South West Craft Beer Festival Busselton

As craft beer gets ahead of commercial beer (at least in style, taste, creativity, and popularity), the hoppy refresher is finally making a strong presence in the top end of the region.

It doesn’t take much for me to get hopped up about beer, so as I write this, I’m sitting at The Goose overlooking the glistening sea and the majestic Busselton Jetty. I’m sipping (OK, guzzling) a couple of local favourites from Wild Hop Brewing Company and Beerfarm. The Goose has 12 taps featuring craft beer from the region with pale ale, ginger beer, cider and a mid-strength ale as the four staple varieties on offer. If you can’t get around to the breweries, this is a great place to sample the local wares, especially during their daily happy hour.

South West Beer Festival Busselton

But if you are mobile, definitely make time for a trip to Wild Hop’s fantastic brewery restaurant on Wildwood Road. They’re the newest hop-heads on the block and, so far, are killing it with their creative, thirst-quenching brewsI meet up with Wild Hop Director, Ali Scott-Malcolm, to chat about all things craft beer. It’s high noon, and the industrial-engineered eatery is near-empty; a calm after the storm of beer drinkers who have been charging through the premises in huge numbers since their February opening. So eager were people to try Wild Hop’s ever-changing beer on tap that staff sometimes arrived to queues on the footpath waiting for the family-owned brewery to open at 11am.

Ali pours me 2 Plumz for 1, which was created in collaboration with east coast brewers, Mountain Culture Beer Co, and we sit near the fireplace. I’m an IPA and pale ale drinker, but this German gose-style beer is light, fruity, and a tad sour – perfect for midday. As we chitchat over lunch, tables fill up and thirsty patrons head to the bar.

She tells me the biggest sellers are the pilsners and pale ales. The first batch of pale ale, Ghost Legs, was gobbled up greedily, and now they’ve moved onto Lacey Grace, which is a little bit lighter in malt and alcohol by volume (ABV), but still mighty in taste. Because the Short Shorts pilsner has been so well-received, it will be a mainstay beer, but otherwise, there will be a lot of experimenting with the taps at Wild Hop.

“The boys are really happy with that recipe, so that will probably be the one to stay consistent,” says Ali. “Trying new recipes keeps it interesting for the brewers, the staff, and the customers.”

Unlike many of the other breweries who can bottle their beer, the only way to have Wild Hop at home is to take away a growler (two-litre jug) of your favourite brew. “So far, the NEIPA is the biggest seller”, says Ali.

Wild Hop Brewery

Also getting great beer reviews in Busselton, is the Rocky Ridge Brewing Co. cellar door on Marine Terrace. This laid-back beer tasting venue is the brewery’s second Busselton CBD premises (along with Darleen’s on Prince Street), who have believe it or not, just celebrated their second birthday. “Busselton has always been home. We wanted to explore a couple of different options: our cellar door which is Rocky Ridge-centric and Darleen’s, which is more encompassing with options and varieties for everyone,” says owner Hamish Coates. “We’re super proud of our beers and want them to have a home.”

We love to experiment and enjoy playing with flavours and ingredients. We have approximately one new release every 10 days

I love the idea of a cellar door for beer, and I must say, this one is in an ideal spot to catch Busselton’s beautiful sunsets. Choose from tasting trays of three, six, or 12 samples (100ml each) from their 24 taps.

“We love to experiment and enjoy playing with flavours and ingredients. We have approximately one new release every 10 days,” says Hamish.

Rocky Brewing Co

Although summer may be congruent with beer drinking, Ali and Hamish agree that darker, maltier beer is especially palatable in colder months.

“Darker beers tend to go well in winter as they are more drinkable at warmer temperatures and exhibit flavours that many find desirable in cooler months: chocolate, coffee, roast flavours. They also tend to have a higher ABV,” says Hamish.

Rocky Ridge and Wild Hop are two of the newest breweries to settle down in the region’s north end (Eagle Bay Brewing Co. has been here since 2010), making it something of an epicentre for beer lovers. “We aren’t going to slow down with new releases and will continue to have the same quality-focused approach. We’ve got a few exciting side projects in the pipeline, including a big increase in our barrel projects, further development of our farm-to-glass mentality, and some tweaks to both Darleen’s and RR Cellar Door,” says Hamish.

And with the prospect of another brewery opening on the Busselton foreshore, it sounds like the beer scene in this holiday town is just ramping up. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

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