!) at their tasting room and beer garden, with beers that lean approachable, including the likes of a 3.4 percent ABV session pale ale, a kolsch and a red ale.

You can check out other Crafty Crawls from around the country here and find all the above venues and hundreds more, plus beers, events, special deals and more in the free Crafty Pint app. If there's any glaring omissions, or new operations on the horizon, let us know!

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