Port Macquarie is a small-ish town about 4 hours’ drive north of Sydney, Australia. The population is roughly 46,000, so you wouldn’t think there’s much going on here. Yet, for such a small population, they have not one, not two, but three breweries! Mark and I only had time to visit one, though. The one we visited was the Black Duck Brewery and Bar.
Black Duck Brewery opened in 2010 – still just a baby in brewery years! Set in an industrial area, it’s a bit tucked away and faces a lovely green strip of forest.
As we approached the warehouse-style building, we noticed something a bit unusual. People weren’t walking out of the building with six-packs, or even kegs. No, they were walking out with cartons of eggs tucked under their arms. At first we thought we had the wrong building. But we knew by the sign that we were in the right place.
My pre-arrival research told me that the brewery offered tours at 2:00 pm, and we had arrived with just minutes to spare. I love brewery and distillery tours for some reason. I always learn something new, no matter how often we do one.
We walked up to the bar and asked one of the staff about the brewery tours. The fellow we spoke to looked at the time, then said, “oh, it’s almost 2. I hadn’t even thought about it today really.” So we decided to check out their beer selection on tap in the meantime. We figured that if a tour went off we would just jump on it.
Black Duck Brewery makes about a dozen craft beers; primarily ales. They also make a “once a year beer” made in small batches. The bar offers eight taps on site featuring their brews.
They also had taster paddles. Since we wanted to be available quickly if the brewery did offer a tour, we decided to split a paddle between the two of us. We decided to go with these four: Summer Swallow, a mid strength ale, Platypus, an Australian pale ale, Heron’s Craic, an Irish red ale, and Indian Runner, an India pale ale.
The bar area, set up with rustic tables and chairs right inside the warehouse, was surprisingly busy for a Saturday afternoon. It was also hot as all get out, so we sat outside to drink our beer samplers.
I can’t say I had a favourite beer, as they were all good, just different. Hubby tends to love really hoppy IPAs, where I lean towards wheat beers. But what we found is that IPAs in Australia don’t tend to be as hoppy as they are in Canada. Which is great for my particular tastes.
It wasn’t long before a Black Duck staff member popped over to our table, carrying two cartons of eggs in hand.
“Hello! Would you like some free eggs?” he asked.
“Ummm…eggs?” we laughed. We didn’t even know how to answer that offer. Was it some sort of bar ritual? Were they actually hard boiled and just distributed in the cartons as a quirky container? At this point we just had to ask: what was up with handing out cartons of eggs to the customers?
As it turned out, when we saw people walking out of the brewery with cartons of eggs earlier, it wasn’t as random as we’d initially thought. One of the brewery’s staff members has a farm, and their chickens just produced way too many eggs for them to know what to do with. Hence, Free Egg Day at Black Duck Brewery.
Unfortunately we couldn’t take any since we were staying in a hotel without a fridge. Otherwise, that would have made quite the morning omelette!
We later noticed an entire pallet of egg cartons in the warehouse. They weren’t kidding when they said they had too many!
We finished the sampler paddle, then went back inside the warehouse. It still didn’t look like a tour was going to go ahead, but we were okay with that. We just liked the ambiance. The bar wasn’t fancy by any means, but the place had an amazing sense of community. Judging by how many patrons had cartons of eggs beside their beer glasses, it was obvious that the locals loved this brewery, even if it was a bit out of the way.
We decided to stay for lunch, which also gave us the excuse to try a few other beers. The bar had a $10 special which included a beer and a pulled pork slider, which was a decent value.
Besides, how many brewery pubs have a pig on a spit?
Mmmm, more beer tasters. Did I mention that they make very nice beers?
Just as I was digging into my slider, the fellow we had initially talked to about the brewery tour came to our table. Turns out he was the owner of Black Duck Brewery himself, Al Owen.
The tour kicked off, and it was very informal. Al announced to everyone in the bar that we were getting the tour, and anyone else interested could join in. A couple more people gathered around, but for the most part it felt like a very personalized tour.
Al began the tour at our table, with samples of the primary ingredients that go into beer: water, grain, and hops. The only thing missing in this demonstration was of course, yeast!
We soon walked over to the actual brewing area where the real magic happens. Black Duck Brewery has four fermenters, and seven conditioning tanks. The timber jackets on the tanks below are just decorative.They’re all stainless steel inside:
I don’t know why I was so anxious to get the tour; all of their equipment was in the one warehouse and I could just turn around in my chair to see it all. But I always love doing brewery and distillery tours. And when you can speak directly to the owner, so much the better!
They do everything in-house, including kegging and bottling:
Currently, they produce about 50,000 litres per year. But they are working on a new factory, which will increase production to 500,000 litres per year!
After the tour we went back to our table to finish lunch with two other beers, a blonde ale and a stout:
There really wasn’t a bad beer in the bunch; but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Black Duck Brewery has won several awards for their beers at the Sydney Royal Beer & Cider Show. They make something to suit pretty much every palate. And you know what they don’t make? Sour beers or rauchbier (smoked beers). They should get an award for that alone.
6b Acacia Ave Port Macquarie
Hours of Operation (Times may change):
12pm – 6pm Wednesday & Thursday
12pm – 8pm Friday
and from 1pm – 5pm Saturday
Other times you are welcome by appointment.