Craft Beer

363 days of the year

Bitter & Twisted Boutique Beer Festival, held on the first weekend of November each year within the walls of Maitland Gaol, is a highlight on any beer aficionado’s calendar. But where do you get a locally brewed craft beer in the Maitland area on the other 363 days of the year?

You will be pleased to hear that this question has more than just one answer. The first of which is the River Port Brewing Company (trading as Morpeth Brewery) at the Commercial Hotel on Swan Street in Morpeth. Canadian born owner Dave Allen began brewing away in a spare room previously filled with pokies at the Commercial Hotel in Morpeth in 2012. To mark two important occasions, Anzac Day and his first beer sold across the bar, the beer was named Anzac Ale, and it is now brewed once every year in time for Anzac Day.

A commercial brewer who has worked in Canada and the UK, Dave said it’s here at Morpeth that he has had the most fun creating his various beers. He says the craft beer industry in the Hunter region is enjoying national prominence, owing much to the success of the city’s flagship event Bitter & Twisted. Here’s a nice local link – one of the specially designed beer labels even features a familiar figure, that of Maitland’s Les Darcy (Big Hitter) in his famous boxing stance. Another annual beer special is Gaoler’s Ale, commemorating Bitter & Twisted.

Actually, there have been almost 50 different kinds of beers that have come out of the nano brewery since opening. These include regular crowd pleasers on tap at the Commercial including Close Call Pale Ale, Black Tractor IPA, Trade Winds IPA, Big Hitter ESB, Paddle Wheel Pilsner, and seasonal releases like the Pumpkin Ale which has just finished. The best bit, all of the Morpeth Brewery beers are naturally carbonated and free of additives & preservatives. That means they are good for you, right Dave?

With a view to expanding and diversifying the business, in January of 2017 Dave hired local beer aficionado Craig Upton as his assistant brewer. Craig’s invaluable involvement has freed up Dave’s time enabling him to work on a new project which will include consolidation of the existing business and acquisition of new equipment and facilities. It is expected that River Port Brewing Company (trading as RPB) will open in its second location before the end of 2017.

On a whole, the craft beer industry has expanded dramatically in recent times, with craft beer representing a significant percentage of the premium beer market in Australia. As NSW craft breweries forge ahead experimenting with unique styles and techniques, the Hunter Region, and the Maitland area in particular, has risen to prominence.

So, I guess you’re asking what are the other answers to the question where to go to find craft beer? Well, here’s some more crafty joints to check out in Maitland.

The Whistler, 436 High Street, Maitland
What you’ll find – everything you need to whet the whistle. Pun intended.Coffee hole in the wall by day, laid back bar by night, The Whistler has swagger. A funky fit out matches its vibe and offers some quality craft beers and share plates, which are the perfect combo for a night out.

This is cheating a little bit, but I do love this quote from their website – ‘with over 16 quality craft beers on tap and a cocktail menu to rival any underground Melbourne hipster bar, you’ll be sure to find something here that tickles you right where it feels good’ (thanks guys, it makes my job a little easier).

The Pourhouse Craft Beer Bar, 327 High Street, Maitland
What you’ll find – pretty much what it says above the door. A craft beer bar.
Set in the art deco Exchange Hotel, which is amazing considering it was built in 1896, The Pourhouse, as it’s now known is Maitland’s dedicated craft beer bar.
With 10 taps on rotation with both local and Australian craft brews, as well as even more options that come in the bottled glass variety, it’s easy to see that the owners have quite the passion for craft beer. Oh, and they also do food too, which is an ideal accompaniment to a pint or two.

The Old Victoria, 9 Day Street, East Maitland
What you’ll find – the charm and character of ye olde English pub + craft beer.
You’ll certainly get a good dose of heritage at the Old Vic in East Maitland, but with the added bonus of local drinks – cue River Port brewing Co ale and certified organic wines from the Hunter Valley.

Built in 1837, she’s a grand old building set across two levels, it is now home to one of East Maitland’s most popular places to eat or drink. Whether you dine during the day in the sun dappled courtyard or you cosy up to the fireplace inside on a crisp winter’s night, it’s a perfect stop to get a pint of dark ale or crimson pinot in hand.

Story by Tess Campbell.