“We’ve been down on the Peninsula darling.”
That is a common response when I ask my customers about their summer break. But then again I do work in a part of Melbourne where Portsea is a much more likely holiday destination than Bonnie Doon.
Circumstance has meant that it was not till a few weeks ago that I had my own chance to visit Melbourne’s playground. The Mornington Peninsula that is, not Bonnie Doon.
And what did I find?
Well in Portsea and Sorrento it was pretty much what I expected. Gorgeous beaches, huge homes, conspicuous wealth and the lunching ladies of South Yarra. Nice, but not my world.
I wasn’t concerned though because I was fairly certain that my needs were catered for on other parts of the peninsula.
I wasn’t wrong.
About half way back up the peninsula is Red Hill.
As well as being home to wineries of the calibre of Foxeys Hangout, Port Phillip Estate and Montalto, and their Burgundian tendencies, it is also where you will find one of Victoria’s most well respected craft breweries, Red Hill Brewery.
RHB was opened by Dave and Karen Golding back in 2004 and they have established a great set up in the beautiful hilly countryside around Red Hill. Being the tourists that we are there was some thought we might have been a bit lost but eventually we found the rustic sign on the side of the road that beckoned us in with the promise of hops, fine ales and real food. What more could you want?
We parked the car, almost in the shade of the hop trellises, and wandered down the hill to the brewery and the cafe nestled into the trees beside it.
Being a Friday there were no probs getting a table and we were soon in the care of some great floor staff. The kind who realise it’s a casual dining situation and are themselves relaxed, perhaps even a bit cheeky, but are always there when you need them and are very knowledgeable about what’s on the plate and in this case, more importantly, what’s in the glass.
Red Hill Brewery has 3 year round brews (a Scotch Ale, a Golden Ale & a Wheat Beer) and then a number of seasonals. Some of these, especially the Imperial Stout and the Christmas Ale, are incredibly popular and sell out quickly. Dave told me that they are overwhelmed by how popular the seasonals can be.
Summer sees the release of a Belgian Blonde. This year, as there wasn’t enough brewed for a general release, it was only available at the brewery and I was keen to try it. Fairly similar to last year although Dave said he does tweak the recipes. For me it was sweet malts, a bit of spiciness and a creamy mouthfeel. It went pretty well with my steak sanga.
Girl O’ Sea went the vego option on the Ploughman’s Lunch, sans a glass of beery goodness due to the imminent arrival, and we finished with a decadent chocolate cheesecake. If only there had been some Imperial Stout around to go with it.
Dave and Karen were gracious hosts and Dave took some time out from a busted water pump to give us a look in the compact brewery. When we visited the brewery’s output was at its limit but some new equipment was on the way that would help increase it a little bit.
Dave didn’t seem too convinced by the argument that it was a happy predicament to be in when you are always selling out. I got the impression that he really values the customers that they have worked hard to get and wants to do the best thing by them.
I’d often wondered why Dave and Karen had decided to grow their own hops on top of the challenges of running a brewery. The answer is that local council zoning regulations required some sort of primary industry on the property before they would give it the go ahead. Dave described growing hops as “challenging”. Anybody keen enough can head down to the brewery in March to take part in the hop picking festivities.
Sounds like a fun day out. Maybe I’ll get a chance to poke around for a lost bottle of Imperial Stout to go with that cheesecake?