Craft beer is its own pleasure. On this brew trail, take in some 135 kilometres of Margaret River region scenery in a line stretching from Geographe Bay, across to Eagle Bay, a haul down Caves Rd, a detour past Cowaramup, to finally arrive to the banks of the Margaret River. There is the possibility of making this a full day itinerary. But for those seeking a slightly more leisurely crawl, pick a skipper, pack the kids and select two or three stops – time, then, to settle in a little. In any case, this trail isn’t going anywhere. The brewer’s barrels are always tapped. Make this Margaret River Region Craft Beer Trail yours.
Craft Beer Trail
Shelter Brewing Co
Occupying prime real-estate overlooking the Busselton Jetty, Shelter Brewing Co is a popular hangout with locals and visitors. It is the result of a five year development process between the Credaro brothers: Jason, Matt, Chris, and Mike, and Packard-Hair brothers, Zeb and Asher, all fourth generation locals. Beers are brewed on-site with a core range that takes in a classic lager, an India Pale Ale with their take on a classic West Coast IPA, a juicy and refreshing XPA and a crisp, fruity Summer Sour. The corner kiosk is open daily from 7am serving coffee, cinnamon scrolls, bagels and ice cream choc tops or wash away the salt of the day with a cold beer and a big feed in the beer garden.
Rocky Ridge Brewing
Five-generations on the farm has taught the family behind Rocky Ridge Brewing more than most about the land. The decision to divert from cattle and dairy to begin growing hops was one based on instinct for what could grow, and the decision wasn’t wrong. Highly focussed on sustainable practice, Rocky Ridge uses mostly WA cultured yeast, organic malt, homegrown hops and plenty of local nous and acquired beer making skill to produce out on their Jindong farm, with delicious results that can now be tasted at the craft brewery’s Busselton-based cellar door. This is a true beer tasting experience – the refurbed 1930s home has a license to pour 100ml tastes and any size of take-aways. Beers are all can-packaged in a nod to the Rocky Ridge commitment to quality and best-environmental practice: sunlight and oxygen negatively affect beer, two elements easily eliminated by brewing into cans, while aluminium is both lighter to freight and more easily recyclable than glass. As for the beers themselves, Rocky Ridge serves up everything from a session ale to a white coffee stout or a citrus IPA. Plenty of space, in other words, for the keen craft beer enthusiast to enjoy a little experimentation.
The Sophisticated Beast
While other breweries on this craft beer trail are renowned for their expansive properties and capacity to house a crowd, The Sophisticated Beast offers a different kind of experience. As intimate as it gets, this family-run labour of love is expertly producing farmhouse style beers that will challenge your palate – there are zero boring, flavour-free options on this menu. A visit to their tiny cellar door tucked away in Vasse is a chance to meet Ryan the brewer, and have a chat about the wild and unusual combos they are experimenting with. Along with beers, they also grow gourmet mushrooms from their brewery waste, and make a funky hop-infused cold brew coffee. Hot tip: If you are in Margaret River on a Saturday morning, you can also catch The Sophisticated Beast at the Margaret River Farmers Market.
Eagle Bay Brewing Co
Eagle Bay is a paradise of West Australian white sand beaches, turquoise waters, small peeling point breaks and – behind the coastline just a little – the area’s namesake brewery. The family-owned Eagle Bay Brewing Co. is set on a 66-year-old working farm, and since opening in 2010 has built up an organic kitchen garden, a small vineyard and a healthy range of beers that veer from a classic Kolsch or Pale Ale, into seasonal examples like a Cacao Stout through to Eagle Bay’s Sparkling Cider Ale – a beer-wine hybrid with a mouthfeel more typical of a wine. A great choice for those keen to experience in a glass the marriage of craft beer and Margaret River wine. Growlers are on hand for purchase and filling – two litres of beer that can be taken with you and enjoyed back in the comfort of your own balcony, barbecue tongs in hand. But if you do want to stay and sit, rest assured there’s plenty on the menu to keep you interested. Think lots of sizzle, a few great share plate options with a Margaret River Region twist: duck liver pate with Yallingup Woodfired bread and beetroot relish, carrot and coriander falafel with spiced eggplant, or crispy duck leg with sesame roast sweet potato. Kids have a playground and acres of space to run wild.
Wild Hop Brewing Company
Wild Hop opened in February 2019 in the Yallingup Hills – a boon for Yalls locals. Like many regional businesses, Wild Hop is a family affair. Husband. Wife. Mother. Daughter. Son (in-law). And now a baby, to boot. The emphasis is on presenting beer and the food that connects with a sense of place: the trail hop yard was planted in 2016 from rhizome cuttings that came courtesy of Rocky Ridge Brewing Co, while agricultural plans are afoot to produce for the brewery’s small commercial kitchen. This back-of-house commitment results in a front-of-house friendliness and ease that speaks volumes of what it is to showcase successful hospitality in the South West. Beer wise, expect surprises: brewers, Matthew Scott-Malcolm and Andrew Caldwell, studied together at the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology in Chicago. As brewers go, they take a fluid approach to beer styles, working at the forefront of flavour to ensure an always-interesting pull that doesn’t hang its hat on a single signature style. The kitchen plies beer-friendly food focussed on cooking over flame. And that wild bush of Yallingup is the ideal frame.
Black Brewing Co
Collaborative approaches get a lot of airplay in the Margaret River Region. When lives, passions and businesses are congregated in a rural part of Australia some distance from the economy of a big city centre, getting along necessarily means supporting your neighbours. Caves Road Collective brings together Ground to Cloud wines, Dune Distilling Co. and the Black Brewing Co. to form a craft beer, regional wine and boutique gin triumvirate smack bang in the middle of Margaret River Region’s most popular tourist drive. To focus on the beer is, of course, to be part of this Craft Beer Trail, and so beer is where we’ll turn our heads. There’s a lot of interest, here, from the Bao Bao Milk Stout that uses lactose to round out the stout’s bitter edges and draw forward its malty characters, to the Saison – a dry farmhouse ale that takes its cues from late-added mandarin peel with additions of white pepper and vanilla. There is a paddle to try, apple cider made from fresh Manjimup apples, along with the option of takeaways and seasonal releases in the tasting room. The lake overview is beautiful. The vibe happy and high, and the food the kind of seared, charred and well-seasoned batch of seasonal dishes and tasty snacks that keep good company with a pint.
They’ve got the playgrounds and the requisite lake and the beautiful Margaret River Region treed location. But what really sticks out about Bootleg Brewery is the awards. These are seriously delicious craft beers for the serious craft beer seeker. There is six-time gold medal Australian International Beer Award winner, Raging Bull, that takes the drinker from intense malt through to coffee, touching on bitterness before finishing on a note of sweet chocolate. Tom’s Amber is the traditional Australian ale with its malty aroma, colour as copper as a summer tan and light carbonation – with two silver awards from the Australian International Beer Awards hanging around its neck. Or for something a little Millennial, try the Flaming Youth – lightly soured with a hint of coriander and WA sea salt. There is a selection of regional wine, as is the case at all the regional breweries. Food takes on the persona of the out-West-style beer hall – a vibe Bootleg propagates. Think smokey wings, nachos, beef short ribs, burritos and meaty burgers.
Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co – Brewpub
The vibe is country beer-hall casual. High timber tables fill the brick and glass brewery inside. Outside, kids ran amok in the playground looking over vineyards and lake while Mum and Dad relax with a Cheeky Monkey brew under the sun umbrellas outside – Pale Ale is on the beer menu, so too cider, stout and the aptly named Session Ale. Food is easy, beer compatible and family-friendly. The family-owned brewery also has a production facility in nearby Vasse, Cheeky Monkey HQ Taphouse, which is open to the public and is the South West’s largest production brewery. Same ethos applies – ease, good food and a whole lotta Cheeky Monkey beer love.
Margaret River was born on the back of logging and the dairy industry. These days, the region is more famous for its wine, beer and produce. At Beerfarm, past and present come together – hay shed has turned to tavern and milking cows have given way to brewing hops. The result is an authentic country brew house that brings together some mighty fine brews. Limited release beers take in character from near and far, with the likes of their Big Hazy Double IPA which is packed with innovative hop blend Cryo Pop or their annual Shirazzaweiss, brewed with 1.5 tonnes of shiraz grapes from the Margaret River Region.
The Asam Boi Gose is one of their six core range beers which are available all year round, brewed with salted Asian plums with a kettle-soured Berlinner Weiss base. If you like your craft beers a little more recognisable, then Beerfarm has that, too. Think Manjimup apple cider, a classic IPL, or a West Coast Lager that takes its cues from the German lager classic. The farm surroundings makes this a great family spot, while all of that space has allowed Beerfarm to become something of a special events specialist.
With a seasonal Eats menu and two gourmet BBQ menus every weekend by Burnt Ends Smoking Co, Beerfarm has something for everyone.
Cowaramup Brewing Company
Getting behind your pint is an exciting option at this regional and family-owned microbrewery, where the brewing process takes centre stage as part of the visitor experience. The brewery’s production is visible from the entrance, but real aficionados would be wise to book ahead for the behind-the-scenes tour, where the craft brew art is is explained in detail and the session ends with six-beers matched to food. Beer wise, the Cowaramup Brewing Company takes drinkers on a trip from Germany to England before heading back to Aussie shores – from the unfiltered wheat beer of the Bavarian-style Hefeweizen and the clean, pale gold German-origin noble hop Pilsener, to the English style IPA, all the way back to a fruity, low bitterness Lightsign Summer Ale that’s all light and easy WA style. There’s even an alcoholic ginger beer. The property has a playground and ample space for kids, while the restaurant runs from vegetarian salad bowls to IPA-braised Harvey beef focaccias and chicken slaw tacos. There’s a ‘Little Grazers’ board for kids and pizzas available on the other side of lunch service.
Colonial Brewing Co
Nothing like a little bush road diversion to peak both thirst and interest for what might be at the end of this country road. Colonial Brewing Co has two locals – Port Melbourne, in Victoria, and this sprawling venue that spreads itself across a bush-surrounded flat expanse of land replete with sun-covered playground and enough outdoor tables to ensure most punters can come and enjoy their own patch of beer-soaked sun. Beers fall into a few categories, from a core range that takes in classic draught, I.P.A and ale styles, to regional-specific styles like the South West Sour featuring pale, wheat and Munich malts with hops from both hemispheres that provide a vibrant, tropical aroma. There is live music Saturdays, tasting paddles and daily food specials. Colonial has been pouring since 2004. It was one of the first breweries to open in WA’s ‘down South’ region and its opening in Victoria in 2015 has done nothing to dilute the dedication to quality. The beer is still handcrafted. Ciders made using only cold-pressed Australian apples. And the glow of pleasure gained from an afternoon under the Margaret River sun remains golden.
Brewhouse Margaret River
When the Brewhouse opened its doors in 2016, the celebration from town-living Margaret River beer-lovers was audible. Run by three local families, this is a town brewery with the same serene feel of any of its bush-block counterparts. Trees are tall and shading. The lawns are green and rolling. The beer house itself opens to a veranda-shaded timber deck that spills out onto said lawns. And the beers? Think everything from US West Coast-style pale (Inji Pale Pale) and workingman’s burnt biscuit and toffee-style malts (Bastard Brown), to an all-Aussie classic lager (Black Duck). Take it all in with a paddle that’ll give you a taste across the board, and then match this with food from the kitchen that doesn’t subscribe to a single cultural origin so much as a devotion to punchy flavour: think Freo sardines with pickled onions and cress, Farmhousee pork tacos with zingy tomatillo verde and a hot salsa, or the brewery’s signature chilli salt squid. Local wines get some play on the menu, and kids are amply catered for with pizzas, a kid’s menu and a knockout playground within table view. All this a two-minute walk from the bank of the Margaret River, and a further three-minute walk up the hill into town. Also keep an eye out for the live music calendar, more often than not featuring local talent.