It would seem that you need a lake and a few acres of land (plus a fat cheque my blog) in Margaret River, Western Australia, to even bother opening a brewery, because there are some spectacular locations to drink at, each among the largest, highest-end, most open-aired brewery set-ups I’ve seen. It’s the MTV Cribs of beer and it’s astonishing.
If you’re driving down to Margaret River from Perth, then Eagle Bay Brewing Co. (236 Eagle Bay Road, Naturaliste, Western Australia 6281) is the first place you’ll get to. The brewery has a view across its own lake that reaches over forests to the sea and is surrounded by all the blue sky your eyes can possibly look at. There are chairs and tables on the huge, sloping lawns, while inside there’s a bright, smart restaurant space, with all the seats facing toward the view—it’s unlike any brewery I’ve been to before (something I repeat to myself a few times over the day). There are a lot of kids at the weekends, but these venues are set up to give the kids somewhere to play while the adults eat and drink. The beers are good, especially the Kölsch, though I was mostly too busy running around the gardens to drink (I got more focused as the day wore on, I promise).
Visit To Australia’s Margaret River Wine Country For The World’s High-End Tasting Rooms Photo Gallery
From Eagle Bay you can head south, bouncing east and west via plenty of breweries—the only trouble is that you really need to drive to these places, though some brewery tour companies in the area will drive you around. The next stop down the line is Bootleg Brewery (Puzey Road, Wilyabrup, Western Australia 6280), the original brewer in this part of the world. They also have a lake and are surrounded by trees—they are, in fact, almost in the trees. There’s a kids’ play area, and it’s all very serene (aside from the screaming children). My tip: if kids and beer aren’t for you, then go mid-week. It’s a huge location, though not as high-end as others, feeling more like a massive permanent outdoor gazebo. I didn’t actually love any of their beers, but it’s still an amazing place to stop at.
Black Brewing Co. (3517 Caves Road, Wilyabrup, Western Australia 6280) is the most flabbergasting brewery I’ve ever been to. Outside, it’s like a lavish villa, with marble walls, water features, and fountains; there’s even a majestic statue of a horse. It’s unbelievable—seriously, just image-search it on Google and you’ll see. The view out the back is over a lake that shimmers a money-can’t-buy turquoise. There are grape vines behind you. The kitchen cooks Thai food, and the heady spices waft through the warm air. And it’s huge. It’s also genuinely wonderful to drink somewhere like this—you have to kick yourself to remember that this is a brewery and you haven’t just landed in the judges’ houses part of X Factor by accident. Black’s beers stand up to the surroundings: XPA, in particular, is tropical with guava, pineapple, melon, and soft stone fruits—it’s also a good match for the Thai food.
Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery (4259 Caves Road, Wilyabrup, Western Australia 6280) also has a lake, of course, and it’s a very nice one. This is a chilled-out, relaxed space that spreads into the garden. Like the other places, Cheeky Monkey is versatile: there’s a garden space and play area; there’s smarter dining and a bar inside, and a good kitchen. There are more good beers, too, especially the West Coast IPA, which is orangey, grapefruit-pithy fresh and dry with a melony freshness.
I now think I’ve cracked why Margaret River has so many breweries like this in such a small area. It’s quite simple, really: the sun is always out and they have lots of room. You couldn’t have a location so open and outdoorsy on an industrial estate in the US Midwest or England’s West Midlands. But this is Australia and it’s massive, plus not many people live out in the west, so there’s loads of space. Plus, there’s an outdoorsy, beer-garden lifestyle there that just fits. Mix all this with the fanciness of the region’s wineries, which creates a “standard” for the drinking spaces, and it all comes together to elevate the drinking location, while somehow retaining a “brewery-in-the-backyard” atmosphere.
My final stop was Colonial Brewing Co. (56 Osmington Road, Margaret River, Western Australia 6285). Their lake is particularly massive—as is their tasting room and the grounds, where kids can run around, while adults work their way through tasting trays and pizzas, before they come together to play catch, cricket, or swingball. It’s the ultimate beer garden and the ultimate playground for both big and little kids. Colonial have a punchy little 3.5% ABV beer called Small Ale and there’s a lemonade-like Wheat beer that’s gloriously refreshing.
The taproom at Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Cidery. Order one of their terrific IPAs and head outside to the beer garden to enjoy the warm Australian sunshine.
And there were still others that I didn’t get to: The Beer Farm, Cowaramup Brewing Company, and Bush Shack Brewery. They all looked enormous as well, obviously. And I bet they’ve all got at least one lake each.
Margaret River is where Western Australia’s vineyards are located and, if you were to write a parody piece about beer being the new wine, you might describe breweries exactly as they are there—especially Black Brewing, which is so far from being a grungy, gungy, garage-band-pumping brewpub. Yet it’s wonderful for being so grand and gorgeous.
These breweries and taprooms were so different that I felt I was discovering them and discovering something new in beer—something that I didn’t know existed. And that was an exciting feeling. Going from one to the next, I was constantly surprised and wowed by what I saw. The Margaret River breweries are unlike anywhere I’ve drunk before and far removed from the cold, gray industrial estates I’m used to traipsing around. And, while on cold, gray, wet days those industrial-estate breweries have their own allure and solace, on warm Aussie days, it’s amazing to be at the world’s most high-end breweries, in the world’s greatest, largest, showiest beer gardens, surrounded by green trees, blue skies, turquoise lakes, and the golden sun, as well as a rainbow of different beers.
The Settler’s Tavern, Margaret River
If you’re in Margs, then stay in the main town and head to The Settler’s Tavern (114 Bussell Highway, Margaret River, Western Australia 6285) for dinner. There are 12 taps of beer, a couple of local ciders, 25-plus wines by the glass, and over 400 bottles—they’ve won awards for their wine list, but the beer list is strong, too. The food portions are huge, served quickly, and it’s very tasty.
They also brew their own beers under the Margaret River Ale Co. After a day of visiting breweries or vineyards, it’s the ideal end-point.