Because there is nothing more Perth than the act of sitting down with a beer and a plate of good food while staring at the waves, the recent opening of Riverside Brewhouse at the Old Brewery will come as a welcome addition to those of us who thinks beer tastes better when looking at the water.
The new Riverside Brewhouse is scaled back and relaxing
Stop any person on the street and ask them what they know about the Old Swan Brewery and chances are they would mention the once iconic beers such as Swan Draught or Emu Bitter. Perhaps they will tell you about a special meal they had at the Old Brewery fine diner which has been named WA's 'Best Steak Restaurant' five times in a row. If you had asked anyone over the age of 35, they might even wistfully talk about the old sailing ships of lights that used to adorn the side of the building.
But what many people of Perth don't realise, is that inside the historic buildings perched between the base of Mount Eliza and the stunning Swan River, is an active microbrewery that boasts an awesome reputation in craft beers.
And with the opening of Riverside Brewhouse, people can now enjoy a casual beer accompanied by the type of finger-lickingly good food that makes you glad your mum isn't there to tell you off for your table manners, while enjoying expansive views of the river.
Open daily from 11am until late, the Riverside Brewhouse menu offers a tempting selection which you could try to keep to yourself, but is probably more fun when you share. The jamon and manchego croquettes ($12.50 for four) are substantial yet light until the delicious cheese dribbles down your chin, and the hot and sour chicken wings ($29) are a generous pile of sticky and juicy pieces, impossible to stop at one. I had four and I am still thinking about them.
Poutine ($15) the classic Canadian dish of chips with cheese and gravy is just one more excuse to use your fingers, while the signature RBH Cheese and Pickle Burger ($15) with its stamped brioche bun will soon be filling Instagram feeds everywhere.
BBQ Pork Ribs ($29/$45) are certainly not first date food as you could well wind up looking like The Joker with a sticky grin across your face, but you could always stick with a selection of charcuterie and cheese and impress with your good taste.
With options ranging from the $9 hand cut chips with aioli to soft tacos at three for $28.50, Riverside Brewhouse is no cheap diner (and there is a 10% surcharge on weekends and public holidays). The two main-sized options both ring in at $35 (1/2 jerk chicken with coconut rice, black beans and lime and the RBH beef scotch fillet with hand cut chips) and the changing daily specials also approach the $30 mark.
However, considering that the Old Brewery is overseen by legendary Perth chef Chris Taylor, the pedigree of the food (while fun and finger licking good) speaks for itself.
The microbrewery has been operating since 2008, and everything it produces is free from preservatives and additives, meaning – in the words of Head Brewer Mark Reilly – 'you won't feel the pinch the next day'. The Brewhouse itself and a few other select Perth locations are the only places you will be able to try the ten varieties of ales and lagers produced here, with five regular draught beers on tap, plus a constantly changing special. I thoroughly recommend the crisp and tasty apple Spider Cider, the Heritage Wheat beer (5%) which has an unexpected banana taste or the Narrows lager, which is lighter at 3.5% but easy to drink and full of flavour.
The passion of the team when it comes to their beer is clear, and for those who are equally passionate about beer, you can book into one the Old Brewery's Beef and Beer Classes for three hours of interactive learning, unlimited beer and a sit-down meal – of beef.
Both the inside and outside of the cow is represented at the Brewhouse
The space itself is informal and naturally beef-and-beer themed, with cowhide couches and bar tables made from salvaged brewing equipment amongst its variety of seating options. Walls have been taken down to expose the microbrewery, where 55,000 litres of craft beer is made every year, and consumed almost as fast as it is made. In summer, the wall of sliding doors can open fully, allowing free access to the paved al fresco area, beyond which lies a grassed area and the river itself.
The team at Riverside Brewhouse are obliging and friendly – and while large and formal functions (such as weddings) are entertained in the Old Brewery's exclusive function rooms, smaller groups are welcome to use a semi-private space in the Brewhouse. It is the type of place you want to settle down in for an afternoon of food and friends, not a quick stop on the way somewhere else. You'd never leave.
To get to the Old Brewery you can catch a free bus from the city (it is the last stop inside the free transit zone) or park in the multi-storey carpark directly across from the Brewery and walk across Mounts Bay Road on the high pedestrian bridge (if you are coming West from the city, there is access to the carpark via a ramp and tunnel that goes under the road).
Or – if you are so inclined - you can moor your boat at the jetty.
Regardless of how you get there, the Riverside Brewhouse is a scaled back and relaxing way to enjoy good food and beer while staring at one of Perth's best assets.