I think I might have short changed the city of Goulburn. Underestimated it. For me, it was always an inconvenient place where you had to slow down to drive through on the way to somewhere else.
It tried to capture the travellers imagination and tourist dollar by placing a large kitschy merino sheep on the edge of town , but really, it was for the kiddies and I'd long grown up. Or so I thought.
What I had missed and what many people miss, was the time capsule that Goulburn has evolved into. That subtle observable appreciation between a lot of old crumbly buildings and Goulburn's glorious preserved heritage.
This sunny Sunday morning, we headed from the edge of Sydney and drove towards one of Goulburn's treasures, Australia's oldest brewery. Located just on the edge of town, the Old Goulburn Brewery has been in the beer making business since 1836.
It's when we are driving through the back streets of Goulburn and its collection of mainly Victorian terraces, shops and warehouses that its significance hits us in the face. Love to stop, but we have a date with a tour of the brewery.
The complex of buildings that make up the brewery is incredibly impressive especially when you consider how remote Goulburn was at the time it was built. Walking in, I'm gobsmacked. It's very reminiscent of a Tuscan hill town meets Georgian English village. It is slightly ramshackle and overgrown in places. How very Italian I thought.
We meet up with the professor like tour guide Michael who takes us through the history of the brewery. He is not shy on emphasising the buildings were designed by the famous convict architect Francis Greenway. Much of the permanent display pays homage to Greenway and his more famous works such as Hyde Park Barracks and the churches at Liverpool and Windsor. He proves to be quite the expert on Greenway's style and gives us many examples of his eccentricities.
The main building is the 1836 four level Flour and Malt Mill which is the oldest surviving mill building in Australia. The steam engine that once powered the mill is now in Sydney's Powerhouse Museum and the only surviving example of it type in the world.
The malt house is now the main tasting and restaurant space and once again claims to be the oldest in Australia. Now, it is somewhat reminiscent of an old English pub. The brewery makes three styles of beers; Goulburn Gold, Goulburn Stout and a Fine Sparkly Ale and all can be sampled as part of the self guided or guided tour. All the beers are 'real ales', brewed in the time-honoured traditional way with no added sugar, no preservatives and no artificial carbonation. Only barley, malt, ale yeast and the local water is used. All the members of our group favour the Gold.
A three litre stubby version of the Goulburn Gold is available, surely the largest stubby in the land and dwarfing the more famous 2.25 litre Darwin Stubby.
The menu at the brewery has a distinctly Euro/Old English pub feel. There's about a dozen or so choices; soups, snacks such as an Octoberfest Roll, sandwiches and platters. There are main meals of various roasts or dishes like a Blackforest Plate or a Bushies Plate which sounds more reminiscent of an ploughman's lunch.
Ms Pam goes for the Roast Duckling. The Blackforest Plate is big on German porky products and traditional vegetables like sauerkraut potato mash. The meals are simple homecook style dishes and quite satisfying for a slow Sunday afternoon. All washed down with a satisfying Goulburn Gold.
I can safely say that I will never underestimate Goulburn ever again.