Award-winning late disgorge cider, craft gin cocktails and beers from the largest independently-owned farm-based brewery on Australia’s eastern seaboard; there’s a lot to love about Orange’s brewery and distillery scene.
Orange’s food and drink scene is booming. And while the regional city’s wineries and restaurants have long since stolen the show, there’s a new wave of independent breweries and distilleries now demanding attention from you and your palette. Here are six of the best to visit in this scenic corner of the Central Tablelands.
Not your average cellar door, Badlands Brewery has its home in the multi-purpose Agrestic Grocer: a cafe-cum-live-music-venue-cum-grocers-cum-brewery. A semi-industrial, semi-agricultural building, pop in and try the full range of Badlands Beer with a tasting paddle, or take up the Empty Esky challenge and buy a selection of your favourites from the on-site grocers to take home by the can.
Orange’s first brewery, Badlands’ beers are unfiltered and free of preservatives. In fact, all of its brews are hand-crafted, 1,000 litres at a time, without additives such as corn, rice or cane sugar. While the brewery’s focus lies squarely on traditional beer styles (pilseners, IPAs) they do dabble in the art of less conventional flavours too (hello chocolate, rum and vanilla-spiced porter, and nori roll gose).
Small Acres Cyder
The term ‘craft cider’ almost seems too pedestrian for this sophisticated small-scale operation.
Multi-award-winning Small Acres has been producing premium ciders and perrys (made from pears) for the last 16 years. Given that Orange is known for its apple orchards, it’s hardly surprising that a cidery has sprung up in these parts and seen such success.
Made using traditional methods of authentic cider production, there are no shortcuts here. Rather, you’ll find a local institution that takes cider as seriously as vintners take their wine. Even the bottles themselves signal respect for the craft, with wine bottles used for many of the varietals, as is so often the case with French cider. Take a tasting at the cidery’s cellar door, in tiny Nashdale, and compare the sparkling and still varieties. Or book a takeaway tasting flight and picnic and enjoy the bottled heritage apple varieties on location.
Jones & Smith Distillery
A family owned craft gin distillery in Spring Hill, Jones & Smith is home to a small but perfectly formed range of the juniper-laced spirit, branded ‘epoch’. While there’s no cellar door (yet, watch this space) you’ll often find the team popping up to serve cocktails at local markets and festivals. Or, you can sample their wares at a number of Orange’s best venues (try gin-focused bar The Blind Pig, popular local restaurant Charred Kitchen & Bar, or brunch cocktails at The Agrestic Grocer). You can stock up at almost any local bottle shop too.
The distillery’s signature range includes sloe gin, cherry gin, dry gin and navy gin, but there are several other spirits in the works too; stay tuned for their first oak-barreled single-malt whisky, as well as a brandy and eau de vie.
Pioneer Brewing Co.
A farm-based brewery, Pioneer is a cut above the rest when it comes to hands-on production. Unlike most breweries, which buy in their malting grain, the team at this independent operation grow and harvest their own, offering hopheads a true taste of locally made beer ‘from the ground to the can’.
Pop into the industrial-farmhouse style taproom on the weekend for a tasting, brewery tour or take-away sales, and if you’re lucky you might even get to meet Frankie, the brewer’s gorgeous chocolate labrador. Pioneer’s core range includes several different styles of lager, plus a couple of ales and sessionable mid-strength beers; but this brewery is known as much for its warm country hospitality, low carbon footprint and homemade pies as it is its brews.
Parrot Distilling Co.
With a plum perch right in the centre of town, Parrot Distilling Co. is a relative newcomer to the Orange scene, having opened its doors to the public in 2018. The distillery’s cellar door, known as The Aviary, is housed within a converted brick warehouse, and among the more vibrantly decorated watering holes in town (think orange neon script signage, and an artificial vertical garden).
Sample this local outfit’s three flagship styles, or three of its seasonal gins, along with Aussie-made Capi tonics, for $25. Non-purists might prefer to sample a ‘gintail’ on Saturdays and Sundays instead; the bar menu changes weekly, but expect classics such as the ‘GINspresso’, a martini or a negroni. Sate appetites piqued by the strong spirits with one of the house pizzas, served straight out of the wood-fired pizza oven.
Find more of the best travel tips in our Ultimate travel guide to Orange, NSW