For many years the sub-tropical city of Brisbane in Australia has been a wasteland of industrial lagers, a place where Tooheys Old was considered an exotic import. The only ray of light was Kelly’s brewpub next to the Mater Hospital on the Southside, which sadly shut its doors a few years back.
<P>Nowdays the situation has dramatically changed for the better. A number of pubs are offering a much better range of styles and brands, there is an annual national beer festival and theme pubs such as ‘The Elephant and Wheelbarrow,’ ‘The Pig and Whistle’ and the ‘Belgian Beer Café – Brussels’ are improving the beer culture no end.
<P>Now the era of the brewpub has caught up to the sunshine states capital. First Auroras opened as a brewpub/nightclub/restaurant in the center of the CDB, followed by Cheers Tavern in Spring Hill opposite Saint Andrews Hospital (slightly North of the city) complete with a Microbrewery that supplies several other Cheers taverns in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. I’m really not sure what sort of subliminal message putting brewpubs next to hospitals is sending out, but I digress. Next the grand old Regatta Hotel was fully renovated and a microbrewery installed in the cellar. Newest kid on the block is the Oxford Hotel in Balmoral now trading as a brewpub/restaurant called Oxford 152.
<P>Due to happy accident rather than good planning it is possible to tour all of these in the same day and do some sightseeing along the way. Cheers Tavern is the only one without easy public transport, though it is within walking distance of the CBD and is probably the best place to start. Cheers provides a range of four regular beers and usually one seasonal. The normal range is a pale ale, an Irish Red, a mid-strength ale and an interesting Belgian style wheat beer. One seasonal I’ve had here was a very enjoyable old ale. The pub opens mid morning, is furnished in a relaxed faux English style and features the fermentation tanks protruding into the bar area from the basement brewery.
<P>From Cheers leg it or get a cab down to the river and catch a Citycat ferry at North Quay pier to the Oxford Street pier at Bulimba. The voyage takes you several kilometres along the cliff-lined river, under the Story Bridge and passes several places of interest. A very short stroll brings you to Oxford 152 in the heart of yuppiedom. The fashionista will probably look down their noses at you scribbling rating notes but ignore them and sample the range of five beers – best of which IMO are the Oxford Nights (a tasty old ale) and Oxford Ruby (a cherry/wheat beer).
<P>Back on a Citycat for the long scenic haul up river, past the Southbank Parklands to Toowong and the Regatta Hotel. This classic old pub features the broad verandas and iron lacework that Brisbane’s historic pubs once had before most were demolished in the name of progress. Recent renovations have included a huge sheet of one-way glass as the urinal wall in the gents, looking out onto the patrons in the beer garden – quite disconcerting. Thankfully the builders managed to install it the right way round. Located in the cellar is the microbrewery and a more relaxed bar than the rest of this trendy palace. Historic tours of the pub can be organised, it finishes at the brewery with a tasting. The St Arnou range is produced here (part of a chain of brewpubs in various Australian cities). While all the beers are worthwhile sampling, my picks would be the Pale Ale and the Pilsener. This pub has a quality steakhouse and beer café attached should some sustenance be required before travelling back down river to the city, where it is another short stroll up from the North Quay pier to Auroras - located on Albert Street near the Queen Street mall.
<P>Auroras is on the first floor and is a large open space featuring a lot of polished wood. The brewery is glassed in on one side along with the bar and an open kitchen area is behind it with seating, pool tables and a dance floor/stage filling in the rest of the space. Be warned; on weekends it is not usually open until 5pm. The range of house beers on offer includes a hefe weizen, a dark ale, midstrenght ale and a barleywine. There is also a pretty good range of other beers on tap and in bottles. Since it is a nightclub you might as well stop here and party the night out.
<P>There you have it - a DIY tour that combines beer tasting and sightseeing, should you find yourself in Brisbane with a day to spare. It might even keep a non beer-geek partner relatively happy (ok – probably not but what the hay). While none of the micros mentioned here are unlikely to ever produce a beer that would rate over a four at Ratebeer and the range of beers is not too adventurous, they do make well-crafted enjoyable beers and as we all know, variety is the spice of life and pub crawls are fun.