A mountain pub with microbrewery, roaring fire and gastro-menu? Sounds like this amazing dream we once had
The Melburnian siblings behind the Forrest Brewing Company have completely reconfigured their lives to create a gastropub with onsite microbrewery in this Otways Hinterland township.
Sharon Bradshaw, who in a former incarnation was an education publisher in Preston, now runs the business side of things, while brother Matt is head brewer. While he learned the trade as a home brewer, he didn’t jump from 20L to 600L batches overnight. He got himself a degree in brewing and clocked up some hours helping out Red Duck in Ballarat.
Matt bought the pub 12 years ago when it was derelict and the siblings renovated on a budget, with a bit of help from a tourism grant. Much of the building was refashioned using demolition materials; the floorboards, for example, now make up the bar. The preserved fireplace was once part of a double chimney, with the other side being in a miner’s cottage next door.
The brewery finally opened in November 2010 and aims to be both a retreat for locals and a pit stop for mountain bikers – of which there are many. When logging stopped in the area, the local government built mountain bike trails to keep the money trickling in and there are plenty of biking events on the Forrest calendar, such as April’s Otway Odyssey.
The end result is an airy bar with a generous outdoor area and an inside eatery that manages to remain cosy. The brewery machinations are visible through a large window in the dining area and Matt follows a three-day brew cycle each week, with silvertop, pale ale, Irish red ale, stout and Pobblebonk currently on the menu. FBC distribute their craft beers to specialty bars in Melbourne, Geelong and Port Campbell. Pobblebonk – using Otways strawberry colver honey – is a particular favourite. The idea of the range is that it appeals to beer nerds but is accessible enough for anyone dropping into the brewery for a spot of liquid refreshment.
On the food menu you’ll find hearty country fare that’s beautifully presented. Fish and chips come artfully wrapped in newspaper; slow-roasted beef brisket sits atop mash and beans and comes with a subtle red capsicum sauce. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner Fridays to Sundays, and lunch and dinner on Thursdays. Thursday night is 'local's curry night', with curry and a pot just $20.
The events the siblings put on are aimed at both locals and tourists. The ‘Christmas in July’ evening, complete with decorations and a festive feast, is aimed largely at the former, as will be the Thursday night beer and barbecue sessions set to start in summer 2013/2014. Then there are the occasional gigs timed for those dropping into Forrest as a weekend destination – Time Out has swung by before in summer and caught Melbourne duo Sweet Jean in action.
The Bradshaws took a punt setting up business in a region not particularly known for treechanges, but Matt’s long association with the area has meant there has been no second-guessing when it comes to the needs of the local community.
Forrest Brewing Company is closed the last two weeks of August 2013. Visit the Great Ocean Road over a long weekend and experience Monday's the New Sunday.