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.