Of course we’re known for our wine here, but these days there are also lots of great breweries to visit in Australia. Over the past decade, the number of independent breweries has grown ten-fold and there are now about 700 breweries in Australia.
The focus of these craft breweries is primarily making good beer. Go into a bottle shop or a pub and you’re sure to find a decent selection of their work. But there’s also been a huge movement in recent years to turn many of these small Australian breweries into destinations in themselves.
For both locals and tourists, visiting a craft brewery can be a fantastic way to spend a few hours.
Some of the best breweries in Australia have turned their locations into large fun entertainment spaces, with restaurants or food trucks and live music. Others have stayed relatively small but created a friendly and comfortable atmosphere.
What many of these craft breweries have done is kept a sense of place in their venues, with tributes to the local environments and the stories that make them special.
Just like wine tourism is popular, I think we’re already seeing beer tourism in Australia become a factor in the way people travel. Perhaps going to a particular region to visit the breweries, making time on a road trip to spend the afternoon at a favourite brewery, even doing a beer tour (which you’ll find offered in some places like the Sunshine Coast in Queensland).
To help you with your own travel planning, I’ve put together my list of the best breweries in Australia to visit. I’ve included some of the big ones, but also some popular local favourites.
Brisbane has a robust craft beer scene and there are lots of breweries in Brisbane to visit. Right on the river, underneath the Story Bridge, Felons Brewing Co is a cool large space that’s always busy.
For something that feels a bit more independent, there’s a good concentration of craft breweries around Newstead, on the other side of Fortitude Valley. Check out the Newstead Brewing Co, Green Beacon, and Range Brewing (which create a neighbourhood nicknamed the ‘Beermuda Triangle’).
Around the Gold Coast there are a couple of fantastic breweries. One of my favourites is Balter, which was founded by some professional surfers. And the Burleigh Brewing Co is another great option. They’ve both got lots of space to hang out.
The Sunshine Coast is another Queensland region that has really embraced craft breweries, with at least 18 operational at the moment! They each have their own characteristics, but you might want to start your pub crawl at Brouhaha Brewery in Maleny, Heads of Noosa Brewery, Moffat Beach Brewing Co, or Stalwart Brewing Company in Nambour.
And right up north in Cairns, there’s the fantastic Hemingway’s Brewery, which is in a large heritage building on the wharf. The food is excellent and it’s a great option for a meal – or any other time of the day, in fact.
New South Wales
It’s probably no surprise that Sydney is full of small breweries and you’re really spoilt for choice here.
It’s worth initially mentioning James Squire, a range of beers by Malt Shovel Brewery and named after the country’s first convict brewer. You can’t visit the brewery in Camperdown but the flashy Squire’s Landing Brewhouse in Circular Quay has all the beers on tap. It’s not an independent brewery anymore, but it’s still one of Australia’s best beer brands.
The craft brewing centre in Sydney has a lot of activity around Newtown and Marrickville and the most famous here is Young Henry’s (their Newtowner is one of my favourite Australian beers). Others in the area that have a good vibe to hang out are Batch Brewing Co, Grifter Brewing Co, and Wayward Brewing Co.
For something with a bit of a sunnier Sydney background, you can head over to Manly for a drink and a meal at the very popular 4 Pines Brewing Company.
Looking regionally, on the South Coast there’s Longstocking Brewery at Pambula, which honours its location by also being a oyster bar!
At Port Stephens, there’s the excellent Murray’s, with a large outdoor area and lots of food options – perfect for the whole family.
And there are a few breweries in the Central West, tucked amongst the wine regions, and I would particularly recommend Mudgee Brewing Co, right in town.
I think the most famous of the NSW regional breweries (and one of the best breweries in Australia) is Stone & Wood at Byron Bay. It is consistently near (or at) the top of any list of the best beer in Australia and the space is really comfortable.
Canberra may be small but it certainly punches above its weight. It was one of the first places in Australia to have a proper craft brewery and pub, The Wig & Pen, which unfortunately closed in 2018 after 24 years.
However, the mantle has been passed on to BentSpoke Brewing Co, which was awarded the best beer in Australia in 2020 by the GABS Hottest 100. Head to the Braddon brewpub to try the winning beer (Crankshaft, a West Coast IPA).
Another excellent option in Canberra is Capital Brewing Co, which is in the industrial area of Fyshwick. The space is within a large warehouse-style building and there is a food truck doing burgers too.
Unlike Brisbane and Sydney, the best breweries in Melbourne tend to be spread out across the city, rather than concentrated in just one or two suburbs. That’s great if you don’t want to travel far to find one – but if you’re really keen for a pub crawl, there are quite a few in the northeast.
There are lots of great breweries in Melbourne – and the weather tends to mean they’re created cosy indoor areas where you can try the latest releases. Some of the best I would recommend are Moon Dog Brewery, 3 Ravens Brewery, Stomping Ground Brewing Co, and Two Birds Brewing. Of course, there’s also Victoria’s second-oldest craft brewery (which is no longer independent), Mountain Goat.
Brewing is big across the state and some of the best breweries to visit in Victoria are near areas you’re likely to be visiting anyway.
Just south of Melbourne, there’s the excellent Mornington Peninsula Brewing Co. While just north of the city, nestled in the Yarra wine region, you’ll find Hargreaves Hill Brewing Co at Yarra Glen. And to the northwest there’s Holgate Brewhouse.
Head out to Ballarat and you’ll find Red Duck, while in the northeast, a perfect way to spend a couple of hours after a day of exploring is tasting the beers at the Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth or the Bright Brewery in Bright.
In Tasmania, the state’s two biggest brewers are still an iconic part of the local culture. You can visit the James Boag Brewery in Launceston and Cascade Brewing Co (Australia’s oldest operating brewery) in Hobart to learn a bit more about their history… and the rivalry between the two.
Hobart in particular has some more recent craft breweries that make the most of the island’s pristine waters to make some incredible beers. There’s the well-known Hobart Brewing Co, and it’s also worth a visit to Shambles Brewery and T-Bone Brewing Co, right near each other.
Linking Hobart to Launceston is the Tasmanian Beer Trail, taking in some of the best breweries on the drive between the cities. Make sure you stop in at Moo Brew, the largest craft brewery in Tasmania, founded by David Walsh, the man behind Mona.
Outside of Launceston is Little Rivers Brewing Co, which has a cosy local atmosphere where you’re welcome to bring your own food and settle in for a couple of drinks. And on the gorgeous east coast, Ironhouse Brewery is set within the White Sands Estate, which also has a vineyard and distiller (and 29 villas, if you want to stay the night!).
South Australia may be known for its wine but these days, where there’s wine, there’s also beer, and there are some excellent craft breweries in South Australia that are worth visiting.
In Adelaide, the best example is Pirate Life, out at Port Adelaide, which set the trend for serving Aussie craft beers in cans. There’s also the Big Shed Brewing Co which, not surprisingly, you’ll find within a big shed (although it’s not the one the company was named for).
I would also recommend Sparkke at the Whitmore, which feels like a traditional brewpub – but with a few special touches to intentionally remind you it was founded by an all-female team. And, of course, there’s also the iconic South Australian beer – Coopers – where you can also do a brewery tour.
Heading out to the wine regions around Adelaide, you’ll find some excellent breweries. In the Barossa, check out the Rehn Bier Brewhouse, which uses German ancestry to create traditional beer styles with unique twists. In McLaren Vale, there’s Goodieson Brewery, the Shifty Lizard and the wonderful Smiling Samoyed named after the cutest dog you’ll ever see!
In the Adelaide Hills, you’ll find another great example of South Australian brewing at the Prancing Pony Brewery. While there’s a big focus on creating interesting beers, there’s also a welcoming space to spend an afternoon, and a real connection with the local community.
Further out across South Australia, in more regional areas, you might like to pop into the Woolshed Brewery near Renmark, Beer Garden Brewing on the Eyre Peninsula, and Watsacowie Brewery on the Yorke Peninsula.
Wandering over west, I’ve got to straight away mention Little Creatures, which was one of the first Australian craft breweries to make a name for itself nationally. It’s grown into a large complex in Fremantle with several venues and an interesting brewery tour.
The craft beer scene then expanded to Perth and there are a couple of interesting companies to visit, including the Nowhereman Brewing Co and, just outside the city in Swan Valley, there’s the Feral Brewing Company.
Like in other parts of the country, where breweries have popped up around wineries, Margaret River has become one of the fastest growing microbrewery destinations in Australia. Bootleg Brewery is one of the best, but you’ll also enjoy the very cool Beer Farm, the large Black Brewing Co, and the rustic Eagle Bay Brewing Co.
If you’ve ever experienced the WA weather, you’ll know why beer is so popular across the state. So it’s no surprise that there are cool breweries in the regional areas too. Broome has the famous Matso’s Brewery that is particularly known for its ginger beer, in Esperance there’s Lucky Bay Brewing, and there’s Boston Brewing Co just outside Albany.
So, while there’s clearly a concentration of the state’s breweries in the southwest, you’ll find some gems even in some of the most remote locations.
Up in the Northern Territory, though, it’s a different story. The craft beer scene has not hit with quite the fervour that you find in the other states. (They still drink a lot of beer – but perhaps it’s more about hydration than taste.)
Having said that, there are a few good spots in Darwin where you’ll find some interesting ales and equally interesting tales. The city’s beer pioneer is the One Mile Brewery, which has been going since 2012. There’s also the mainstream Six Tanks Brew Co right in the main strip, and passionate Beaver Brewery a bit further out of town.
And in Central Australia, there’s the Alice Springs Brewing Co, the only operating brewery that I’m aware of in the Red Centre. It makes a good drop – but out here, you would be thankful for anything that’s not Great Northern or XXXX!