Recently we took a trip to Healesville. A town near Melbourne Victoria, well known for it’s animal sanctuary, but also home to a couple of breweries and surrounded by wineries. Unfortunately we were only there for 2 nights, so we couldn’t visit everything, but what we did see, we loved. I didn’t take that many photos (they say a picture paints a thousand words, but this ain’t a photo blog), so please enjoy this photo of me at the White Rabbit Brewery, one of the only photos we took.

We stayed at the Maroondah View Hotel for $80 a night (booked online at www.lastminute.com.au). We ate and drank at Healesville Hotel, White Rabbit Brewery and Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander. Also, we visited the sanctuary, of course

Maroondah View Hotel

I booked this one at short notice after another booking was mixed up. There was other accommodation available, but this one sounded reasonable and was the cheapest by quite a bit. Unfortunately, while it was clean, it was lacking in a few other areas.

The first one we noticed was the promised Wifi wasn’t working. When I asked at reception about it, I didn’t get much more than a “it’s broken”. No real explanation or “it’s broken but there is an internet cafe in town”.  This was annoying as I had planned to Skype my sister for her birthday… but it’s not a huge issue at the end of the day.

The second thing I noticed was their restaurant was “open most nights 6 to 8, check at reception”. There was no menu in the room and no other real information about it.  The idea of something being open 2 hours “most nights” doesn’t fill me with confidence about the quality. We didn’t check at reception.

Finally, the BBQ area and swimming pool were in bad need of a tidy up. The BBQ area was just a couple of BBQs and a plastic table, while the pool looked like it needed a good clean. Both looked kind of shabby and not very inviting.

As I said, it was clean and it was in a really nice location (about 3 kms out of town). With a bit of love it would be a nice place to stay, but it really felt like no one cared.  Next time I’ll spend the extra money and stay somewhere else.

Healesville Hotel

Great place for a beer, a meal and they have accommodation as well. We both had the steak which was excellent and to drink we had Trumer Pils and I had a Hargreaves Hill Hefeweizen, both on tap.

The Trumer Pils is a fairly easy drinking pilsner, but nothing too exciting.

The Hefeweizen on the other hand… that tasted like tomato sauce. I don’t know if it was to do with the glass, the taps, or the beer itself, but it definitely tasted like tomato sauce. You are probably thinking “beer can’t taste like tomato sauce”, but it did.  Earlier in the day I had a bottle of their Pale Ale and that was enjoyable, with a much less tomato sauce kick.

The Hargreaves Brewery is  nearby at Yarra Glen, and also has a restaurant.

White Rabbit Brewery

Opening in 2009, White Rabbit beer instantly grabbed my attention. The packaging is quite different to most other beers and it’s rare to see a company selling only one type of beer, when that beer is a dark ale. Particularly in Australia where darker beers are generally not favoured due to the climate. They also now sell a White Ale.

The Dark Ale from the bottle is very easy drinking. Not as strong in flavour as a typical dark ale. At the brewery however, it’s a different story. The beer is extremely hoppy (I’ve seen NZ Sav Blanc described as smelling like cat pee, so by the same token I would describe this beer as smelling like “wet dog”, but in a nice way), very complex and quite creamy.

The White Ale didn’t taste too much different from the bottled version, but that’s not a bad thing, as I really enjoy the White Ale and it’s surprisingly tastier in both forms than the Dark. When visiting the brewery you can taste the mixture of herbs and fruit they use to give White Ale it’s flavour. Don’t though… it wasn’t very tasty to eat. Just get a beer and taste them that way.

The brewery itself is just set back from the main road. You can taste their two beers and the Pipsqueak Cider, sit and have a drink surrounded by the vats, or buy some to take home. They also sell Little Creatures beer, which are also worth checking out if you haven’t already (both breweries are owned by the same parent company; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_World_Beverages).

The brewery is open 11am-5pm on weekdays and every day through summer, and is definitely worth a visit.

Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander

Just in front of White Rabbit, I’m not entirely sure if it’s called Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander, or one of the two. I guess it’s not important though.

This place does everything. It’s a winery/cellar door and bistro/pizzeria, which also roasts coffee, has a bakery and there’s a cheese room as well. The pizzas we had were thin crusted and delicious… so delicious we had the leftovers for breakfast the next day. As well as that, bought some sourdough bread which was just as delicious as the pizza.

I’m not a huge wine drinker (which is why this isn’t a wine blog) but with the pizza I enjoyed a couple of glasses of the Innocent Bystander Pinot Grigio (2009). Their wine list was extensive and not limited to their own wines, and the beer list boasts some international favourites (such as Alhambra and Budweiser Budvar), as well as White Rabbit on tap and another local brew, Buckley’s, by the bottle.

It’s a pretty exciting place if you like food and drink and I’ll definitely stop by next time I’m in the area for more baked goods and assorted alcohols.

Healesville Verdict

I really enjoyed our all too brief visit to Healesville , and  would love to visit again to check out the Coldstream brewery (car trouble derailed those plans), as well as the Buckley’s and Hargreaves breweries.  The Sanctuary is also worth another visit as it’s very relaxing to spend a day wandering round amongst the animals (Protip: take some meat to BBQ at the sanctuary for lunch, as they have a few BBQ areas dotted around the grounds).

I rate Healesville; 5 smoking crabs

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