Ipswich – a city of many beers
One city. Many beers. Just as the face of Ipswich has changed over the last decade, so too has the face of beer.
Where once Queensland was a one-beer state – well two, if you consider XXXX Heavy and Gold – today we have a rich selection of beers to enjoy. And Ipswich is enthusiastically embracing and even extending the fashion.
Pumpyard Bar & Brewery
The first stop on any Ipswich beer tour has to be Ipswich’s spiritual home of craft beer, Pumpyard Bar & Brewery. A working brewery, when the brew floor isn’t criss-crossed with hoses and pumps required in the brewing process, tables and chairs appear and the space is converted into a relaxed restaurant and bar. The brewery occupies the historic former technical college building at 88 Limestone Street and the magnificent brick building adds warmth and character to the setting. It also serves as home to the adjoining Dovetails, a French-inspired bistro that is working to ignite the city’s fine food scene.
However, we’re here for the beers and these are worth travelling for.
Pumpyard is home to 4 Hearts Brewing, a small batch brewery making an interesting selection of modern craft beer styles.
Beer is at its very best when it’s fresh and this is a great place to try beer at its freshest. They are also award-winning with the New World Pilsner being awarded a gold medal at the prestigious Australian International Beer Awards in 2017.
The brewery, opened in 2015, has recently acquired a new head brewer. Ken Friend who, after spending more than a decade homebrewing, decided to go pro and headed to Berlin to study brewing before returning to take up his position at Pumpyard.
Ken makes an easy-drinking range of beers designed to appeal to all beer drinkers, as well as a range of seasonal beers with a little more character and complexity for those who a little more adventurous.
This isn’t Ken’s first stint in Ipswich, having spent a decade in the city during his time in the Royal Australian Air Force and he’s noticed the difference, both in the city and its beers.
“There’s been an incredible change in Ipswich,” Ken said.
“When I first came here 20 years ago you wouldn’t have seen a highrise, let alone a venue like Tap’d (see below) with 70 beers on tap. That wasn’t even thought of, the change has been profound.”
And Ken adds, the thought of Ipswich having a brewery like Pumpyard was just as unlikely. But now, luckily for him and us, there is one.
Having enjoyed a selection of fresh, locally brewed beers it is only a short hop to Heisenberg Haus where you can enjoy some of the most traditional beer styles.
Heisenberg Haus is home to a German-inspired beer hall that takes traditional Bavarian cuisine and gives it a modern make-over and serves it up with some classic German beers.
Australians love their beer, but we still have something to learn from the Bavarians when it comes to the culture around it. At Heisenburgs you can enjoy a stein of Hofbrau Original, which manager Andrew Fechner describes as one of the most famous lagers in the world.
“It’s got heritage, it’s got flavour it’s one of the most popular beers in the world,” he enthuses.
“Then we have its dunkel – or dark – counterpart. If you take the malts in the Original and you toast them a little bit longer and you’ll get a caramel and molasses flavours coming through.”
Andrew says while sometimes the bolder flavours of craft beer can surprise some people, these beers find favour with all beer drinkers.
With the hearty Bavarian-style food, the beers also find a flavour pairing, including pork belly and a German wheat beer.
The Franziskaner wheat beer is a great match,” Andrew says.
“When people take a chance on trying a wheat beer here, they really love it. You get a lot of fruit in Franziskaner, you get banana, you get beautiful tropical flavours. It goes really well with the pork belly which comes with spiced red cabbage, which is totally authentic.”
Even if you haven’t had the chance to visit Munich during Oktoberfest, you can get a taste of it in Ipswich.
Tap’d at the PA
If local beer and traditional beer isn’t enough for you, you will find just about every other kind of beer and more besides at the Prince Alfred Hotel. The PA’s Tap’d Bar features an astounding 72 taps of craft beer and cider, to appeal to just about any taste.
Bar manager and beer guru, Tim Rule, said a lot of work goes into having 72 beers on tap.
“There’s a lot of planning but you just have to be smart about it,” Tim says.
“Work out what your customers like, what they don’t like and give the customers what they want.”
It sounds easy, but a scan of the taps shows the customers like an eclectic mix of beers from hop driven pale ales to amber ales through to sour peach IPAs and Belgian lambics.
“The way I see it, you need to have something on tap for every customer,” Tim says.
“I like to see it as multigenerational, so I want to have something on tap that I want to drink – I like to drink my big IPAs and Belgian sours – but I want something that my dad like to drink, and also something that my grand dad would like to drink, a VB or a XXXX Gold.”
While it has one of the largest ranges of beer taps in Queensland, and a great selection of food, Tap’d lets you cater to your beer obsession at home as well. The adjoining bottleshop has an extensive selection of beers to take away, but is also tapped for ‘growlers’.
Growers are refillable 1.8 litre bottles that let beer lovers take home beers that ordinarily aren’t available in bottled form. This makes limited release beers, and the creations of smaller or more exotic breweries available. They are ideal for sharing at dinner parties, and also great for the environment, though should always be enjoyed soon after bottling.
Taking ale to the air
The most unique beer experience you can have in Ipswich is to take to the air with Pterodactyl Helicopters for a beer tour by chopper.
The Ipswich region is home to an array of pubs the like of which aren’t seen in the city any more. Pubs like the Walloon Saloon that has undergone many changes through the decades but still has its original 100-year-old fire place to warm patrons in the winter – complete with original chimney, and the Hacienda-style Sundowner Hotel at Haigslea.
Chief pilot ‘Captain Mike’ Jarvis and his team of skilled pilots can let you drop in on pubs that you would probably drive past on your way somewhere else.
While newer craft beer styles haven’t made their way into some of these classic country pubs, beer is all about context and the charm of a pub such as the Royal Hotel at Harrisville (just over the Ipswich border in the Scenic Rim, but just a few minutes from Ipswich city by helicopter) makes a visit there more about the pub and the location than the beer.
Sitting back in the chopper and taking in the view spreading out below you is a treat. Watching as the pub quickly comes into view, until you can make out the ‘Hotel’ emblazoned on the roof, your pilot sweeps around the front for the best vantage and then you’re on the ground. Before you know it, you’re sitting on the wide bullnose veranda in the shade enjoying a bitterly cold beer.
This is a pub, and this is the way to get to it.
Publican Monika Patrick and her husband Steve bought the then-closed pub six years ago. Since reopening it, the Royal has reclaimed its traditional place as the community hub and village pump.
While it is a place for locals to catch up on all of the Harrisville goings on, it is also a bit of nostalgia for drinkers who remember the days of the local country pub, its wide verandas and rustic feel.
Monika said the pub has become a popular visitor stop for car and bike clubs as well as the perfect scenic backdrop for weddings.
“We also get people coming out from Brisbane and camping out back for an overnight stay so they can have a few drinks,” Monika said.
Camping in the shaded and grassed paddock at the back of the pubis free for people who dine at the pub. A creek runs past the hotel, with fishing and kayaking as well.
But flying in on the helicopter means you don’t need to worry about driving.
And Captain Mike knows all the pubs across this region – at least all of those with a patch to land in nearby. He can tailor his ‘pub tours by helicopter’ to include as many or as few as you want to fit into your day.
On the flight back to Ipswich I am not sure whether it is the feeling of relaxation that comes with a beer or the excitement of the conveyance that is the main reason for my smile. The day has shown beer in its many forms. From traditional country pubs serving the beers that we grew up with, to award-winning craft breweries creating a new generation of beers and everything in between. Ipswich has a beer – and an experience – for everyone.