A proliferation of boutique breweries in Victoria’s picturesque High Country has created the perfect beer road trip.

Story By Andrew Bain

Inside a century-old cellar door among the vineyards and fields near Glenrowan, Vic, the wine barrels don’t necessarily contain wine. With James Booth in charge, they might just as easily hold beer. “We’re using things like barrel fermentation, barrel ageing, even infusing some of the barrels with ports and muscats and having a real play around there,” James says. “I’ve seen a lot of beers put into old wine barrels, but probably not with material like 30-year-old ports and things I have access to – even some casks that are 100 years old.”
The chief winemaker at Taminick Cellars, one of the oldest wineries in the Glenrowan region, James also now operates the Black Dog Brewery, the newest of a growing crop of craft breweries in the Victorian High Country.
In the past seven years, four breweries – Bridge Road Brewers, Bright Brewery, Sweetwater Brewing Company and Black Dog Brewery – have emerged in the small area between Glenrowan and Mount Beauty, creating one of the greatest concentrations of breweries in the country. For visitors, they’re spaced in easy reach, making for a simple beer road trip, and each one has a bar or outdoor deck in settings fitting to their towns and locations.
At Taminick Cellars, where Black Dog Brewery opened in November 2011, the cellar door, which was built by James’ great-grandfather in 1914, looks out over farmland, vines and red gums. The only noise might be magpies in song, providing a relaxed setting to sample James’ four beers in the company of ‘Macca’, the black dog that gave the brewery its name.
“I like the fact that it’s peaceful here and when people do come, they can really sit back and enjoy what we produce and enjoy the views as well,” James says. “The beers aren’t too over the top, they’re pretty laidback, like me.”
From Taminick, the other three breweries are reached through the Ovens Valley, which is appropriate since the presence of the 142-hectare Rostrevor Hop Gardens in the valley is one of the prime raisons d’être for the cluster of breweries.
“Having the hop gardens just down the river is fantastic for us,” says Bright Brewery’s Scott Brandon. “It gives us that direct link to the hop gardens and we also get to experiment for them a little bit – they’ll give us trial hop varieties sometimes, basically asking us to do a beer with them to see how it turns out, so they know whether to proceed with it.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #85

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2012