Stawell’s new micro-brewery ticks all the right boxes

Words by Amanda Kennedy
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It wasn’t a direct road to brewing for Shawna Dominelli. Originally from the USA, she landed her first Australian wine industry job at Seppelts  Great Western in 2010. Shawna and her husband, Michael, then took off to Western Australia for several years, eventually becoming an assistant brewer at Perth brewery, Gage Roads Brewing Co.

The pull of family and friends saw the pair return to north-western Victoria to settle in Stawell. ‘Ultimately, we ended up choosing this region because of the sense of community around here. It’s a small country town, but boy people are really proud of the region,’ Dominelli explains.

Putting down roots meant it was time to bring the brewery dream to fruition. The rustic pop-up style bar got a gentle nudge to open just in time for the Stawell Gift /Easter weekend tourism boost and is still getting its finishing touches. With laneway access, brewing and fermentation equipment taking pride of place and BYO food option, this set-up ticks all the craft brewery boxes.

Current offerings include a German-style pilsner on tap as well as a range of small-batch wines, hand-crafted cocktails and a cellar door exclusive rosé gin, which uses wine in its production. This innovative cross-pollination is part and parcel of Dominelli’s approach.

In the future, there will be some crossover between fruit, wine, beer and spirits – just crossing over into some of these beverages with the creation of both or one or three. It’ll be interesting.

Looking to capitalise on the region’s strong agricultural position, Dominelli knew that using local ingredients was key to their success, as well as a smart move for a sustainable supply chain.

‘Basically what we want to provide for our customers is just fresh locally made beer, and you can’t get any better than that. We’re looking into sourcing local grain, connecting with a couple of local barley farmers and we’ve reached out to House of Malt in Ballarat to do custom malting for us.’

Further to their focus on sustainability, all beers will be available to drink in as well as take away in growlers, cans and bottles filled to order. Heat recovery, water conservation and renewable energy programs show that the company is walking their green talk.

Whether the word play was deliberate or not, you’ve got to admit that Grampian’s ale does indeed work.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Grampians Ale Works
WHERE: 3 Victoria Place, Stawell
WHEN: Mon – Thurs closed, Fri 4pm – 10pm, Sat 12pm – 10pm, Sun 12pm – 8pm
MORE INFO: Grampians Ale Works

A new 3 week festival is coming to East Gippsland this winter

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One takeaway from 2020 we’re glad to embrace is the backyard getaway. Amidst the uncertainty of international (and at times interstate) travel, there’s never been a better time to explore your own state. From charming small towns, a vibrant arts scene, local produce the envy of many, spectacular coastlines, excellent eateries and much more, there’s one place that has this all wrapped up – East Gippsland.

East Gippsland Winter Festival (June 18 to July 11) is a celebration of all things art, music, wine, craft beer and local produce. Spread over three weeks there will be a raft of activities including interactive art installations, pop-up events, live music, workshops, exclusive dinners and lavish feasts showcasing the best the region has to offer.

With bushfires, drought and Covid challenging many a local business, festival founder Adam Bloem was looking for a way to attract more people to the region. ’I wanted something that encouraged people to stay a bit longer and travel around and explore all of the little towns and villages.’

We now have over 70 events on our festival program and the majority of these have been devised and organised by local businesses, community groups and passionate locals. The response has been overwhelming and we can’t wait to welcome thousands of visitors to East Gippsland over winter where there will be lots of things to see, do, eat and drink right across the region.

From Mallacoota to Paynesville, north to Omeo and everywhere in between, friendly locals can’t wait to share their special corner of the world with you. Kick it off on Friday, June 18 with the official festival opening in Bairnsdale with live music and roving performers, as well as a bevy of food/wine options and art projections throughout the town.

Pencil in the Pinot Picnic and Masterclass on Sunday, June 20 thanks to the acclaimed Sardine Eatery + Bar and Lightfoot & Sons Winery. This not-to-be-missed event salutes Gippsland Lakes District’s exceptional pinot noir at Lightfoot and Son’s cellar door. The winemaker-guided Masterclass will take place in their barrel room with guests enjoying a Sardine Eatery picnic box filled with cheese, charcuterie and conserves.

This year’s winter solstice on Monday, June 21 just happens to coincide with World Bathing Day. Join bathers from across the globe at sunrise for a live-streamed Global Sound Bath. From the new pop-up bathing area on the future Metung Hot Springs site, drink in the beauty of the natural surrounds for a calm and balanced start to your day.

#worldbathingday

The Lakes Light Festival on Saturday, June 26 promises to be a festival highlight. Watch a mural painting as it unfolds in both a virtual sense and in reality at the former iceworks factory, and now arts hub, in Lakes Entrance.

Is it time to unleash your inner artist? Then don’t miss the lantern making workshop on Tuesday, June 29 in Swifts Creek. This idyllic town in the Tambo Valley is quickly developing a strong reputation for its arts scene and part in the Great Alpine Arts Trail. Experienced local artists will guide you through the process and shine a light on your creative side. Great fun for all ages!

One of the festival standouts has to be the Sailors Grave Deep Winter Festival on Saturday, July 3. Sailors Grave is a darling of the craft beer scene for good reason. Their complex beers (and idiosyncratic branding) tell the story of their unique region, their terroir. None more so than their recent release Dark Emu Dark Lager, a collaboration with Uncle Bruce Pascoe honouring indigenous culture and knowledge.

The Deep Winter event kicks off at 6 pm at the home of Sailors Grave brewery, a 100-year-old butter factory on the banks of the Snowy River. Music will be provided by post-punk Oz rock band Shepparton Airplane and other special guests, with food by Melbourne butchers Meatsmith. Co-founders Gab and Chris Moore can’t wait to welcome you.

By now you’re thinking it might be a great idea to plan a little exercise and thankfully the area has some of the most scenic trails in the state. Little River Gorge Walk will certainly get the blood pumping but also rewards that effort with a stunning view over one of Victoria’s deepest gorges and the mis-named Little River. Of course, a leisurely stroll around one of the area’s many lakes might be more your pace. Check out some of the options here.

So many activities – both day and night – means you’re going to need somewhere to stay. With accommodation options from traditional B&Bs, luxe glamping or maybe a waterside retreat complete with mooring for your boat, there’s no excuse not to head east this winter.

THE DETAILS

WHAT: East Gippsland Winter Festival
WHERE: Various locations around East Gippsland
WHEN: Saturday 19th June – Sunday 11th July 2021
MORE INFO:  Register for program updates at the East Gippsland Winter Festival website.

Wild Life Beer

There must be something in the water in Shepparton. In the last few years, breweries and a distillery or two seem to have emerged from nowhere, and this is a good thing. Wild Life Brewing Co is the most micro of micro-breweries. The Aussie Session Ale and the Dry Lager are familiar styles to Australian beer drinkers. They’re made in a larger craft brewing facility down the road for consistent high quality for ridiculously easy drinking. (The guys call this “Gypsy Brewing”). Craft beer is sometimes criticised for pushing the fruity and floral hoppy flavours too far, or dicing with the bitterness of over-toasted grain. None of that in these two core-range beers. They’re proof that craft beer doesn’t have to push the envelope of good taste just to get the “Craft” label. Smashable and delicious. Smaller limited released are available in cans too, online or in the cellar door.

Speaking of the bar, walking into the tiny bar/shopfront, it’s all about those stainless pots with super-small experimental special beers. The guys here, all mates who grew up in country Victoria, are walking the talk. They’re all super-passionate about their beers, and are always pushing to make something new, and the good news is we get to share in the ride by drinking the small batches brewed on-site, put to keg, and served only from the small bar/cellar-door in Maude St Shepparton. These limited releases are only available from the first Friday each month and when they’re sold out, they’re gone.

Learmonth Cider branches out

Images by Café Sidra & 321 Cider

With this year’s bumper harvest, it’s all happening for Learmonth Cider. Maybe it was something to do with Covid-19’s enforced dormancy but this year is already bearing plenty of fruit.

You’d think they’d be busy enough with this season’s cider production. Well, they’re also about to launch classes in orchard management and cider-making. Sign me up!

Kingston Black, Michelin and Yarlington Mill are only some of the genuine cider apple cultivars grown at the nearby picturesque Spring Vale Farm. These apples are then picked, juiced and processed into three different cider styles. It is these UK and European traditional varieties, as opposed to reconstituted apple concentrate used in some ciders, that gives the finished cider its complex flavour profile.

‘The fruit will now go through processing, that is juicing and cider-making, to produce our Cuvée, Traditional and Heritage products,’ explains Philip Comrie of Learmonth Foundation, the organisation that governs Learmonth Cider. ‘The other thing that’s happening is we’re also doing community cider.’

Local residents can also bring in their own homegrown apples to receive the cider treatment and raise funds for local projects along the way. This ‘community cider’ is only part of Learmonth Cider’s commitment to the region.

Words like innovation get thrown around too easily but this is one time it sticks. Plans are afoot to transform the old primary school and surrounds into a multi-use destination featuring an education, research and training centre, brewing facility, plantings of experimental varieties of apples and pears as well as an upgrade of buildings and gardens.

Pretty soon you’ll be able to visit their cider hall for a tasting, a slice of pizza and a game of pétanque. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

THE DETAILS

WHAT: Learmonth Cider
WHERE: 322 High St, Learmonth
WHEN: Tuesday to  Saturday 8:30am – 2pm
MORE INFO: Learmonth Cider


	

Exploring the Bellarine Peninsula with the Bellarine Belle

Itinerary: Connie Trathen
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The Bellarine Peninsula – with its panoramic ocean views, white sandy beaches, locally-sourced food and wine, and salt-soaked surroundings. Little wonder the region is a lodestone for those who seek relaxation and rejuvenation.

Connie Trathen made the move to the Bellarine over 10 years ago. Currently residing in Point Lonsdale, the travel guru lived in Portarlington for 11 years and works as the marketing and business development coordinator at Grand Hotel Portarlington – which is set to receive a multi-million dollar renovation.

Easily accessible from all sides, Connie says the Bellarine is a mystery to be unearthed. “It’s still a bit of a secret and people like to say that they’ve discovered a new place!” she says.

Here are some insider tips on how to make the most of your Bellarine discovery.

For breakfast

Annie's ProvidoreSince opening its doors in 2004, Annie’s Provedore & Produce has made a name for itself for its gourmet food and incredible customer service. A local favourite and foodie hotspot, the store serves up a stellar brekky, lunch and dinner menu along with a range of pantry staples. “I don’t mind a wander down the main street for a good retail window shop and it’s always tempting to stop in Annie’s for a treat,” Connie says.

For a family day out

Tuckerberry Hill

While Connie doesn’t have kids of her own, she says she can easily keep her nieces and nephews occupied when they visit, particularly in Portarlington. “Our time is often full of swimming at Portarlington Beach, a safe and calm north facing bay beach, as well as berry picking at Tuckerberry Hill, ice-cream shops including Pier View Lolly Shop in Portarlington which sells ice cream as well, the Miniature Railway and the great new park in Portarlington!”

 

For baked goodness

Ket Baker Bellarine

A favourite amongst locals and visitors alike, the Ketbaker Shed Bakery is renowned as home to the finest sourdough pastries in Geelong and the Bellarine. Think croissants of all sorts, pain au chocolats and escargots, and the most heartwarming sourdough loaves. “Stop in for artisan small batch sourdough breads and treats,” Connie says. “It’s worth the short detour.”

For lunch

Paddock Cafe Bellarine

Relaxed and friendly, The Paddock Café is an ambient and insta-worthy destination where good flavours and good vibes merge to enhance the dining experience. “I always choose to drive down Wallington Road if I can, and my hot tip is to stop at The Paddock Café for a chicken congee with kimchi,” Connie explains.

For the best fish and chips in the region, Connie says you can’t go past the Barwon Heads Fish and Chip Shop. “It’s a classic. Old school, and I have fond memories going there in my teenage years when I used to come to Ocean Grove. I went there recently and they had some beautiful battered prawns, sweet potato cakes and huge homemade dim sims. And yes, delicious chips!”

For cider

Flying brick cider bellarine

At the end of Wallington Road, Connie recommends you veer right and hit up the local cidery Flying Brick Cider House. “This is a venue that caters for all with beautiful food and brews and ambling grassed areas if you have kids who want to let off some steam,” she says.

For fab dining

Merne at Lighthouse

Connie recommends Merne at Lighthouse for its “views across to Queenscliff, great food, amazing craft beer list, and great banter with hospitality professional Caleb Fleet”.  Situated in the middle of the Peninsula, the idyllic restaurant is nestled amidst a thriving olive grove and emerging vineyards, boasting panoramic views of the surrounding farms, dairies, orchards and growers. Explains the inspired paddock-to-plate dining experience.

For a well-deserved tipple

McGlashan's Winery

For award-winning wines in the heart of the Bellarine Peninsula, head down Swan Road (often bypassed) and stop at McGlashan’s Winery. “Their rosé is delicious and for those looking for somewhere to stay in the region, their new Eco Villas overlooking the vines are pretty special,” Connie says.

Connie also notes the Curlewis Winery as another favourite spot to peruse. Located off the beaten track and managed by a husband-and-wife team, the cool-climate winery boasts “great wines, vinyl, and good food”. “It might be a discreet and understated cellar door, but the wines sit proudly at many fine dining restaurants around Australia,” Connie says.

For panoramic views

Dell Lookout Bellarine

Driving back from Curlewis Winery, Connie and her husband love to stop in at Clifton Springs for world-class views at the Dell lookout looking across to the You Yangs, Avalon Airport, Mount Macedon and even spying Melbourne city.

Living only minutes away from wineries, eateries and natural wonders, Connie says the Bellarine is the perfect merging of country and sea. “It fits our lifestyle of having water and fishing and is full of great food and wine,” she proclaims. “Being close to the ocean provides this bounty, but the region also provides the perfect climate for the wineries and what they grow.”


For more ways to explore the ever surprising The Bellarine, head to the official website for the region:  www.visitgeelongbellarine.com.au

And follow Connie on all her Bellarine adventures via Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/bellarinebelle/

Raise a pint, Jetty Road Brewery are headed to Lorne Pier

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Every year around December, thousands of holiday makers flood Lorne for the rejuvenating sea breeze and laid back atmosphere. This year, the need for good vibes has never been greater and Jetty Road are upping the ante with their brand spanking new taproom.

Known for their low-key vibe and community ethos, Jetty Road Brewery are on a different wavelength of cool. From the home base in Dromana to the fresh digs in Lorne, punters can expect award-winning beers, friendly staff, and bright, light and welcoming spaces – with just a couple twists.

Open to the public from December 4, the taproom features all the craft brews we’ve come to know and love from Jetty Road. Be refreshed when you opt for the crowd-pleasing Pale Ale, or explore the tap list with the help of the knowledgeable crew behind the bar – the good times will be flowing no matter what you go for.

The venue is planted on Mountjoy Parade, smack bang in front of the coastline, so frothies will be downed with a serious waterfront view. To continue the coastal vibe at the taproom, all seats are all outdoors with a fresh renovation done by design wizards at Studio Y. The aesthetic? 70’s Beach, with beer-inspired murals painted by Jack and Josh and turquoise tinges throughout.

With space for up to 150 people, your next group hangs or family get together are well catered for. Not only that, if you’re a Lorne local, sign up to the JR Brew Crew and your first schooner is on the house. That’s what we call a warm welcome.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Jetty Road Taproom
WHERE: 82-84 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne
WHEN: 4th December 2020
MORE INFO: Jetty Road Brewery