His, Hers, Ours

Kevtoberfest #7 Mudgee

In the last few years Mudgee, in central New South Wales, has gained a well-deserved reputation as a food and wine lover’s paradise. With more than 40 wineries and many local food producers, it’s easy to fill both the larder and the cellar in Mudgee. With so many choices we could have eaten our way around Mudgee all day, but with Kevtoberfest looming, we had just three destinations in mind.

At Baker Williams Distillery, delicious liqueurs have been crafted on site since 2012. The distiller was generous with his samples and we tasted Limoncello and Orancello, fresh and zingy and flavoured by locally grown citrus. My purchase though was a bottle of the distillery’s signature creation – Butterscotch Schnapps, smooth, sweet and irresistible.

Honey in 25 different varieties is produced at Mudgee Honey Haven. Ironbark, stringy bark and yellow box honey have been flavoured by the blooms of the surrounding bushland, while chilli, lavender and strawberry honey have added ingredients. We sampled many of the products before selecting two – creamed cinnamon honey and ginger honey. But the greatest temptation was the mead, a brew of fermented honey with its origins in ancient Greece. Glen chose the Spiced Mead while my pick was the Honey Mead. (I was so busy tasting honey I forgot to take photos.) 

Our afternoon ended at the Mudgee Brewing Company, located in town in a 100 year old wool store once owned by the neighbouring Anglican Church.

While Glen ordered a sampler of eight different beers, I opted for a warming hot chocolate, conveniently accompanied by a generous slice of upside down pineapple coconut cake.

Glen’s brewery purchases included a bottle of the famous Mudgee Mud. Originally made by the Federal Brewery, the label “mud” comes from a time when poor quality water was used and there was more sediment than beer in the bottles! Luckily, today’s Mudgee Mud doesn’t need straining.

While we put our jars of honey in the pantry to have on toast for breakfast, the schnapps, mead and beer were added to the Kevtoberfest stash, for sharing on the party weekend.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 5/Craft shops 1


One Bushranger, Four Beers and Lots of Dust

Kevtoberfest #4 Uralla

Our first visit to Uralla, in 2009, coincided with a giant dust storm which blanketed more than 500,000 square kilometres of eastern Australia in a thick brown haze. Blown across from the inland deserts of New South Wales and South Australia, the cloud of dust spread until it measured 3,450 kilometres in length.

We were following the exploits of the notorious bushranger Fred Ward aka Captain Thunderbolt. He roamed the district in the 1860s, holding up travellers and robbing homesteads, hotels and inns until, in 1870, he was shot and killed by a local policeman.

South of Uralla on the New England Highway is a large cluster of granite boulders known as Thunderbolt’s Rock. From this vantage point he would ambush passing stagecoaches, although if the dust storm had happened in his time he wouldn’t have seen them coming.

In the spirit of Kevtoberfest, the theme of our second, dust-free visit to Uralla was beer, not bushrangers. The New England Brewing Company, located in a converted woolstore on the main street, has been brewing preservative free, unfiltered beers since 2013.

The first time we stopped in Uralla a cold wind was blowing, and this time it wasn’t much warmer. Inside the brewery, the glowing fire in the fireplace was a welcome sight. On Glen’s tasting paddle were the four main brews of the New England brand.

His verdict – a tasty selection, ranging from light and refreshing to smooth and dark. One bottle of each was added to the Kevtoberfest stash, a more pleasant souvenir of Uralla than the film of dust we acquired last time.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 2/Craft shops 1

Read more about the Eastern Australian dust storm of 2009 here

First Stop – Stanthorpe

Kevtoberfest Road Trip #2

With a brewery and a distillery, wineries and gourmet food shops, Stanthorpe was always going to be the first stop on our journey to Victoria. We didn’t have to go far; the small town at the centre of Queensland’s Granite Belt region is just 144 kilometres south on the New England Highway. We’ve been to Stanthorpe before, so there was no sightseeing on our itinerary. This time we were on a mission.

Our first destination was Vincenzo’s at the Big Apple, filled to the rafters with gourmet delights both local and international in origin. We stocked up on our favourite fresh cheeses and sourdough baguettes still warm from the oven.

At Castle Glen Australia, the shelves are lined with delicious liqueurs in specially crafted bottles. Musk Stick, Dark Choc Mint and Dark Choc Musk liqueurs found their way to the caravan.

The Granite Belt Brewery serves more than just beer. Using locally sourced ingredients, the restaurant chef creates delectable dishes to complement the craft beers on tap. We shared an entrée of duck and pork spring rolls before our main meals of twice-cooked pork belly slow braised in Stanthorpe apple ale, roasted Brussel sprouts, apple compote and ale jus. I enjoyed a refreshing apple ale while Glen sampled four beers on a tasting paddle. To begin the Kevtoberfest collection, Glen bought a bottle each of Granite Pils, Irish Red Ale and Pozieres Porter. They were carefully packed away to be shared later with Kevin.

We even did some practice for Kevtoberfest!

With the pantry stocked and the beer collection started, we continued south into New South Wales.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 1/Craft shops 0

Setting the Scene

Kevtoberfest Road Trip #1

When Mr ET aka Glen began his Prep Year at school in 1963, he met Kevin. Glen and Kevin had a lot in common: they both had seven sisters and one younger brother, they lived not far from each other and they were fervent supporters of Essendon Football Club. It wasn’t long before they were best friends. When they grew older, the boys spent their weekends and holidays exploring far and wide on their bikes, only returning home at the end of the day for dinner.

Glen and Kevin at a family wedding, 1975

As adults, Glen and Kevin developed a mutual passion for beer. For many years, they’ve made their own home brews and they enjoy visiting craft breweries in Australia and overseas. In 2011, we holidayed with Kevin and his wife Mary Lou in Munich for a week, where we spent much of our time at the Hofbrauhaus and other beer-related establishments. Even though they live in different states, Glen and Kevin are often in touch and regularly discuss their latest home brewing experiments.

Hofbrauhaus, 2011

P&O Cruise, 2016

It’s not always about the beer – strudel and coffee in Munich, 2011

When Kevin announced his plans for a beer-themed party to celebrate his 60th birthday in October this year, it was a given we would be there. This wasn’t to be a one night event; it would start on Friday night and continue all weekend, before finishing up on Sunday afternoon. It would incorporate the telecast of the Australian Rules Football League (AFL) Grand Final on Saturday afternoon and a fancy dress party on Saturday night – Kevtoberfest was born!

Instead of a quick fly/drive journey, we decided to do a three week caravan trek to Kevin’s home near Bairnsdale in Victoria. The return journey of 3,500 kilometres would cover inland and coastal regions of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. It wasn’t by coincidence that the route Glen planned included several towns with craft breweries and, knowing my love of quilting and crochet, he made sure to include some craft shops as well. The itinerary was a winner for both of us!

To be continued…