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A Collection of Favourites

Kevtoberfest #27 The Beginning and The End

It seems fitting to end this Kevtoberfest series as it began, with a few favourites. I started with some special photos of Glen and Kevin to acknowledge their lifelong friendship, and our first destination on the long journey south was Stanthorpe, where we collected some favourite beverages.

In three weeks, we travelled more than 3,000 kilometres and visited many wonderful places. Sometimes though, it’s the little things we remember – these are my favourites.

Poplars, bare-branched at the end of winter. By the time we returned, they were dressed in new spring leaves.

My favourite native bird – a galah, feasting on seed in Kevin’s garden

Giant metal flowers growing up against a corrugated iron wall in Nundle

The ultimate holiday camper – a renovated ice cream van. Travel and ice cream, a winning combination!

My favourite sign, on the wall of a bakery café

This trip was all about beer, with a few craft shops for balance.

Longstocking Nano Brewery at Pambula was Glen’s favourite.

Mine was the Nundle Woollen Mill, aglow with all the colours of the rainbow.

Sunrise at Mallacoota – a glorious start to a new day

Out of the 3,390 photos we took over three weeks I have one absolute favourite, of Kevin and his lovely wife Mary Lou on party night. It captures the joy of celebrating a milestone with family and friends and the anticipation of what lies ahead.

Kevtoberfest has come to an end, and like children playing a favourite new game, we all say “Do it again, Kevin!”

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Party Party Party!

Kevtoberfest #21

After months of planning and brewing by Kevin, his 60th birthday party finally arrived and in the spirit of Kevtoberfest the day had a distinctly German theme.

We made pretzels. Most pretzel bakers take years to perfect their skills, but after some meticulous research and a few hours’ practice, Kevin had mastered the techniques needed to produce these tasty treats. We rolled and shaped the dough in typical Bavarian style. Then our pretzels were boiled, sprinkled with salt and baked until the crusts were crisp and golden. They were delicious!

We ate German food. Kevin loves to cook and he created a feast: tender pork knuckles, bratwurst, green salad, potato salad and potato peanut puffs, followed by apple strudel for dessert. The birthday cake was a Black Forest gâteau, rich and sweet; dark chocolate sponge layers filled with whipped cream and cherries.

We drank German beer and cider. Kevin’s home brews included Kevtoberfest heavy and light, served on customised paddles made by his friend Frank. Traditional Bavarian Märzenbier, Paulaner Weißbier and European apple cider were also on tap.

We listened to German music. Frank brought his bespoke alpenhorn and treated us to a one of a kind performance.

Happy Birthday Kevin!

Taking a Break

Kevtoberfest #18 Narooma to Mallacoota

Long distance driving can be tiring and it’s important to take regular breaks every couple of hours. When the route we’re taking passes through pretty country villages and coastal towns, we don’t need an excuse to stop and stretch our legs.

After leaving Narooma and continuing on our southward journey, our first stop was at the little village of Central Tilba. Located at the base of Mount Dromedary, Central Tilba and its neighbour Tilba Tilba are heritage listed, with beautifully preserved period cottages and shops.

It was early morning and the galleries and cafés were still closed. The only inhabitants we saw were some noisy rainbow lorikeets, breakfasting on the flowers of melaleuca trees.

Luckily, the ABC Cheese Factory was open and we joined some other keen customers, sampling and purchasing a few delicious cheeses. 

It wasn’t far to our next stop – we travelled just 20 kilometres to the coastal town of Bermagui. Situated on the Bermagui River where its wide natural harbour enters the ocean, the town is best known for its deep sea fishing industry.

Leaving the car and caravan at Dickinson Park, we walked past the marina and the broad sandy beach at Horseshoe Bay to Bermagui Point.

From the lookout on the headland we could see the coast from north to south, and inland to the mountains of the Great Dividing Range.

All this exploration gave us an appetite so, another 72 kilometres south, we stopped beside Merimbula Lake for a picnic lunch.

After so many scenic stops, our last break for the day had no connection to nature or history and was an unexpected surprise. Just south of Pambula on the Princes Highway, I spotted a sign – for a brewery! Of course, we turned off the highway and followed the directions to the Longstocking Nano Brewery, located alongside a café, gallery and garden centre.

The beers brewed onsite have 1920s themed names and are only available on tap, so Glen enjoyed a tasting paddle while I sampled the handcrafted ginger beer.

That was enough to sustain us for the rest of the afternoon and we continued to our final destination, just over the Victorian border at the seaside town of Mallacoota.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 7/Craft shops 3

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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…