Yarra Valley 2012: Cider and Ale Trail

2/20/2012 12:14:00 PM

Welcome to the final post in my series on the Yarra Valley!  The purpose of my trip was to visit some of the breweries and distilleries on the newly created Cider and Ale Trail.  My previous trips to the Yarra Valley had been focused on wine (here and here), so I thought it was really nice to look at the Valley from a different perspective, and to learn a bit about the beer brewing process.  Let's take a look!

Coldstream Brewery
694 Maroondah Hwy
Coldstream, VIC 3770
Ph: (03) 9739-1794

We arrived at Coldstream bright and early on the first morning of our trip for a tour of the brewery and a tasting of their range.  (Tours and tastings are available to the public at $15 per person - larger groups will need to book in advance.  See their website for up to date information).

My favourite here was the clean and crisp Apple Cider.  I love the fact that they do seasonal beers too - I'm told that in winter they have a Chocolate Winter Ale made with Kennedy & Wilson 99% Couverture.  I absolutely must try that one when winter comes around!

Napoleone & Co
St Huberts Road 
Coldstream VIC 3770
Ph: (03) 9739-0666

Napoleone & Co is a relatively new offshoot of Punt Road Wines, and they have been crafting apple and pear ciders since 2008.  The Punt Road Wines cellar door offers tastings of both the wines and ciders.  (As I was driving, I limited myself to the ciders - but did enjoy a bottle of apple with pear cider with dinner later that night!)
Love the rustic label!

Apples in the orchard

Buckley's Beer
30 Hunter Road
Healesville VIC 3777

Buckley's Beer is a small scale solar-powered brewery, and are open for tastings on the weekends.  Once a month they have live music at the brewery - people can bring their own dinner and enjoy a few beers whilst enjoying the music.

We did a tasting of their beers, which included the 4 beers in their core range, as well as the intriguing Lemongrass Pale Ale.

Whilst I always thought of myself as someone who prefers lighter-tasting beersI enjoyed the malty Dark Bock the best.  Made from six different malts and brewed as a crisp lager, the Dark Bock has more complex flavours than, say, a plain old stout.  (Hmm... just like at Hargreaves Hill, I liked the darkest beer best - perhaps my palate is maturing!)

White Rabbit Brewery
316 Maroondah Hwy
Healesville VIC 3777
Ph: (03) 5962-6516

White Rabbit is probably the best known of all the breweries we visited - it certainly was the biggest!  Located right next to Giant Steps / Innocent Bystander, White Rabbit is a cellar door, brewing operations and casual bar, all in one. 
White Rabbit Brewery
I think it's great that White Rabbit is so fun and interactive - customers can smell the hops and taste the roasted grains that are used in the beer making process.

And look: cider-flavoured candy! Cute!
Cider-flavoured candy!
We were lucky enough to be taken on a tour of their operations, which aren't normally offered to the public.  I found it so fascinating to see a brewery in action!  I also got to wear a very snazzy orange vest - bonus!

Apart from the Pipsqueak Cider, all the ales are brewed and bottled onsite, and the process can take from ten days to two weeks, depending on the type.  Let's have a look at some of the steps involved in brewing beer!  (N.B. the below photos are just selected steps of the beer-making process - I didn't want to get too technical with y'all!)

To put it very simply: to make beer you need water, a starch (e.g. malted barley), hops and yeast.  The yeast is used to ferment the starch into alcohol, whilst the hops provides flavouring.

Inside the Mash Tun - milled grain + hot water.  The mashing process converts the starches in the grains into sugars for fermentation.

Hops - these add bitterness and aroma to the beer.

Fermenters - the yeast reacts with the sugars and converts it to alcohol. During the process, the liquid rises, with the excess running over the sides.

Yeast reaction - just like when I make bread at home! (But on a slightly larger scale).

The bottling line


And that was my trip to the Yarra Valley!  Phew!  Can you believe it was only two days?  As you can see in this post, we visited heaps of breweries, but there was also a lot of eating (Hargreaves Hill, Yarra Valley Dairy, Essenza Cafe, Mt Rael), and quite a bit of relaxation too!  I loved discovering all these new places and increasing my beer knowledge!

More information about the Cider and Ale Trail is available on the Experience Yarra Valley website, with a great brochure including details about each of the breweries and a handy little map!

Sarah visited the breweries as a guest of Yarra Ranges Regional Marketing.

This is the sixth and final post from my Yarra Valley 2012 Trip series.  Other posts in this series: Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company; Yarra Valley Dairy; Mt. Rael; Barolo Lodge; and Essenza.

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  1. Thanks for coming to visit, glad you had a good trip around the valley :)



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