By: Craig Pinhey
A recent trip to Western Australia around the city of Perth was a great opportunity to get up to speed with the local beer scene. That meant hitting up the best local pubs, and that’s never a bad thing. Western Australia’s brewing revolution happened in 1984 at Matilda Bay brewery in Fremantle, just west of Perth. It was started by former Swan brewer Phil Sexton – also well known as a wine pioneer – in small batches brewed for the Sail and Anchor Hotel, but evolved into a larger brewery on the highway from Perth to Fremantle. Matilda Bay was eventually swallowed up by a big brewery, but still makes good beer today. In 2000 Sexton went on to open Little Creatures, also in Fremantle, which is going strong today, although, again, now owned by a major brewer. That said, the micro-movement is huge now, with small breweries opening all over the country, many adopting the American “highly hopped” style, although usually with local hops, which are trendy even in North America. But there are all kinds of beers being brewed down under.
Not surprisingly, given its brewing heritage, Perth and its surrounding regions, including the reputed wine region of Margaret River to the South, are great places to drink good beer.
If you find yourself in the region and a bit thirsty for great beer, here are Five Places for a Perfect Pint Around Perth:
- Petition Beer Corner, Perth
Located in downtown Perth in the historic (est. 1878) State Buildings, at the corner of St. Georges Terrace and Barack Street, this pub is part of a restaurant complex that includes a nice wine bar and store, as well as a Thai restaurant. Petition takes beer seriously. They serve a wide range of Australian microbrews, ensuring that a full range of styles – from sours to IPAs and session beers to stouts – are represented. They have friendly, knowledgeable servers and the building itself is historic and gorgeous, with traditional high ceilings common to many Australian pubs. The bar snacks are also terrific.
Best Beer I Had There: Mild Ale, from Last Drop out of Canning Vale, Perth, which had so much malt and hop character and flavour at only 3.5% alcohol.
- Little Creatures, Fremantle
No trip to the area is complete for a beer lover without visiting Little Creatures’ waterside location at 40 Mews Rd in Fremantle. Although Little Creatures ended up part of Lion Nathan, a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan’s Kirin, it seems to operate without much influence from its owners, running this fantastic brewery/restaurant on the waterfront – in a building that once housed a crocodile farm! – with great food and service. The sheer size of the operation is formidable, and the way the servers are able to get food and drink to such a large crowd so efficiently is to be commended. Little Creatures also opened White Rabbit in the Yarra Valley, then moved it to Geelong. It is a microbrewery with a slightly different tilt, focusing on open fermentation, and more experimental, Belgian inspired beers. They are also available at their Fremantle location.
Best Beer I Had There: Rogers Ale, an English style ale with lovely malt character balanced by a nuanced hop blend, and only 3.8% alcohol.
- The Sail & Anchor, Fremantle
The iconic Sail & Anchor is another essential visit in Fremantle, at 64 South Terrace. Although no longer a brewpub, this high ceilinged pub in a historic building has an excellent rotating selection of local beers, including 40 “cold” taps and three cask conditioned ales. With four bars and a street patio, it’s a great spot to enjoy a pint of great local beer in this beautiful seaside town.
Best Beer I Had There: A cask-conditioned Young Henrys Real Ale, a fantastic English style bitter at only 4% alcohol, which was very British tasting even though hopped with all Aussie hops: Topaz, Galaxy and Ella.
- The Dutch Trading Company, Victoria Park, Perth
Although I never got a chance to visit, this celebrated beer purveyor at 243 Albany Highway in Victoria Park prides itself as having one of the best beer selections in the region, and you can even take home beer using their onsite canning system. They carry a thoughtful selection of Australian microbrews, but also some classics from the rest of the world, including from Germany and reputable microbreweries from North America. They recently had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and the Berliner Weisse from Quebec’s Les Trois Mousquetaires on tap. These folks are on top of things!
- The Rose & Crown, Guildford
If you want a taste of the British heritage that carried over to Australia, then this is your place. This lovely pub in Guildford, outside Perth in the Swan Valley, ostensibly wine country, is like taking a trip to Southern England to go to a country pub. It has a very large garden area where you can relax with a pint or enjoy a very fine meal. The beer selection is not huge but the beer just tastes fantastic in this setting. We went after enjoying a wonderful visit to the nearby Caversham Wildlife Park (pet a koala, touch a wombat, hang out with pregnant kangaroos!).
Best Beer I Had There: Feral’s ‘The Local.’ From Swan Valley’s own Feral, this is a German style lager brewed with Mandarina Bavaria as a single hop. It’s a nice summer refresher, and only available in the Perth area, so it’s special.