Famous for big chardonnays and even bigger surf, Western Australia's (WA's) Margaret River wine-growing region also packs in a brilliant craft beer scene amid its combination of coastal cliffs, sleepy rural backroads and the endless cobalt vistas of the Indian Ocean. To really experience the area's craft beers and artisan ciders, let someone else do the driving, and join Margaret River Brewery Tours for the day.
Blink twice and you might miss the coastal town of Dunsborough – sleepy year-round except for the summer school holidays – but this northern gateway to the Margaret River region is close to one of WA's best craft breweries. Weave along the winding road from Dunsborough to Naturaliste Bay – keeping an eye out for kangaroos – and combine coastal views with Eagle Bay's approachable and well-crafted beers. Wine and cider are also available at the spectacular tasting room and restaurant, but Eagle Bay's light and fragrant Kolsch is the beer best suited to this relaxed location. If it's approaching twilight, make the short ten-minute drive to see sunset over nearby Sugarloaf Rock.
Back in Dunsborough – no doubt still as laid-back and easygoing as when you diverted to Eagle Bay - The Pour House is the most happening place to be during the evening. Following dinner at the excellent Piari & Co bistro – the intensely seasonal menu is packed with local produce – adjourn to a booth at The Pour House and be surprised by the range of beers on offer. The best of WA brews are joined by regular guest beers from around Australia and New Zealand, and during summer, the rooftop terrace is the place to be for chilled DJ beats and live music.
In an area full of classy vineyard restaurants and tasting rooms, Black Brewing's spectacular lakeside location is one of the best. Sharing the premises with a winery and a gin distillery, Black Brewing's beers are easygoing, sessionable beers well-suited to the menu of Asian-inspired shared plates. WA locals are regular visitors to southeast Asia – Bali is just a short four flight from Perth – and dishes like coconut and basil chicken curry go well with the brewery's zesty and hoppy XPA (Extra Pale Ale). Now you're in rural Wilyabrup, there are a couple more breweries to visit in close proximity.
Negotiate rural byways past grape vines and grazing sheep to the well-established Bootleg Brewery. Dining tables spill out from the rustic tasting room onto a grassy expanse, and on summer weekends it's packed with locals and visitors from Perth - around three hours drive to the north - enjoying live blues and country music. Bootleg have done collaboration beers with industry heavyweights like California's Stone Brewing, and their own top drops include the award-winning Raging Bull Porter and the classy US West Coast-influenced Speakeasy IPA.
If you're travelling with children, continue south around for around 11km to Cheeky Monkey's relaxed location around a compact lake. There's a playground here, with plenty of space for the kids to release stored-up energy, but the focus for grown-ups should be on the brewery's excellent beers. Brews to try include the award-winning West Coast IPA, and occasional seasonal brews like their Silverback Stout. Ciders made from apples and crafted from local pears are also available, both super refreshing on a warm western Australian day. Cheeky Monkey also conveniently sell their beer in cans, so it's a good place to pick up souvenirs for any drinking buddies and beer fans back home.
Housed in a former dairy milking shed, the Beer Farm is a rustic alternative to the area's other more contemporary tasting rooms. Share a rough-sawn table or the faded leather sofas with the laconic locals and their equally laid-back dogs, and see what brews the Beer Farm have concocted using local WA ingredients. Recent additions include mulberries and saltbush, and if you're in the area on a summer weekend, check out the Beer Farm's Facebook page for live music on Saturday afternoons. Gigs usually kick off around 2pm.
There are regular Saturday afternoon live music sessions around 20 minutes south of Metricup, and although Colonial Brewing have now opened a new brewery and taphouse in the eastern Australian state of Victoria, they're still proudly from WA. Sit on the sunny deck and combine a wood-fired pizza with the Brewer's Paddle including tastings of the whole Colonial range. And don't be surprised if on of the chefs come out of the kitchen to feed the brewery's posse of friendly geese. The waddling and honking surprise usually takes place around 5pm, and the feathered ones have been known to sneakily make it all the way into the restaurant on occasion.
The Brewhouse makes a fine conclusion to a western Australian beer adventure. There's also excellent food here. Partner the Wagyu beef burger or the Thai-style duck curry with the bold Red Tail IPA, named after the red-tailed tropicbirds that soar and dart above Sugarloaf Rock from September to May. Relax on the deck and consider what else to incorporate into your Margaret River adventure. How about mountain biking, exploring caves or even learning to surf?