Immersing yourself in the countryside is great, right? There’s nothing quite like recharging on a farm that just so happens to be one of the country’s top producers of cider, or chowing down on an epic pork roast in a country pub that has more open fires than phone signal hot-spots.
With some guidance from Visit Yarra Valley (ie. a 4x4 and a driver who could give us the down-low on the best cider, beer and food to be found in the area), we took to the Yarra Valley, an hour outside of Melbourne’s suburbs, to discover that there’s more to the region than wineries. Yes, really. Keen to discover the hidden gems you need to know about? Check out these top finds—100% worth the trip.
Sip on Four Pillars Gin…Oh, and Gin Marmalade!
Gin holds a very special place in my heart, Listers, and nobody’s doing anything quite as interesting with it as the guys at Four Pillars Gin. Young guns within the gin world, head distiller Cameron Mackenzie and his crew started out wanting to make a tonic for mixing the perfect G&T, but turned their hand to making the spirit itself—a much better idea, in our opinion!—in their stunning Warrandyte distillery. Taking a somewhat ‘Breaking Bad’ approach, they bought themselves a German-made still and set up camp next to Rob Dolan Wines in the Yarra Valley, where they concocted for over three years before releasing anything. What they do release is absolutely incredible—chardonnay finished gins, shiraz aged gins, which come out blood-red, and an Aussie twist (think finger limes, lemon myrtle, Tasmanian pepper…) on the regular stuff too.
Oh, and they produce a Four Pillars marmalade thanks to the jam gurus at Cunliffe & Waters, which is made from oranges used during the gin-making process. Gin-ius! Get visiting them asap, or lock in a trip in a couple of months’ time, when Four Pillars Gin will move to a snazzy new Healesville site.
Drink all the Cider (and Beer) at Napoleone Brewery & Cider House
Cider lovers, this one’s for you. You’ve probably heard of Napoleone due to the Yarra Valley brewery’s legacy in making some of the best cider in the region…Trust us, it’s well deserved! Having grown apples for over three generations, the Napoleone family now produce wine, cider and beer, all on site at their Coldstream premises. The ciders you’ll find here range from traditional pear and apple sippers to more intense ‘Methode Traditionalle’ bevvys that are aged in corked bottles (which I like to think of as the champagne of the cider world, if you will). The epic bar and cellar door is situated right next to Meletos cafe and guesthouse too, making it the perfect lunchtime stop-off for a paddle of tasters and some mouth-watering food.
But wait! For the past year, the Napoleone team have been throwing their hand to the world of beer and, like the ciders, the results are INCREDIBLE. The American Pale Ale is easy-drinking and delicious or, if you’re looking for a heavy-hitter, the Breakneck Porter is a must-try. Get sipping in the Valley, people! (Psst: We hear they’re in talks about a booze and food sleep-over too—watch this space).
Try some Legit Country Cider at St Ronan’s Cider
Okay, so you sipped Napoleone and you liked it, but your cider-seasoned tastebuds demand something a little stronger. Get yourself to St Ronan’s Cider in Badger Creek, who specialise in the crème de la crème of apple and pear ciders in the Yarra Valley. Focusing on traditional techniques, owners Troy Jones and Eric Driessen are experts on the ins and outs of everyone’s favourite fruit beverage, which they’ll happily talk you through over a cheeseboard (ultimate combo, FYI). The hilltop bar and tasting house is a real treat at sundown too—we’ve never seen a sunset so beautiful! Then again, maybe that had something to do with all that cider…
Enjoy Epic Beers and Roasts at Hargreaves Hill Brewing Co.
Listers, if you’re a pork roast person—and I say this as someone who often considers the question, “Would I trade my right arm for a pork roast?” and always answers, “Um, right now, yes” (hey, I’m left-handed)—you have GOT to try the pork roast at this place. Hargreaves Hill’s Yarra Glen pub is, hands down, one of the best food and beer experiences we’ve had this year.
Run by reformed classical pianist Simon Walkenhorst, who started his brewing adventure in a shed at the bottom of his garden, Hargreaves Hill turns out some of the best craft beer in Melbourne from its Yarra Valley brewery. While you’ll find Hargreaves brews at some of Melbourne’s top pubs, there’s nothing quite like sipping it in the hills where it’s made. The pale ale and bitter are both classics, but nothing beats sampling limited release specials beside an open fire. Oh, and they do an incredible chocolate and stout pudding too. We basically never wanted to leave.
Check out Causes & Cures Vermouth at Innocent Bystander
I know what you’re thinking…What the hell even is vermouth?! Well, it’s a fortified, botanical-infused wine, and as it would happen, it’s totally delicious! Local producer Causes & Cures, the brainchild of Steve Flamsteed, is turning out some of the most tasty and beautifully bottled drinks we’ve encountered in a long time. Stocked at Healesville institution Innocent Bystander, which combines a restaurant with a deli, cheese shop, bakery and luxe bottle shop, the semi-dry white vermouth and sweet red vermouth fuse Yarra Valley wines with local ingredients to make something truly unique, which can be sipped straight or mixed in a cocktail.
Know a spirit snob or a wine buff who’s always hard to please? Take them here, or pick them up a bottle of the incredible Causes & Cures vermouth for their next birthday. You’re welcome.
...But wait! You could win the ultimate weekend for two in the Yarra Valley and spectacular Dandenong Ranges.
We’ll chopper you from Melbourne CBD to the Yarra Valley, where you’ll be staying for two nights in private luxury, enjoying sunrise from a balloon then exploring wineries, farm gates and breweries before heading back in the chopper. The competition closes on 31 July 2015 and is open to Australian residents 21 years and over. Click here to enter.
Eager to visit the Yarra Valley sometime soon? Check out Visit Yarra Valley for maps, deals on accommodation, and the latest events info, then go get exploring!
Editor's Note: This article is proudly sponsored by Visit Yarra Valley and endorsed by The Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.
Image credits: Michelle Jarni for The Urban List