The taps are flowing, and so is the conversation – about heavenly hops, the finer points of filtration, or the taste of a fabulous new brew – at Maitland’s annual Bitter & Twisted Boutique Beer Festival.
Over two days, this year’s Bitter & Twisted promises to be bigger and frothier than ever, taking place inside the sturdy sandstone walls of Maitland Gaol. Come with a caseload of curiosity and sample over 80 craft beers from Maitland, NSW and from international brewers, too.
There will be breweries large and small, from just up the road in Aberglasslyn, to the south-east (Newcastle), to the Hunter Valley in the north and from down south in Sydney. Backyard-scale brewers and those significantly bigger will pile the kegs high and keep the ales, ciders, stouts and sours flowing. From lovers of IPAs, XPAs, to pales and hazys, or fans of fruity beers and spicy ginger ales, there’s something for everyone.
Turn a whiter shade of Hazy Pale
Stuart Duff, who operates nano brewery Dusty Miner Craft Brewery from his two-acre backyard in Aberglasslyn, has a Hazy Pale for his fans to try at Bitter & Twisted.
“I’m on the hazy train now. Since I’ve started brewing, I’ve done seven or eight batches, and it’s taken off,” says Stuart. “Hazy is exactly that – hazy in appearance with a softer mouth feel and not too much bitterness. It’s an easy-drinking style of beer.” Stuart’s first claim to fame was his Black Bones Dark Ale, which picked up a silver medal at the 2015 Sydney Royal Beer & Cider Show just three months after he opened.
Stuart says people who love a summery brew should sample his sours. “They’re great for when it’s time to get your jackets off. I’ve got kiwifruit, raspberry and lime, with the limes sourced from my tree in Aberglasslyn.”
A cider with apples and pears from Orange
Those who prefer cider over a beer can sit down and try six tasty ciders from Pokolbin Cider House, the Hunter Valley’s only cider house. Starting in a small tractor shed, Pokolbin Cider House today boasts an uber cool beer garden that holds up to 200 people.
Jaclyn Dun from Pokolbin Cider House says Pokolbin’s flavourful ciders are made from fresh fruit. “We’re particularly proud of making ciders from real fruit with zero essences and zero flavourings. Passionfruit Perry is the most popular. This year, we’re bringing all six – Classic Draught, Perry Pear, Apple and Raspberry, Passionfruit Perry, Dark Grape and Spicy Apple,” she says. Cider lovers can sign up for Pokolbin Cider House’s cider club at the festival.
Method in the madness
With a brewery in Islington just moments outside Newcastle, Method Brewing is the brainchild of Gavin McKenzie, Matt Blomfield and Sean Costigan, who built the sleek brewery from the ground up – beer kit and all – with family and friends.
Sean and the team cover a lot of ground with their beers – so there’s something for a crisp lager lover to the most discerning of hop heads. You can try the Method Brewing staples during Bitter & Twisted, including Pale Ale, New World IPA and a tasty Hazy Pale with Aussie and US hops.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t know your IPAs from your lagers or want to talk in-depth about some obscure brewing process, you’re welcome,” says Sean.
Beer first, no shortcuts at Modus
Sam Evans from brewery Modus Beer in Merewether (whose brewery took out the Australian Institute of Architects Newcastle Medal – the region’s highest architectural honour) encourages Bitter & Twisted visitors to look out for its Cervesa, the highest ranked Mexican Lager at GABS and Modus’ Hazy 3.5%, which won top gold at Royal Sydney.
“Our awards are a testament to our whole of business approach – which is ‘beer first, no shortcuts’. We’re an Australian owned and operated indie brewery that prides itself on excellent quality beers and sustainable brewing. As an example, our Merewether brewery was built with sustainable materials – including recycled shampoo bottles in the bathroom!”
“What runs through Modus is our desire for the very best beer possible, with no shortcuts. When you visit us at Merewether, the beer you drink from the taps was made only a few feet away. And our hops are all Australian – we’re all about making sure everything stays in Australia.”
If last year’s Modus stand was anything to go by – when the taps didn’t even get turned off for a few moments – 2023 is going to be ever popular.
Brews outside the bars
For thirsty punters seeking to grab a cool brew in or around Maitland, in the lead-up to Bitter & Twisted there are places aplenty to try. For starters, in Morpeth, just 13 minutes’ drive up the road there’s the Commercial Hotel Morpeth (with its very own micro-brewery). In Central Maitland, pull up a stool at The Whistler or the much-loved Pourhouse.