We moved to Maitland five and a half years ago and immediately felt at home. As we settled in, we started about sampling the local pubs and eateries. We wanted a place that felt like we belonged, a real local. All great cities have something distinctive about them, a quality that makes you say, ‘when in Rome do as the locals do’. It might be an amazing landmark such as a bridge, a beautiful building, a harbour or even a river. More often though, it is a feeling, a buzz, a mood difficult to describe. What gives Maitland its special character has a lot to do with the rich history on show in the many heritage buildings. Yet it takes more than architecture to give a city its soul. We have been through what was sometimes long periods of revitalisation that has reinvigorated the main street mall into The Levee and fostered the renewal of many old buildings. A vibrant art scene has grown organically from the dust with an exquisite cloud sculpture at The Riverlink, a full scale wall mural at the Bourke Street Link, poetry readings in cafés, a range of small and large festivals and new galleries.

Maitland continues to move forward, and that’s exciting. And best of all, it’s not too big. A relaxed 10 minute walk through High Street quickly reveals that we Maitlanders are spoilt for choice. You can enjoy a variety of shops, cafés, pubs, bars and ethnic restaurants as well as a gentle stroll along the Riverside Walk. My favourite destination is a local watering hole cleverly named The Pourhouse. It is a fine example of Maitland’s art deco period that has been sensitively renovated and is fast becoming a local icon. The owners have achieved what for me is the essence of contemporary Maitland, a respectful mixing of old and new for young and old. It is unpretentious, comfortable and a place for everyone.

Spruiking itself as a gastropub, The Pourhouse boasts ten taps and offers an ever changing variety of craft beers, along with a range of wines and an unusual cocktail of the week. If you’re there on a Saturday evening, it can seem like the whole of Maitland is passing through. People visit for a pre-dinner, pre-cinema or pre-theatre drink or for a family meal. Personally, I like a quiet beer or two and a bowl of wedges any evening of the week. The vintage pieces give it a homely feel and there’s a quiet backroom with comfy lounges and an open fireplace, a rare thing these days. On a cold Saturday evening last winter, one patron told me he knew the location of every open fireplace in the region. I know of only one other, which is located at The Old Victoria in East Maitland, yet another wonderful old pub that has been lovingly restored. The Old Vic has the quaintest courtyard for those warmer days, where you can sit and indulge in more great food, craft beer and occasional live music.

Much has changed since we came to Maitland and it is fair to say that if you’re looking for a relaxed meal and a glass of Hunter Valley wine or a good craft beer, you don’t have to go very far. There is, as they say, something for everyone. Finding the perfect local is as important to us as finding the right house, and we have found our spot at The Pourhouse. If you’re visiting Maitland you can be certain that you don’t have to be a local to enjoy a great local pub.

If you love craft beer as much as the Heekeren’s do, don’t miss out on Bitter & Twisted Boutique Beer Festival held annually on the first weekend in November.

Story by Deborah Van Heekeren

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