A fresh alternative to the humble old pub, working distilleries and craft breweries give a behind-the-scenes look at how some of the best booze in the country is created. Whether you prefer a mouth-watering peat-smoked vodka or sheep’s whey gin from southern Tasmanian, or a lovingly crafted hearty stout from the heart of the red centre, here we look at some of the best regional craft breweries and distilleries to visit to quench that summer thirst on the road — and stock up along the way.
Hartshorn Distillery, Birchs Bay
The first distillery in the world to release handcrafted spirits from sheep’s whey, the fabulous Hartshorn Distillery creates gins, liqueurs, whey-skys and recently took home the title of the world’s best vodka. The pocket-rocket microbrewery is 40 minutes from Hobart, and it also has a selection of sheep milk soaps and beauty products, sheep cheeses and other condiments.
Hours: Open daily from 11am to 4pm and offers three different tasting tours.
Hellfire Bluff Distillery, Boomer Bay
Perched high on a hillside overlooking the picturesque Marion Bay, Hellfire Bluff Distillery is known for its premium potato vodka – this traditional style spirit remains one of the few of its kind made in Australia. It also distils a range of Tasmanian gins and liqueurs including London Dry Gin, Summer Gin, Piquant Gin, Sloe Gin, Coffee Liqueur and Limoncello. The distillery is 50 minutes from Hobart, along the Tasman and Arthur Highways.
Hours: Open daily from 10am to 4pm.
Wandering Trout Brewery, Mole Creek
Using Mole Creek rainwater and solar power, Wandering Trout produces an enviable range of brews, from The Local amber ale, through to the Cradle Mountain bitter pale, the Fintan Celtic red and the SideXSide dark chocolate ale. The brewery is also close to the Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary, gorgeous Walls of Jerusalem and some of the best trout fishing areas in Tassie.
Hours: Open from 3pm Wednesday to Friday, from noon on weekends, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Aunty Jack’s Brewery, Ballarat
Making the bold claim that it’s putting Ballarat on the map as the craft brewing capital of Australia, it’s worth the visit to the regional town to test the theory. The brewery produces around 100,000 litres of beer (per year) including styles such as lager, pale ale and stout, as well as seasonal specials under the masterful eye of brew whiz Peter Aldred. The brewery also has tours and tastings and is the perfect jumping-off point to explore the Goldfields region.
Hours: Open Wednesday and Thursday from 4pm and Friday to Sunday from midday.
If you’re passing through the Murray region, make sure you stop in at the legendary river port towns of Echuca-Moama. The Echuca Distillery is worth the trip, with its fabulous range of local gins and vodkas. Billed as ‘100 per cent pure”, the spirits are distilled in an Italian copper still using rainwater and local botanicals. While you’re in the region, take a trip up the mighty Murray on one of the iconic paddle steamers.
Hours: Open from 11am Monday and Thursday, from 1pm Friday, from midday on Saturday and 10.3am Sunday, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Black Dog Brewery, Taminick
If handcrafted, smatch batch beers are your jam, head to the Black Dog Brewery in Ned Kelly country. Located at the Taminick Cellars in north-east Victoria, the Brewery doubles as a vineyard headed up by talented craftsman James Booth. He uses traditional techniques and no preservatives, ensuring each beer is of the highest quality. He creates a core range including the Drifter Lager, the Howling Pale Ale and the Dead Dog Stout, along with seasonal and limited-edition releases.
Hours: Open weekends from midday and Monday, Thursday and Friday from 11am.
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Broken Hill Distillery, Broken Hill
Embodying the spirit of the outback, the Broken Hill Distillery is at the heart of the remote town, offering the chance to take part in tours to experience its distilling process followed by tastings. Some of its signature spirits include the Far West Gin, the Outback Strength Gin, the Outback Moonshine and the Mundi Mundi Moonshine. You’d be hard pressed to find a more iconic location to enjoy a tipple.
Hours: Open from noon Wednesday to Sunday.
Devil’s Hollow Brewery, Dubbo
A family-friendly brewery, Devil’s Hollow is in the heart of Dubbo, producing small batch brews from the Black Horn Dark Ale and Nosey Bob Red Ale to The Compromise Hazy Pale Ale and the Nun Launcher Pale. It runs tours and tastings on the first Saturday afternoon of the month, giving an in-depth look at the brewing process, followed by samples. And it has a fully stocked bar for takeaways so you can enjoy a brew when you set up camp down the road.
Hours: Open daily from 7am, weekends from 8am.
Pioneer Brewing Co, Orange
This family-run business creates multi award-winning craft beers from grains grown, harvested, brewed and packaged on their farm outside Orange. Be sure to sample its Vienna Lager, Amber Ale and Cargo Gold which nabbed awards at the Australian International Beer Awards and the Australian Independent Beer Awards in 2019. Located 33km south-west of Orange, between the rural villages of Cargo and Cudal.
Hours: Open from midday on Saturdays.
Wild River Mountain Distillery, Wondecla
Where “whisky meets the wild”, this small batch craft distillery creates whisky, gin and rum influenced by cool climate, lush mountains, rivers and valleys of the Atherton Tablelands. Run by brewer and distiller Was Marks and his wife Amy, Wild River specialises in gin using local botanicals, but also makes an Australian whisky in the true Tennessee style made from locally grown maize. Perfect to quench that summer thirst while travelling in the far north.
Hours: Book tastings and tours through the Facebook page.
Barrier Reef Brewing, Cairns
Brewing small batch, full-flavoured beers is a lifelong passion at this tropical north Queensland brewery. Its beers are all naturally hand brewed and designed with the lush Cairns climate in mind; cold and refreshing, with a distinctly tropical twist such as the Hopturtle IPA with its elements of pine, citrus and tropical fruit. There’s also the Hazy Days Unfiltered Lager which is ideal for relaxing while enjoying a north Queensland summer.
Hours: Taproom open from 4pm Thursday, 3.30pm Friday and from 2pm on Saturday.
Kalki Moon Distilling and Brewing Company, Bundaberg
Located at a perfect base to explore the Bundaberg region, Kalki Moon founder and master distiller, Rick Prosser, takes inspiration from the surrounding canefields to produce some of the most delicious batch spirits you’ll ever taste. He’s perfected its Cane Farmer range of rums, and also has gin, vodka and some specialist liqueurs including rum, pink gin and chocolate. Perfect for the road, it’s also got premixed cans of Gin Gin Mule, and even packs of dried lime. Just 5km from the heart of Bundaberg, make sure you drop in to sample a drop, or two, at this fab little distillery, and book a tour in advance. It’s also got a fully stocked cellar door so you can take some with you to enjoy around a campfire down the road.
Hours: Book in advance for tours from 11am; open 7 days from 10am.
Alice Springs Brewing Co, Alice Springs
For some of the best brews in the Top End, visit this beer oasis. Brewed to be enjoyed in the central Australian climate, its core range includes the Centralian Ale, the Territory mid, Almost Summer lager and the Batch #37 pale. It also caters to the non-beer lover, with a fruity range of hard seltzers and a spicy ginger beer. Conveniently, it’s right on the Todd River, next to a handful of van parks.
Hours: Open Wednesday to Friday from 4pm, weekends from midday.
Willing Distillery, Darwin
This international award-winning distillery, cellar door and bar is right in the heart of Darwin, producing high quality, traditionally distilled craft spirits flavoured using native ingredients. It currently distils gin and vodka with whisky to soon follow. It has spirit tasting boards so you can sample the offerings, as well as distillery tours so you can see where the magic happens.
Hours: Open Thursday from 4pm, and Friday to Sunday from noon.
Great Northern Distillery, Swan Valley
Home of the famous Canefire Rum made from Australian sugar and high-quality yeasts, which are fermented, distilled, matured and bottled in the Swan Valley. You can relax with a cocktail or take a tour of the acclaimed distillery with samples of premium rums, gin, vodka and hand-crafted liqueurs including the Maiden Voyage Spiced Rum, the Dead Governor’s Gin and the Faithful Henry Butterscotch Liqueur.
Hours: Check their Facebook page for summer hours.
Hoochery Distillery, Ord River
For some of the best whiskeys, gins and rums in the west, call in at the Hoochery Distillery.
Built on the Dessert family farm just outside of Kununurra, the small pot distillery was created by hand; everything, from the still to the building itself, was crafted from materials found around the farm and is a living legacy to its founder Spike Dessert. Try the amazing Native Dry Gin, or Kimberley Time Barrel Rested Gin, or step over to the dark side and sample the Ord River Overproof Rum and 5 Rivers Spiced Rum. Located along a stunning scenic drive that winds its way through the Ord River Valley.
Hours: Cellar door open from 1pm-4pm Monday to Friday and from 9am Saturday, with tours held daily from 2pm.
Beaten Track Brewery, South Boulder
This one really is off the beaten track, a small microbrewery located in Kalgoorlie/Boulder producing some of the best brews in the west. It has a great range of locally brewed beers and ciders with 15 beers on tap including the Milkshake IPA and the Sandstone Summer Ale and tasting paddles available. It’s also one of the best places to grab a feed of American style barbecue in the region.
Hours: Open Wednesday from 5pm and Thursday to Sunday from 11am.
Kangaroo Island Spirits, Cygnet River
From humble beginnings as Australia’s first dedicated gin distillery to creating the ‘one of a kind’ gin, Kangaroo Island Distillery creates traditionally crafted spirits which are cleverly balanced to infuse the character that the surrounding land offers. It crafts vodkas, liqueurs and its signature range of gins such as the native-infused Wild Gin, O Gin flavoured with native coastal daisies and the seasonal sloe Mulberry Gin. It also offers a range of cellar door experiences so it’s well worth the ferry ride over to the gorgeous island paradise which is in recovery mode after the recent devastating bushfires.
Hours: Open Monday to Sunday from 10.30am
Robe Town Brewery, Robe
This family-run brewery uses traditional and sustainable methods of brewing for the production of hand-crafted specialty ales and non-alcoholic beverages. Located in the historic town of Robe, on the rugged Limestone Coast surrounded by beautiful views of the ocean, beaches and wild bushland, the brewery produces a beaut crisp Robe Town Amber Ale, with up to 20 different brews ready for tasting.
Hours: Open daily in summer from midday.
Jacka Brothers Brewery, Flinders Ranges
If you’ve trekked all the way out to the Flinders Ranges, you’re going to need a tasty brew as a reward. Thankfully, the Jacka Brothers Brewery has got you covered. Set on a heritage listed site within the Ranges, the brewery had been closed for 83 years, but now it’s reopened and is dedicated to showcasing the best of local produce. Its new taphouse is testament to the quality of that produce, and make sure you sample its Remarkable Ale. The brewery and complex are a work in progress, but it’s well worth the visit to see an operational brewery set amongst truly heritage surrounds.
Hours: Open weekends from 11am