Over the course of three months, I meandered my way up the well-travelled East Coast of Australia stopping at pretty much every viewpoint, beach and, most importantly, every pub. Now that might be a slight exaggeration but, with the heat of the Australian sun combined with living out of a small van, a nice cold beer can do wonders for you. Whilst a trip up the East Coast can be done in two weeks, I’d highly recommend slowing down. Even with three months to explore this region, I still felt as though it was rushed and left me wanting to see more! Now, to help plan your trip or even just to give beer-lovers everywhere some serious travel inspiration, I’ve planned the ultimate pub crawl. Stretching from Sydney to Port Douglas, a journey of over 2,400 kilometres, this is the true beer-lover’s guide to the East Coast of Australia.
Beer in Australia has thrived for hundreds of years and I can honestly say I never saw a can of Fosters in all my time there. An anti-drunkenness policy in the 1800’s actually promoted beer a good alternative to rum and, since then, Australia hasn’t looked back. There are so many unique brewers in Australia producing excellent beer especially along the East Coast. Even if you don’t manage to try any of the places on this list, you’re almost guaranteed to find somewhere equally as good wherever you end up.
THE BEST BEER ON THE EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA
Young Henrys – Sydney
This level-99 pub crawl starts in one of Australia’s most iconic cities, Sydney. Just four kilometres from the centre lies Sydney’s hippest suburb of Newtown and one of my favourite places for craft beer. Sparked from an idea to brew beer that the local community would be proud of, Young Henrys is a brewery situated in an industrial unit not too far from the main drag of Newtown’s bars. The beer here is as fresh as it comes; straight from the tank and into your glass. The walls are covered in quirky artwork (which you can buy) and the rules are simple: no bare feet, leg and arm sleeves optional and no dicks. My kind of place.This is a very popular location for a young crowd; the kind of people that love a good afternoon session with very good beer followed by a bite to eat from one of the regular food trucks that park up in front of the warehouse. Oh and dogs are allowed.
In terms of the beer itself, I was settled almost straight away on the Natural Lager but switched out regularly on to the Newtowner. The Natural Lager is a bit like Ronseal; it’s exactly what it says it is. This lager can’t be any more natural with just the key four ingredients of hops, malt, water and yeast. It isn’t even filtered. The Newtowner is a beer that you can find in good pubs across Australia and, every time I took that first sip, my mind would race back to this industrial unit on the back streets of Newtown. This is a unique Australian Pale Ale and, in all honesty, I miss it dearly.
Young Henrys is open 12-7pm seven days a week and is so good you might not actually want to set off up the East Coast. If you do end up making a full day of it, here are some more bars in Newtown!
Foghorn Brewhouse – Newcastle
A short two hour drive up the M1 brings you to New South Wales’ Hunter Region. You’ll no doubt be looking for the Angel of the North as you pass signs for Wallsend, Hexham, Jesmond and Stockton. Whilst Newcastle in Australia does have an industrial side to it, there are little similarities with the English city. If only the North East of England had beaches this good.
In a spruced-up warehouse within the CBD, Foghorn Brewhouse serves up hundreds of happy beer-lovers. Against the backdrop of the huge tanks, you can’t go wrong with the popular Summer Ale or the Pivo Pilsner.
Byron Bay Brewery – Byron Bay
It’s a long drive up to Byron Bay, almost seven hours, so you’ll be thirsty for a frothy (is that Australian?) once you arrive. Byron Bay is one of the best places to visit along the East Coast. When I visited in April 2018, there were few backpackers and far fewer hippies than I imagined though it retained it’s relaxed, easy-going vibe. There are many places for a good drink here including the Beach Hotel and the Balcony Bar but, given this is all about beer, you’ll want to head to the Byron Bay Brewery.
I was excited for this one. Around a twenty minute walk from town, this brewhouse comes complete with palm trees and string lighting giving that real sub-tropical feel. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t clever enough to check the opening times and visited on a Tuesday. So if you don’t want to end up disappointed, the brewery is only open from Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm to late. I have however tried the Pale One elsewhere and highly recommend it.
If you’re in the mood for more, head to the Stone and Wood Brewery too which is just a short drive out of town.
Burleigh Brewing Co – Burleigh Heads
The second brewery on this list that I didn’t get chance to go to but wished I did! We house-sat in Burleigh Heads for a few days but unfortunately couldn’t find time for this before we moved on further up the coast.
This taphouse just oozes cool and looks like the perfect place to spend a Australian-favourite Sunday Session. I can’t vouch for the beers either I’m afraid but the Burleigh Mid-Tide would be my beer of choice. Described as ‘sessionable’ and coming in at just 3%, I’d imagine you could drink this all day long. I’ve got visions of friends, warm weather and pastel pink skies.
Only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (Thursdays are for special events), make sure your visit to the Gold Coast ties in with the weekend!
The Great Western Hotel – Rockhampton
Okay, so this is where it gets really interesting. Rockhampton is a long way north of Burleigh Heads and the Gold Coast. The city straddles the Tropic of Capricorn meaning that this is officially the start of the tropics; perfect weather in the dry season but there’s also saltwater crocodiles.
Rockhampton is all about cattle. For me, there was nowhere better for a great big steak and a beer. Combined with rodeo (Wednesdays and Fridays) at the Great Western Hotel this really is a unique experience. The best thing too is that the beer is specially brewed for this pub meaning that there is nowhere else on earth to try it!
Townsville Brewery – Townsville
I stumbled on Townsville Brewery after a very hot, dry day exploring Townsville’s best street art. It doesn’t look anything like a brewery from the outside given that it’s situated inside the impressive General Post Office. The architecture is great and the beer perfect for a hot afternoon. There’s a small beer garden outside and, although it’s right next to a busy road, you’ll still enjoy relaxing here. You’ll find pool tables and pokies here but don’t let that put you off. It’s still a long way to the end of this journey.
Hemingway’s Brewery – Port Douglas
Will you chose the Prospector or the Pitchfork Betty’s? A pilsner inspired by James Mulligan, whose discovery of gold in the Palmer River led to the formation of Port Douglas, or a pale ale inspired by a woman who defended a local watering hole with her trusted pitchfork?The stories behind each beer are almost as good as the beers themselves. I think the key to the smoothness is the clear water of Mossman Gorge.
This microbrewery boasts an incredible location; right in the superyacht harbour surrounded by palm trees. You probably can’t get more tropical than this. Given that you’ve come this far, I wouldn’t blame you for trying all of the beers on offer.
You’ve made it. You’ve reached the end of the ultimate pub crawl. Not so much as an afternoon session as a rite of passage that might take several months. Whilst this isn’t any sort of official journey with a certificate on completion, if you manage to reach all of these places for a beer, you’ll receive inner satisfaction that you’ve experienced some of Australia’s best beers. Not only that, the journey itself may just have taught you a few things about life or yourself. One thing for sure is that I’ll never be satisfied with a simple afternoon session again.
Give me thousands of kilometres, hundreds of hours, sunshine, good tunes and smooth, cold beer and I’ll be the happiest man alive.
Let me know if you’ve been able to try out any of the places on the list. Hell if you manage to do all of these, I’d love to put your thoughts in this post too!