Line up some podcasts and grab someone to talk over the podcasts with, FFS. I grab Dad. Leave work at midday on Friday (like you were going to be productive after the two pints at lunch). Drive. Talk over podcasts. Drive. Stop at the most country-looking bakery you can , I recommend the pie. Switch seats, drive. Cross the Snowy River. Try not to hit kangaroos, wombats, deer. Drive. Arrive.
Check in somewhere where the owner greets you at the door. Try the Orbost Motel. Contrary to belief, people in the country do lock their doors – it keeps the warm in. Be pleasantly surprised at the speed of the wifi and the phone reception. You’ll be ignoring both. Before you get in the car to roll into town, breathe out the last of the week, the city. Listen to the silence. Feel the space. Note how green the ground, how deep the sky. You’re ‘away’ now. Phone on do-not-disturb; fuck ‘em.
Rug up. Twice. Make your way into town, through cool, dark air. Night closes in, and you’re closing in on that first beer. It’s on the other side of the twilight-lit main street, the blue-dusk washed houses. It’s quiet here because it’s always quiet. Round the corner, and see… light, sound, noise, laughter, burning in the night.They’ll tell you the old butter factory has been converted into Sailor’s Grave Brewery. What they didn’t tell you is that the brewery has been converted into a pagan celebration, that the worst of winter has passed. The Deep Winter Festival begins with The Long Dark Night Degustation.
The first beer is Lemon Meringue. We’re pagans, not savages. It tastes like yellow sounds. The seasonal journey begins – four beers and four courses to match four seasons. The menu describes the courses in a line, the beer in a paragraph on beer. Listen to Chris and Gab Moore talk of foraging for flavour, of triumphs, of craft. When Gab says it tastes of apricot, she’s not lying. When Chris says he’s used high country bergamot and milk thistle, it tastes like being kicked in the mouth with a country football boot. I have two.
The food is paired to beer, not the other way around – perhaps as it should be. The oyster rarebit is oozing and rich, the wagyu rump robust and warming, the lamb’s neck falls off itself and melts. The beer flows, the table is raucous. It’s a family dinner, and you’re family now. Break between courses to drink more, stand by the glowing woodfire drums, talk to arborists, game fishermen – just try and stop your Dad. Dessert comes, and more beer, and more talk. Then slowly fragment, stalk into and through that long night, unlock the warmth of your room. Rest up – we’re on again tomorrow, and the day after too. Settle in.
It’s not a long drive to Orbost. It’s a long drive back to Melbourne.
You can find the Orbost Motel here, but you’ll have to wait until next year for Sailor’s Grave to collaborate with The Long Paddock to throw another bacchanal. You’ll need to get in early.