Gippsland’s little gem

If you’re motoring through Gippsland, Victoria, chances are you’ll be on the Princes Highway – just a skip over the mountains from Cooma via the Snowy Mountains and Cann River Highways.

Continue west past Lakes Entrance and Bairnsdale and it’s not far to Morwell – and from there it’s only half an hour south, on the Strzlecki Highway, to the village of Mirboo North, home of the Grand Ridge Brewery.

This is one of our great and enduring microbreweries, founded as the Strzlecki Brewery before taking on its current name after Eric Walters and others bought it from the receivers in the late eighties.

Beginning with a high hops Pilsen style, Eric and the team developed, over time, a wide spectrum of beer style from low alcohol lager to11-per-cent alcohol ales, modelled on Belgian classics.

While you can buy bottled versions of the beer, it’s at its best from tap in the brewery bar (open 7 days) or attached restaurant (lunch and dinner Thursday to Monday).

On our flying visit we opted for the ‘paddle’ – a timber serving tray with inset shot glasses of six of the key brews: Natural Blonde, Mighty Light, Brewers Pilsner, Gippsland Gold, Moonlight and Black and Tan – a classy line up to be reviewed over the next few weeks.

Grand Ridge Brewery Natural Blonde Wheat Beer 330ml $3.50
Grand Ridge natural blonde has an advantage over the original Belgian coriander and orange-peel infused wheat ales. Being locally brewed it’s fresher – especially from tap at the Gippsland brewery. It’s a delight — from the pale lemon, cloudy colour to the stiff, fine head to the creamy texture to the bracing, lemon-fresh tang.

Grand Ridge Brewery Moonlight Midstrength Ale 330ml $3.50
With beer flavour tends to rise and fall with the alcohol content, making it difficult to brew tasty low and mid-strength products. This English nut-brown ale style meets the challenge with its plush toffee and malt flavours, creamy, soft mid palate and beautifully judged Golding hops that provide subtle flavour and a balancing bitterness.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008