Keen observers of the local tasting trail will have noticed a couple of newcomers to the map in recent months, and there’s not a grapevine to be seen. Beer tourism has arrived in the Southern Highlands!
From the moment Southern Highlands Brewing Company opened their Kitchen & Taphouse in the run up to Christmas, curious locals, thirsty visitors and long time fans of their hand crafted brews have tramped a steady path through the stylish front doors. Founders Cameron James and Ben Twomey and their team at the Moss Vale establishment have barely had time to take a breath, and they couldn’t be happier.
The genesis of this upmarket watering hole goes way back. It took a love of rugby, decades of home brew experiments and a timely move away from corporate stress for their unique partnership to come about. Head brewer James is a third-generation Highlander who’s been tinkering with home brews for more than 20 years. In 2014, his English India Pale Ale (IPA) won first in its class at the East Sydney Brewers Competition, and soon after James joined forces with Twomey. With brewery in Sutton Forest up and running, the next stage was finding the right venue for their beer meets food tasting experience.
Travellers driving from Berrima to Moss Vale will see the Taphouse in its full art deco glory, commanding centre stage at the T-intersection where Waite Street meets Argyle Street. The venue is brasserie meets brewery, housed in the historic Tooses building with geometric window friezes and cast iron balustrades. The casually elegant interior, designed by stylist Tash Perkins, balances lavish with laid back, perfectly in keeping with the ‘sophisticated yet playful’ Taphouse brand.
The set up caters to a range of customers, with communal benches for family friendly gatherings, a plant filled lounge for quiet cocktails or table service dining on leather and velvet banquettes. There’s also an outdoor terrace, ideal for watching the passing parade. Raw linen upholstery and wall fabrics are printed with motifs of Ambassador at large Hops the Roo, charmingly brought to life by Melbourne illustrator Chris Edser.
Ben Twomey, a former international businessman, is the commercial brains behind the Taphouse and brings an infectious enthusiasm to sharing his love of craft beer. And the timing couldn’t be better. According to the 2017 Australian Craft Beer Survey conducted by Beer Cartel, a whopping 87% of craft beer drinkers are keen to learn more about different styles of beer.
‘We’ll start with beers from the lowest bitterness, and go to the highest,’ Twomey explains. ‘The lager will segue you to the Australian blonde, then to the American Pale Ale, which will take you up to the IPA.’
The beers are playfully named Firkin Helles (a sessionable lager), Naked Harvest (refreshing Australian blonde) and Tighthead (strong and reliable IPA) in a nod to their love of football. They also have a ‘short, dark and handsome’ porter they’ve dubbed Goodfather, with a dollar per litre sold donated to brain cancer research. Both James and Twomey lost their own fathers to the disease.
The all day dining menu is overseen by two hatted chef Michael Morrison (formerly of Bistro Moncur and Regatta), and includes a range of French inspired brasserie meals and a selection of vegetarian dishes. Friendly staff will happily recommend the perfect beer for each dish, while a carefully curated wine list, including a honey mead from local producers Bulwarra Bees, is available for those yet to discover the joy of craft beer. Morrison is also using it to make his aioli. The Kitchen & Taphouse is open for lunch Friday to Sunday and dinner Thursday to Sunday, but get there early to avoid disappointment, as the word is out.
Not bad for a couple of blokes from different paths who happened to run into each other on the rugby field. Their yin and yang combination of beer and business alongside plenty of good grub seems to have hit the right spot.
Southern Highlands Brewing Company Kitchen & Taphouse
490-494 Argyle Street, Moss Vale