Famous for hosting arguably Australia’s best known folk music festival, Port Fairy on Victoria’s South West Coast exudes fishing village charm. The 19th Century bluestone architecture and wide town streets make this town a popular tourist destination and a delight to visit.
Despite its obvious charms, Port Fairy may not be on the radar of craft beer fans looking for a holiday destination. Small regional towns, no matter how pretty, are not always craft beer havens. However to dismiss Port Fairy would mean you might just miss out on visiting a uniquely charming venue with a very well researched and maintained beer list.
Coffin Sally was first opened in November 2012 by owner Pete Charlton as a take away pizza place. The small bar area was fitted out soon after and, almost 11 months after first opening, Coffin Sally opened its dining room to serve wood fired pizzas and, of course, local and independent craft beers.
I first came across Coffin Sally while visiting Port Fairy a couple of years ago. I was intrigued by the cartoon-like skull and cross bones sign next to the unobtrusive white door. More recently Coffin Sally popped into my instagram feed and the rustic animal skull décor, great looking pizzas, and endless photos of great beers made me determined to get down to Port Fairy as soon as possible and check this place out properly.
Owner Pete cut his teeth in the industry working for some “great people” who allowed him to treat their business as their own in the role as manager. This, he says, gave him “the confidence to give it a go for myself.” His love of craft beer was first kindled by the many knock-off drinks that are par for the course in the industry. But it was Kaiju’s Aftermath Double IPA that really took his love of craft beer to a new level.
Pete prides himself on providing “a dynamic beer list, that can cater to all tastes and experience levels.” It is this, as well as passionate staff and good music that he believes make a craft beer venue exceptional.
According to Pete, Port Fairy provides the perfect backdrop for Coffin Sally’s quirky and alluring charm.
“Were stoked to live and be part of this busy little seaside community. The 19th century bluestone architecture is stunning and responsible for our quirkiness that people enjoy. The bluestone fireplace roars in the bar all winter and the open air courtyard heaves in summer. Customers are usually thrilled to discover the “hidden bar,” he says.
The beer list at Coffin Sally is as wide ranging as it is impressive. According to Pete, most of the best sellers on the list at the moment are from independent Australian breweries including Sailors Grave ‘Down She Gose’, Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, Pirate Life West Coast IPA, Rogue Wave ‘Moby’ Pale Ale.
If the contents of a craft beer venue owners fridge are an indication of what the beer list might look like in the future, an impressive line up in Pete’s fridge is very revealing: Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta, Merchant Brewing Earl Pear, Valhalla Brewing Obsidian Black Ale, Wolf of the Willows JSP, Brewdog Jackhammer, and Edge Brewing ‘Stagger Lee’ are among them.
Pete is excited about the future of the Australia craft beer industry and he thinks the growth the industry has experienced over the past few years is only going to continue.
“Consumers have wisely been shifting trends of consumption from mass produced beer, towards supporting independent local or imported small batch craft brewers. I cannot see that trend reversing, and I think that’s really positive for the industry,” Pete says.
As for Coffin Sally, Pete has some very exciting plans to make this an even more iconic venue of Victoria’s South West Coast. The beers, pizzas and décor alone make a trip to Port Fairy worthwhile. The fact that this is a lovely town in a lovely part of the world is just a bonus.