The Grand Ridge Brewery bar itself isn’t overly large compared to some, but there’s certainly no difficulty in getting a great beer even at the busiest of times and, believe me, it can get very busy. The Grand Ridge Brewery at Mirboo North is a well recognised and highly awarded brewery, receiving rave reviews for its craft beers, about which you can read more on their website. The staff are clearly used to the frenetic pace of peak hour and luckily this day we ventured in early, just before the tourist lunch crowds started to filter in. Being one of the first really fine days towards the end of winter, with more good days predicted, the crowds will undoubtedly increase.
And if you happen to visit, do try the beers; the brewery offers small samples so that you can determine which might be to your taste, so you don’t have to guess. The beer founts are certainly a tantalising sight (those round objects are coins frozen in the ice) and the Natural Blonde wheat beer was very refreshing.
The Yarragon Hotel, located on the Princes Highway at Yarragon Village, is another hotel that’s open for lunch on a weekday, which is no surprise, given where it’s situated. Yarragon has a never ending stream of traffic passing through, with many travellers heading east or west stopping for a visit, rest or to stock up on plush toys, so it would be utter madness for it not to be catering for the passing trade. I would heartily recommend the lunches served here, with a James Squire Pale Ale, over some of the other establishments in the Village.
The Thorpdale Hotel, or The Traveller’s Rest Hotel, in Thorpdale is one that’s been around since the turn of the last century (1900s once again) and owned by the same family, as told to us by John, the very amiable and chatty owner (while I sipped on a Cascade Light). The Thorpdale Hotel is about as traditional a pub as you can find anywhere, with the dining area still retaining some of its original Art Deco finishes. According to John, it used to be a very busy hotel in the mid-1900s, because of the potato farming industry but, with the railway gone and transport no longer stopping by, it’s become a lot quieter. However, locals keep the place alive and well, and it was a pleasant stopover on our way back from Yarragon (was nearly tempted to get one of the great pies from the bakery, to have later).
An excerpt from the pub’s history:
‘The owner and Licensee (Mr Michael Holden) had held the licence since it was granted 30 years ago. On opening day, free drinks were laid on for one and all. Mr Holden used to recall that “there were faces he had never seen and never saw again.” In December 1939 shortly after war was declared, Mrs & Mr Holden left Thorpdale to take on a milk bar/ cake shop in Ballarat. The hard work load didn’t change and Marie, who later married Frank Bantok was to carry on. John is the fourth generation to work in the pub, starting with Michael and Honoria Holden, Tom and Eileen Holden, Marie and Frank Bantok and finally John.’
I have to say that the biggest issue that we’ve encountered when wanting to go for a pub lunch, as part of a day’s drive, is that most in the area aren’t open for lunch during the week. I can sort of understand not opening during most of the week, especially in winter, but many pubs located on tourist pathways must surely garner customers if they were open for lunch, say just on a Friday. However, it’s difficult finding many serving lunch other than on weekends.
So that’s the real start of the series on Life Behind Bars. I can’t say when Part 3 will be up, but I will give it my best shot, so that it isn’t too long between beers.
Update: It’s with some sadness that I heard that there was a fire at the Thorpdale Hotel on 3 April 2017 and the owner John passed away in that fire. There is no doubt that he will be missed, as he was a charming fellow and a true character of South Gippsland.