Blue sky. Hot sand. Saltwater.
If there is the perfect place to enjoy a cold beer, it’s the Gold Coast, and many a quenching lager has washed the sand and the salt from the parched lips of locals and tourists alike at the coastal strip's many watering holes.
Up until recently though, the beer selection was confined mainly to pale lagers, with the only real choice limited to heavy or mid. That began to change over the last decade and Australia has finally been caught up in a craft beer wave. That wave has crashed upon the Gold Coast as well.
This may seem like a new thing for those who have only just discovered the joys of a hoppy pale ale or a bold India Pale Ale. But for the Gold Coast’s own Burleigh Brewing, that wave has been building for quite some time.
Opened in 2007, the brewery has been carving out a following in South East Queensland, slowly pioneering the idea of locally brewed, flavoursome beers. It took a long time to be an overnight success. Almost 10 years ago co-owner and brewer Brennan Fielding explained that they were still building a market for craft beer.
“At the moment we’re only making three beers and you’ve got to admit that so far as craft beer styles go our three beers aren’t real crafty,” Brennan said back in 2008. “We figured if we could get people to try the lager and it was flavourful and they enjoyed it—and not so flavourful that they wouldn’t buy it again—then we’ve achieved what we wanted to achieve.”
In a market where Corona was the most popular imported beer and 14 of the top 15 sellers were largely interchangeable mainstream lagers, that was a sound business strategy.
And it worked.
While the original two lagers are still core to the range, the Burleigh line of beers has expanded. Coastal beer drinkers will find the brewery’s wheat beer and English Bitter called "My Wife’s Bitter" in addition to their unique no-carb beer, Big Head, right across the coast. Appropriate for a Gold Coast brewery, its signature beer is the 28 Pale Ale. Named in honour of a legendary period of 28 days of perfect surf that Burleigh Heads enjoyed in the mid-1970s, the beer is a hoppy American pale ale, so described for the American citrus hops used to give the beer a tropical citrus aroma.
They weren’t an overnight phenomenon, but they have been such a success that Burleigh outgrew its original home and has just opened a new, much larger brewery, to keep up with demand.
Burleigh has also paved the way for the Gold Coast’s newest brewery, one that is quite literally surfing waves. Newcomer Balter Brewing at Currumbin is owned by locally-based, internationally-renowned surfers Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Bede Durbidge and Josh Kerr.
The brewery has taken a Gold Coast lifestyle to its heart. Even the name Balter exudes a relaxed approach. It’s a term that means “to dance artlessly without particular skill or grace, but usually with enjoyment." For Balter, this is abbreviated to simply, “Usually with Enjoyment.”
One of the key members of the Balter team, Stirling Howland, said success to Balter is people drinking their beer with enjoyment.
“If the people think what we do is worth talking about and worth sharing with their friends, that’s something that’s very motivating to us,” Stirling said. “Our commitment is to make the best beer we possibly can and to grow people’s awareness of what good beer is.”
“It’s a given that a good beer should be enjoyable, but it should also expand a person’s world view on what a beer can be. There is a lot of great beer in this country that’s constantly challenging that notion. It’s inspiring stuff and we are stoked to be a part of that movement.”
While Mick and the boys will be continuing to tear it up on the world surfing circuit, they are so passionate about their brewery they have become certified to serve beers at the bar, which they plan to do when they are at home in between competitions.
The two coastal breweries are joined by two more existing breweries in the hinterland. Fortitude Brewing and Beard and Brau, both based at Mt Tamborine, are brewing an exciting and adventurous range of beers. They will also soon be joined by another, Black Hops Brewing is set to open shortly.
With so many exciting breweries calling the Gold Coast home, the slowest part has been venues willing to pour the crafties. But that too is starting to change.
Where to Get Craft Brews on Australia's Gold Coast
Bine Bar & Dining—It has great food, and the beer list is awesome.
Ze Pickle—Burgers, snacks and a killer beer list
Lester & Earl—American-style barbecue with great craft beer on the Gold Coast Highway
Southport RSL—Yes, believe it. Craft beer on tap and in bottle at an RSL club