In Perth with a few hours to spare? Why not head off to the Swan Valley and visit some breweries?
The Swan Valley is a mere twenty five minutes from the Perth CBD and is packed with wineries, coffee roasters, great places to eat and most importantly craft breweries. If you have just a few hours to spare you can visit a couple of places. However, if you have more time, there is plenty to keep you busy for a few days at least.
My visit started early, too early for any of the breweries. This meant a trip for coffee and breakfast. First stop was Yahva Koffee Works to get the day started right. Yahava do their own roasting from beans sourced from around the world. They have operations in the Swan Valley and also in the Margaret River area with a huge range of roasts and beans to try. Everything from the mildest of roasts to something very dark and strong for those that appreciate more robust flavours. They offer a huge range of tastings so you can find your preferred bean before committing to a full cup. They know how to make a great cup too. Grab something to eat to pad yourself for the beers to come.
After getting the heart started with a great cup of coffee, it’s time to hit the breweries which is the real reason to visit the Swan Valley.
First stop Feral Brewing. Feral is a nationally distributed brand through Dan Murphy’s. Their Feral White has made it to most corners of the country but at the brewery the selection is much more interesting. Feral have started making some really interesting sour beers and some big hop bombs too. This is a brewery for beer geeks and novices alike. They have a recommended tasting paddle selection. I recommend picking your own and going for some of the more interesting beers.
Feral has started playing with some sour beers and you do want to try those. My recommended tasting paddle is Hop Hog, Barrel Fermented Hop Hog, Funky Junkie, Smoked Porter, Fantapants and Dark Funk if available. The Hop Hog variants and Funky Junkie were the stand outs. The Hop Hog variants are both big and hoppy giving you exactly what you want from an IPA. The barrel fermented version adds some interesting oak character to the beer. Funky Junkie is a reasonably mild sour beer but still a great drink and very interesting. According to their description it even contains local wild yeasts. This beer is reminiscent of a Cantillon Geueze and something you really should try. The staff here are really friendly and want to chat about beer or anything else you may want to have a chat about.
The brewery is right behind the bar so if you are lucky you can check it out and sell those amazing brewing aromas while you visit.
Next stop Mash Brewing. The night before I had visited the Sail and Anchor in Fremantle and had the very excellent Black Knight black IPA from Mash Brewing. It’s a cracker of a beer and stands out amongst the constant stream of black IPAs that seem to be part of craft brewing’s zeitgeist in recent times. This had me looking forward to trying more of the Mash beers. However, at the brewery the tap selection was less than exciting for the travelling beer geek. The only beers available were the pale ale, wheat beer and dry lager. While these were well made beers and the pale was a good drink, they didn’t live up to the promise made by the black IPA. The bar is a nice space and would rock on a summer afternoon.
Last stop on this visit was Duckstein Brewery. This is a brewery/restaurant obviously set up to appeal to large tourist and family groups. They make traditional German styles of beer and German-style food. The staff were very friendly. They provided good service but were working off an obvious script when talking about the beer.
The beer was well made and quite tasty though. I didn’t see the brewery so the beer may be made at their Margaret River site or I could have just missed it. The altbier and current seasonal fest beer were both very drinkable and pretty tasty beers. The alt was fairly pale but what it lacked in colour it made up for in flavour. They have it nice and dry with a good bitterness and some nice malt flavours. If you have the family along or a big group this would be a good stop for lunch.
There are a couple of other breweries in the region, tons of wineries and lots of other attractions to visit. If you get the chance make a stop in the Swan Valley and enjoy everything it has to offer. Remember it’s only 25 minute out of town if you are in Perth, you could even shoot out there for lunch.