Sitting just north of Melbourne in the appropriately woody Woodend, the Holgate Brewhouse (and the beer contained within) is an unexpected pleasure.
Presided over by the house-proud Paul and Natasha Holgate – whose name as well as the bull's head presiding over their labels can be traced back to a coat of arms in Medieval England – the converted hotel is a clear labour of love, where food, beer, ambience, beer and accommodation (if you want to drink lots of beer) exist all of a part.
But obviously, we're here for the beer and the Holgate selection is one that manages to be both surprising and familiar at the same time. The regular range spins from a straightforward German pilsner (the Pilsner) to an American pale (the Mt. Macedon) and a chocolate porter (the Temptress), while seasonal variants come in white ale, north English brown and Indian pale varieties, amongst others. But it's the limited releases where things really kick up a notch. Christmas ales, ancient spiced beers (the fantastically named Gruit Expectations) and mocha porters reign, but if you're really looking for a unique experience, it's hard to go past Beelzebub's Jewels, a 12 per cent Belgian quadrupel beer in a 750ml bottle that will set you back $70. It's pricey, sure, but it's also like no other beer you've ever tasted – ballsy, grape-tinged and a perfect stand-in for a bottle of champagne.