GABS is back, baby!

Time to get your paddle out. Not that kind of paddle, we’re talking about a beer paddle. Specifically, one at the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular. A much-loved fixtured for ale enthusiasts since 2011, it is one of the best ways to enjoy the craft beer you love and discover some new favourites. With about 120 ish unique beers, you won’t be able to get through all over them (don’t take that as a challenge – it won’t end well) but keep an eye out for Banana Blueberry Pancake Smoothie beer, Sushi Beer, and possibly one for Eminem fans – Spaghetti Beer.

The world’s oldest brewery, Weihenstephan, will be out in Australia joining in on the fun and showcasing why their brewery has been at the top of the beer game for over 1,000 years. You can even enter a competition while there that could see you winning a trip to Weihenstephan, Germany to check out one of the most renowned beer festivals.

It’s not just beer that you can enjoy at GABS, there’s also cocktails, wine, whiskey and plenty of food bars at the three locations. With all this and over 500 beer taps under one roof, it’s no wonder that GABS is globally acclaimed as one of the best beer festivals in the world.

You might even be able to take part in a new World Record attempt in Melbourne with Stomping Ground Brewery looking to have the most amount of people in a beer tasting. Barcelona currently has the title, so if you want to be part of the 1,400 beer-strong crew, make sure you get a ticket.

All ticket purchasers will receive a GABS Beer Safaris booklet with over $250 in post GABS beer offers. T&Cs apply.

We’re giving away some tickets to subscribers, so make sure you’re signed up to be in the running. Must be subscribed to get lost by Sunday 27th May 11:59pm AEST

A Late Great Night in Nashville

Wanna know about prohibition in the States? Just go to Tennessee, they’ll tell you all about it. Probably because whisky is their thing and that was taken away from them for a long time. We can only imagine the celebrations back in 1933 when prohibition was repealed for the state. If you believe that every cloud has a silver lining, then for prohibition it would be speakeasies. These fun, hidden gems provided an outlet for those keen on a drop or five, all the while (hopefully) going undetected from the authorities.

Nashville is home to many speakeasies however one that oozes history and cool all at once is The Late Great. Located by a secret door at the back of Virgin Hotels Nashville, this cosy club is rich in Nashville history – starting with its designer Hannah Crowell, granddaughter of Johnny Cash. Music aficionados would know that Hannah’s musical roots also run from her parents, Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell.

Tasked with creating a space that felt as intimate as someone’s living room, Hannah drew inspiration from her own family and the wider music scene of Nashville to pay homage to some of the greats like her grandfather as well as Dolly Parton and Hank Williams to name a few. Named after Townes Van Zandt’s 1972 album, The Late Great serves as a nod to the ghosts of Nashville.

The venue features Carter and Cash family photos – including a stunning portrait of Johhny Cash, which was the last photograph ever taken of him. Throw in the eclectic range art and superbly-chosen interiors by Hannah Crowell, it is easy to see why The Late Great has been the talk of the town since opening in 2021.

At the bar you can choose from a range of carefully crafted cocktails that are not only inspired by country’s biggest stars but have ingredients to match the mood of the songs they’re named after. Enjoy the Patsy Cline inspired ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’ with rum, amaretto, coffee, cinnamon and white chocolate. If you want to stick to what you know, go the ‘Seasonal Old Fashioned’ with Tennessee whiskey, apple butter and bitters. Delish. When you’re ready for bed, think of Hank Locklin and order ‘Send Me the Pillow You Dream On’ with anejo tequila, appalachian nocino, toasted coconut, walnut, chocolate and with some popcorn to nibble on. Perfect late-night snack.

When you’re in Nashville next, be sure to make a reservation. And even though this will feel like the cosiest living room you’ve ever been in, make sure you dress to impress.

Flinders Street’s tallest bar

A brand new rooftop bar in the city of rooftop bars – and this one looks like it’s a beauty.

Soaring 68 metres above Melbourne’s iconic Flinders Street, Fleet will be the street’s newest, and easily it’s tallest bar when it opens in April.

The bar is set on the rooftop of The Vibe hotel, and looks like it will be an absolute vibe, if early renders are to be believed.

The bar looks modern luxury to us; one of those places that is a safe bet when you’re looking to go somewhere trendy and upmarket, with a nice view. We reckon lots of hot people will go there.

As its seafaring name would suggest, Fleet will feature a nautical themed cocktail list, plus local and international beers and wines. Negronis, spritzes, martinis and fun nostalgic drinks – like the seafarers Hurricane made of gold rum, navy rum, pineapple, orange, lime, and passionfruit dominate the menu.

And for something a little different in the CBD, a barrel-aged Tequilla Manhattan with barrel aged reposado tequila, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, angostura bitters and maraschino, will warm the cockles on a cool Melbourne day (plenty of those). Local producers will feature heavily on the food menu, which will mostly be a snack sort of operation.

The bar opens in April – we’d be fleet of foot in getting here when it does.

Caretakers Cottage

Can I get an AMEN!?

Sitting adjacent to the hulking, gothic-style, protestant supporting Wesley Church on the fringes of Melbourne’s CBD is a charming little cottage. And inside that charming little cottage is an even charming-er little bar called Caretaker’s Cottage.

Originally the living abode of the church grounds caretaker, it has been there since 1858, but likely never served a Penicillin Milk punch (Johnny Walker black label, fresh ginger, lemon, salted bush honey, camomile, Talisker 10 year float) nor had cracking Guinness on tap, nor had The Avalanches spinning on vinyl.

The cottage was probably lit by candlelight and some stage, but it probably did not illuminate trendy 20, 30 and 40 somethings on date night whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears, which this intimate space seems to be perfect for.

It’s more than that though; outside, perched slightly above the rest of the Melbourne CBD, you are sandwiched between skyscrapers and elegant 19th century architecture –a contrast of new and old. It’s a space conducive to conversation.

In its first year of trading, Caretakers placed number 60 on the longlist of the Top 50 World’s Best Bars list, the only Australian bar to make the cut. This week, they went one better and placed 23rd in the 2023 list. Onwards and upwards.

Click here to see the rest of the World’s Best Bars.

Level 8 Los Angeles

We separate travel experiences by category on this website: do, stay, drink and eat. Level 8 probably ticks all four of these boxes, and then some.

It’s the new behemoth that has transformed downtown Los Angeles.

 

It’s sprawled across 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space on level 8 of the brand new Moxy Hotel and AC Downtown Hotel, right across the road from where the Lakers play.

It’s a labyrinth that includes a Japanese restaurant, a South American restaurant, burlesque, an opulent poolside party area that looks like a modern Great Gatsby scene, and a luxurious Mexican church-themed bar that includes a confessional booth, which you’ll surely need to visit more than once. There’s even a 24 hour supermarket downstairs.

The cool thing about Level 8 is that it’s everything you need in one – a night out from dinner to a raucous party, to a filthy club boogie and right through to kick ons – without ever leaving the building.

Shelter Brewing Co.

Beers in the west have sure come a long way from the humble bush chook.

Busselton’s locally owned Shelter Brewing Co is a recent addition to the thriving West Australian beer scene, joining stalwarts like Little Creatures, Colonial and Bootleg from that part of the world.

As well as producing an array of epic froffies, Shelter run an insightful brewery tour that also happens to be pretty laidback – like everything else here.

Seagulls, the smell of salt and probably a fair amount of sun are likely to be what greets you at Shelter, and it’s difficult to escape the feeling of that you’re in a Tim Winton novel. The brewery itself is humungous, with an arched roof that is typical of the architecture in this part of the world. Out the front is green lawn that leads up to the beach, and the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere.

Inside, the brewery has a capacity of about 800, and has bands playing occasionally. Tom from Shelter takes us around and tells us that 80% of the building’s power comes from the sun, the same ample sun that shines in through the gigantic wall to floor windows in the north-facing building, creating the pleasant aesthetic of drinking a beer in the sun whether you’re sitting inside or outside. He explains Shelter’s philosophy when it comes to brewing beer, which is typically laidback; “we brew beers that we want to drink”.

We walk along a platform, past a row of truly enormous vats while Tom explains the brewing process, made easier to understand with brewers brewing away right in front of us. Magic right there in front of our eyes.

There’s seven beers on tap – ignore any misgivings you might have when you hear the name of the brand-new and limited edition Beetroot Stout. It’s a smoky type of operation that is (thankfully) more stout than beetroot, and it’s delicious. The Indian Pale Ale is great too.

Shelter generally brews seven core beers, and you can get them from from bars and bottle shops around Western Australia, and available to order online for the rest of Australia.

YONA Phuket

“There’s nothing to do in Thailand,” said no-one ever, a rhetoric which continues with Yona Beach Club, the brand-new tropical party paradise floating aimlessly just off the coast of Patong Beach, Phuket.

We saw another article describe this place as a floating oasis, which doesn’t make any sense. How can an oasis, as a body of water, be floating? Yona too, is not a body of water, but a tiny, stunning man-made island. But we know what they mean.

The club’s two palm-tree lined levels offer a restaurant, several bars, a DJ booth, a bunch of cabanas to lounge about and two swimming pools to do the same. There’s kayaking and paddle boarding you can do if you feel like it, and it’s open late – from 11am until 2am every single day. This is probably the ultimate place to have a pool party….got a birthday coming up?

This is one of the most Insta-worthy bars/clubs we’ve seen in a while, and we can see it absolutely exploding as a result.

If chomping mushrooms at full-moon with a bunch of raving youngsters isn’t you, or you’re looking for something a little more upmarket, in the words of Talking Heads, this might be the place.

Grand Designs in Portarlington

The 1888-built Portarlington Grand Hotel has had a few renovations over the years, but none as big as this.

A $10 million refurbishment has turned the local watering hole of this once sleepy town on the Bellarine into an absolute coastal gem.

There’s a few different parts to get your head around. First, the Atrium; a light-filled, open-air space with nautical vibes that don’t overdo it.

Out the back of the Atrium there’s the Lawn, a breezy, green area with picnic tables and umbrellas. You can imagine an absolute vibe kicking up here in the summer months.

Heading indoors there’s the front bar; with wooden floorboards and booths – a bloody good spot to catch some mates. And further down through the classy walkway is the bistro, which is packed out most weekends for lunch and dinner.

The pub’s food offering makes heavy use of this coast’s excellent seafood. Portarlington mussels – the subject of a truly riotous mussel festival every January – are especially delicious here in the seafood-and-chorizo risotto. You’ll also find pub staples such as panko-crumbed schnitties, the classic chicken parma, whiting with chips and more. Locals supply the grog, with esteemed wineries Jack Rabbit and Terindah Estate, plus Flying Brick Cider Co, The Whiskery and more.

Portarlington is only an hour from Melbourne by ferry, which cuts across Port Phillip Bay and is actually shorter than driving, making it the perfect weekend getaway location. There’s 18 stunning rooms upstairs from the pub main, six featuring balconies looking out over the town and the water.

There’s been plenty of pub and restaurant openings over the last few years, and s well as being on the water and a destination in its own right, Portarlington is in close proximity to surf coast hotspots like Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads.

Get down there…before everyone else does.

Epic Recycled Brewery

Kamikatsu in southern Japan has set its sights on being a ‘zero-waste town’, and judging from their brewery, they’re well on their way.

The building that houses Rise and Win Brewery is made from mostly recycled materials, first and foremost the epic patchwork of windows at the front of the building, all nabbed from abandoned houses in the area and given a new lease of life.

The brewery itself isn’t too shabby either; the taproom featuring a delicious, rotating selection of kegs.

The beer itself follows the lead of the rest of the town, composting the by-products of the brewing and using wheat grown nearby for beer that is truly local.

There’s everything from a lighter summer ale through to a stout, and a tasty looking BBQ-inspired menu.

The rogue whisky maker in central Tasmania

Peter Bignell takes waste reduction to a new level.

About 13 years ago the sixth generation sheep farmer in Tasmania’s central highlands, came into possession of an excess of rye. To get rid of it, he decided to start making his own whisky. And so Belgrove Whisky was born.

Since then, his whisky has gone from strength to strength, from winning national awards to being served in high-end Tasmanian restaurants like Peacock and Jones (where he recommends his white rye whisky be paired with the wallaby tartare). He’s had Gordon Ramsey out to his property, and had him unceremoniously shovelling sheep shit for the ‘Wholly Shit Whisky’ blend.

Peter and his Iraqi offsider Maan (who gave up a PhD to brew the good stuff for a living) do not do things the traditional way. An old washing machine is used in the mixing process. Peter makes his own stills. He places a reliance on smell and taste where others would use tools and computers.

“We’re here to make flavours, not alcohol, and that’s very important,” he says.

“We do everything by hand, so no two of our blends are ever exactly the same.

“And yes, we could probably get a bunch of computers together that regulate everything and make some really good whisky out of it. But gee that would be boring, wouldn’t it?”

Tours and tastings of the Belgrove’s distillery is not the clean-cut, streamlined beauty of the bigger operations, and therein lies the beauty. The distillery is at Peter’s house. Tastings take place in his shed, rather than a glitzy tasting room. Instead of a spittoon or a sink, any leftover whisky from each sample should be tipped onto the floor.

The Belgrove White Rye whisky is the one featured on Peacock and Jones’ menu, and on the day get lost visit, the aptly named Bogan Burnout is a favourite. The whiskey is emblematic of a commitment from Peacock and Jones, and indeed the Tasmanian culinary scene in general, to sourcing local produce wherever possible.

Best of all, the man himself doesn’t seem to give a shit.

“Things don’t always work out. For instance, I tried to make a whisky that no one likes,” Peter says.

“I failed miserably. Everyone seems to like Bogan Burnout.”

Belgrove Whiskey features on a brand new menu at Peacock and Jones, based within Hobart’s Henry Jones Art Hotel.