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Gold Coast's Top Drops

By: Joanna Hall
Photography by Joanna Hall

The Gold Coast has earned a deserved reputation as a food and wine lover’s paradise, but as Joanna Hall discovers, visitors to this world-famous stretch of Queensland can also imbibe in some tasty brews of a different kind.

Visitors who head for the Gold Coast are undoubtedly a spoiled lot. For one, it’s a holiday destination which has a near perfect climate, bringing new meaning the oft-used phase “endless summer”. But there’s also a mind-boggling choice of activities to keep the entire family on the go.

One popular pastime which has evolved in recent years is taking time away from the beach to visit the region’s growing band of top class wineries and vineyards. But today they’re not the only places in which to try something a bit different of an alcoholic nature. From locally produced niche spirits to boutique beers, the Gold Coast now has another drawcard to lure visitors.


Head for the hills


Top of the list is Tamborine Mountain Distillery, which operates from a quaint Tudor-style chalet atop Mount Tamborine. Although it’s been producing commercial brews since 1997, the spotlight has fallen on this privately owned distillery in recent years thanks to a growing menu of highly-rated schnapps, vodkas, brandies and liqueurs, which have won a swag of more than 80 international awards.

As visitors quickly discover, this is very much a family-run business. Michael Ward, who’s easy to spot with his big grey beard and colourful shirts, heads up a small but dedicated team including his wife, Alla, and daughter, Sonya.

The distillery produces spirits in the traditional way, using copper pot stills and single batch processing, and they embrace the flavours and fruits of the Australian bush: from locally grown apples and grapes, to lemon myrtle leaf and native forest peppermint.

The shop is the place to taste, to chat about the latest brews, and to view the distillery’s wares; an impressive display of beautifully styled, bottles imported from Italy and France, and hand painted by Alla and her team. House specialities include a lemon myrtle liqueur, an Australian herbal liqueur and Moulin Rooz Absinthe, which, according to Michael, are a first for Australia.

Traditional Brewing


Back on the coast, another new player in the world of beer is located just inland from the famous surf breaks at Burleigh Heads. Burleigh Brewing Company, also known as the BBC, is the brainchild of husband and wife duo, Peta and Brennan Fielding. Their aim was to create a range of beers that deliver a true local flavour.

According to Brennan, an award-winning master brewer of 20 years who’s also a native of Hawaii, the BBC follows a traditional approach to brewing. To those of us not in the know, this means without the use of such things as fermentation shortcuts or foaming agents.

Open since 2007, the brewery produces five distinctive beers. The most popular brew is Duke Premium Lager, a filtered lager emulating the classic flavours of continental European beers but with a refreshing twist. Also on the menu, however, are Duke Pale Ale, Duke Premium Mid-Strength Lager, and a delicious limited release Burleigh Hefeweizen.

But the latest addition, beer number five, is BIGHEAD which is Australia’s first no-carb beer. A full-flavoured, full-strength lager, it is 100 per cent natural and has a smooth, clean taste; and with no carbs, and only 88 calories a bottle, it has a reduced impact on your waistline.

The big boys


For sheer scale, however, it’s hard to match the brewery tour operated by the Carlton Brewhouse in Yatala, just 35 minutes north of Surfers Paradise. This one-hour tour takes visitors on a journey through one of Australia’s largest breweries, demonstrating how some of Australia’s most popular mass market beers - including Fosters, VB, Carlton Draft and Pure Blonde - are created.

If the scientific process of beer making doesn’t enthrall you, the up-close-and-personal views of the production process are worth the time. In particular, they include the high speed bottling line, where literally thousands of beer bottles hurtle along on conveyor belts to be filled, capped or have labels attached.

After the tour, visitors are treated to a complimentary tasting at the Brewhouse. Boasting a menu of contemporary mod-Oz food, it’s also a great place for a spot of lunch either at the bar, or in the beer garden, and for devotees there’s a shop where you can purchase all manner of branded beer paraphernalia, from caps and stubby coolers, to camping equipment.


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Tamborine Mountain Distillery: 87-89 Beacon Road, North Tamborine, +61 (0)7 5545 3452, www.tamborinemountaindistillery.com. Open from 10 am to 3 pm Monday to Saturday, and Sunday by appointment.

Burleigh Brewing Company: 17A Ern Harley Drive, Burleigh Heads, +61 (0)7 5593 4440, www.burleighbrewing.com.au. Tasting sessions are held at 1pm every Saturday, and the bar is open to the public from 2 pm to 6 pm every Saturday. The first Friday of every month is barbecue and beer night, where money raised is donated to a charity.

Carlton Brewhouse: Cuthbert Drive, Yatala, +61 (0)7 3826 5858, www.carltonbrewhouse.com.au.Tours operate at 10 am, noon and 2 pm from Monday to Friday, and at noon and 2 pm on Saturdays, costing $20 for adults. Alternatively, you can take the 2 pm tour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for $55 adults, which also includes a transfer from the Gold Coast and lunch.


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