When it comes to craft beer, I have been called every name under the sun. From connoisseur to snob, beer nerd to hipster.
It doesn't matter. All I know is I love a good brew and it seems the residents of South Coast NSW do too.
With 27 craft breweries between Bulli and Pambula (one every half hour drive), the South Coast Ale Trail is becoming a must do for craft beer enthusiasts.
The trail launched two-years-ago as a cooperative marketing campaign between 11 of the featured breweries (bolded in the below map) and has grown rapidly.
It showcases and links the breweries that stretch across the 370kms of beautiful coastline.
Nigel Ayling from We Love Craft Beer! said the campaign's initial years were about establishing branding and awareness, but now they are seeing a spike in interest.
"Traffic to our website has increased by over 300 per cent and engagement with social media has gone through the roof," he said.
"Pretty much everybody that's engaging is ... tagging their friends saying 'we've got to do this' and 'lets go down soon'."
He hopes the campaign's results will be seen and felt in the coming months.
However, it wasn't tourism that led to the boom of craft breweries on the coast, it was the locals.
Brothers in brewing
The Panucci twins, Joey and Simon, opened South Yeast Brewing Co in North Nowra in 2021, aiming to brew good beer, as a brew pub and music venue.
Stemming from Joey's passion for brewing, it was an opportunity to open a different type of venue for the community, something they didn't have while growing up.
"You could almost call us a nano brewery," said Joey. "It is quite close to a residential area, which we do get a really good local following from.
"It has its moments where it feels like a rural pub or a speakeasy. We've got no screens, no poker machines, so it's a very social environment and I think we want to nurture that."
Ironically, the venue is a few blocks from where the twins grew up.
A challenge for South Yeast was finding consistency in patrons - mainly due to population density - which has led them to focus on providing an atmosphere and drinks locals would enjoy.
Transport has also been a factor, as many patrons are driving. This is why the Midday Hazy - an easy drinking, mid-strength beer that fits modern trends - has become popular at the venue.
"We're trying to cater to our demographic, which is quite varied, but probably more of an older crowd ... so we do keep some more traditional styles," said Joey.
"But we still have some younger crowds, and some older ones, who want to try more popular new styles."
The brothers believe the success of regional breweries depends on locality.
"It's very much a local space," said Simon. "So when we do get tourist groups, which we do ... a lot of them say 'we have no idea you were here, you're in the middle of nowhere'.
"We're very accepting of that. Our stability comes from people knowing we're there and servicing them because they support local business. [South Yeast] is a business for the community."
Growing with the hotel
Upon returning to his hometown to raise his family, former chef and professional bodyboarder, Damien 'Damo' Martin, opened Dangerous Ales in Milton.
It is located on-site of the Milton Hotel - also owned and operated by Mr Martin - which has provided a good avenue to help grow the brewery and be a base for the brand.
Mr Martin said challenges he faced included changing people's perceptions and drinking habits.
"Getting people to realise that we do make double fruited sours and IPAs and stuff like that, but at the same time, we make very traditional, lovely lagers that everybody can enjoy," he said.
"You're never going to attract everybody, but with running the hotel, we do need a couple of beers that are very approachable for day-to-day drinkers.
"And you'd be crazy not to, because those day-to-day drinkers are 90 per cent of the beer drinking market. You'd be cutting your nose off to spite your face."
The brewery's flagship beer, Crispy Boi Lager, has won numerous awards and has become an "approachable" beer for the everyday drinkers.
Mr Martin said it has been important to support local industries and business where possible. He also believes people should be aware of where products come from.
Having grown up in Milton, it has become almost second nature for Dangerous Ales' brews to represent the region.
"I think local has a flavour," said Mr Martin. "I think people are more interested in knowing where they get everything from."
He also likes the varied sizes of craft breweries and exclusivity that can create.
"It's great to have a little brewery that only makes 300 litres of your favourite beer that no one else will get to try because it doesn't leave that tap room. It's cool."
Jumping from BMX to beer
Down at Dalmeny outside of Narooma, former professional action sports athlete (BMX), Cam White, has found success with Big Niles Brewing Co.
He used to dream about what front flip variations he could do, but now he's dreaming up the best possible beers he can make.
"I really took a passion to brewing because, without the risk of breaking my neck, it gave me that outlet where there's no rules on what you can and can't do," he said.
"The amount of beers that you can make and the flavours that you can create, and the different beers that you can come up with is endless.
"It really got my brain ticking over and I dived headfirst into opening a brewery."
As the first craft brewery in the Eurobodalla (just under four-years-old), Mr White's experimentation has worked, becoming known for high ABV beers and winning seven awards (five international).
Despite the freedom and enjoyment of making high alcohol brews, Big Niles still caters to what locals want, with Mr White saying "you have to have that happy balance".
The brewery finds plenty of business from locals, but still pulls in tourists, especially during summers.
"From boxing day onwards, we have awesome tourists that come every year, and they stay at the caravan park ... which we're only a short walk from," said Mr White.
"It's funny, because you see familiar faces at this time each year ... and it's awesome. My place is buzzing and I love it."
Mr White believes the growth of craft brewing on the South Coast is nothing but great for the region.
"I think it's awesome. The more people that come down here are supporting every local business," he said.
"If they're coming in for the breweries, they're going to shop at the shops and go to the coffee shops and the cafes and the clubs and the pubs and everything else while they're here.
"It's only a good thing for the area."
So if you want to jump onto the South Coast Ale Trail visit southcoastaletrail.net.au.
Breweries on the South Coast Ale Trail:
- Resin Brewing (Bulli) - featured brewery
- The Barrel Shepherd (Bellambi)
- Principle Brewing (Fairy Meadow)
- Illawarra Brewing Company (North Wollongong)
- Reub Goldberg Brewing Machine (Tarrawanna) - featured brewery
- Dusty Lizard Brewing (Wollongong)
- Five Barrel Brewing (Wollongong)
- Seeker Brewing (Unanderra) - featured brewery
- Stoic Brewing (Gerringong) - featured brewery
- South Yeast Brewing Co (North Nowra) - featured brewery
- Husky Brewing (South Nowra)
- Jervis Bay Brewing Co (Huskisson)
- Flamin Galah Brewing Co (Huskisson)
- Swordfish Brewing (Sussex Inlet) - featured brewery
- Dangerous Ales (Milton)
- Cupitt's Estate (Ulladulla)
- Wombat Brewery (Ulladulla)
- Broulee Brewhouse (Broulee) - featured brewery
- Quantum Brewery (Moruya)
- Malt Man Brewing (Bodalla)
- Big Niles Brewing Co (Dalmeny)
- Tilba Valley Ale House (Corunna)
- Tilba Brewing Co (Central Tilba) - featured brewery
- Camel Rock Brewery (Wallaga Lake) - featured brewery
- Humpback Brewery (Tathra)
- Frogs Hollow Brewing Co (South Wolumla)
- Longstocking Brewery (Pambula) - featured brewery