Five of the Best Places to Drink Craft Beer in Margaret River, Imagined as Ween Songs

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Today we’re flying the Boognish flag high over Margaret River, and if you’re not sure what we’re talking about the Internet is glorious.

Though justifiably famed as one of Australia’s finest wine-producing regions, Margaret River is also home to Western Australia’s densest concentration of craft breweries, from polished operations like Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery to ramshackle setups like Bush Shack Brewery. Here we spotlight just four of our favorites (along with a craft-focused fish shack) for Margaret River craft beer, but with a brown twist.

We hear everybody loves a list, but while we’re not opposed to them, when possible we like to try and do something a little more interesting with the ones we make. With that in mind, we’ve scoured the catalogue of mighty Ween—like Clutch, an unofficial Beer Travelist patron saint—to imagine each of our following picks as one of the band’s songs.

Get your headphones out, crack a cold one, and prioritize these beer destinations on your next trip to Margaret River.

The Beer Farm

as “Where’d the Cheese Go?,” All Request Live, by Ween

In 2002 a US advertising agency, acting on behalf of the shitty Pizza Hut chain, hired Ween to create music for an ad campaign promoting the restaurant’s new “Insider” pizza, a typically gimmicky stab at innovation in which the cheese was “hidden” inside the crust. The duo responded with a slew of jingles that culminated with what is now known as “Where’d the Cheese Go?,” a loopy 30-second ditty summarily rejected by the agency and destined to fade into obscurity.

However, Ween being Ween (“It is one of the best tunes we wrote all last year,” swore Mickey Melchiondo, aka Dean Ween, at the time), the band soon after floated audio of the recording on its website and reworked the G-rated jingle into something much browner. Its rabid fans pounced, and the lore of the Pizza Hut theme tune grew, so much so that a year later when the band hosted “All Request Live,” a live in-studio performance streamed on its website with a 16-song setlist culled from fan votes, “Where’d the Cheese Go?” made the cut. For its live debut, Ween stretched the song into a rambling, acid-friendly, six-minute phone call slash jam about, what else, “motherfucking cheese” and pizza.

The Beer Farm, located just north of Cowaramup in Metricup, originally opened in 2014 as the Western Australia wing of Young Henrys in Sydney, but has since stepped out on its own under new ownership. There’s always a fine selection of brews on tap in Beer Farm’s cavernous tasting room, which depending on the season could include everything from a cask-conditioned IPA and buckwheat ale to a Berliner weisse, saison, and India pale lager.

Beer Farm
Beer Farm Tavern

Beer Farm

The tasting room is housed in a corrugated metal-roofed shed that used to store hay for the facility’s old primary residents: cows. Yep, The Beer Farm set up shop in an old dairy farm. Visitors, in fact, walk through what used to be the creamery on their way to the tasting room. All in all this is one of Margaret River’s finest places to settle in for a few, though old-time WA turophiles returning to the farm for the first time in years may be left wondering where’d the cheese go. beerfarm.com.au

By the way, I think we can all agree that Ween’s (reworked) jingle was far catchier than the one that Pizza Hut aired.

VERSUS

Clancy’s Fish Pub Dunsborough

as “The Mollusk,” The Mollusk, by Ween

When Ween disbanded (temporarily) in 2012, Melchiondo dove deep into his other passion, fishing, by dedicating much of his time to Mickey’s Guide Service, a for-hire—and still running—charter boat service commandeered by the man himself on New Jersey waters. (“It is not necessary to tip the Captain, but if you want to buy me a beer afterwards I will totally drink it,” he writes on the site.)

Dude is a serious angler, so it’s no surprise that he penned the title track—a sort of folky, hallucinogenic sea shanty—for Ween’s 1997 nautical-themed album The Mollusk, which the band recorded in part at a New Jersey beach house. It makes sense, too, that Melchiondo named this his favorite Ween album.

Clancy’s Fish Pub Dunsborough is one of four Clancy’s venues in Western Australia and probably the chain’s most surreal; not quite Black Lodge in Ghostwood Forest surreal, but close. It felt that way when we visited, at least, pulling in as we did on a placid pitch-black night, checking our trousers for pissy dribbles after narrowly avoiding collisions with more than a few kangaroos that waited to hop across winding, unlit Caves Road until clearly seeing our economy car’s headlights.

Located in something of a no man’s land between Big Rock Reserve and “downtown” Dunsborough, the place was banging on a Sunday night—no open parking spots by the time we left. Inside the massive space at its Red Room performance area, a young woman with a soft, wispy voice led her band through a serious, shoegazey set of dreamy ballads under off-kilter lighting, and everybody appeared to know everybody, and I think I saw The Log Lady dancing with The Man from Another Place.

Clancy’s, as you may assume, specializes in fish and seafood, but the chain’s deep craft-focused beer menu is just as much its calling card as its food. There are 22 taps at the Dunsborough venue, most of them earmarked for noted WA breweries like Nail Brewing, Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery, and Bootleg Brewery. The bottle list is less exciting, though perhaps moreso if you’re into Corona or Carlton Dry.

Expect classics like grilled barramundi and beer-battered hoki or flathead on the food menu, along with the odd Asian-inspired dish like a Thai fish burger and teriyaki salmon skewers with papaya salad. Lemon-pepper squid and chilli mussels are among the—wait for it—mollusks on the menu, too. clancysfishpub.com.au

Colonial Brewing Co

as “I Don’t Want to Leave You On the Farm,” 12 Golden Country Greats, by Ween

One of the great rituals of my high school years happened on Monday nights (or Tuesday mornings at midnight, to be specific) when my friends and I would cram into one of our beater-ass cars and roll down Pontiac Trail from South Lyon, MI, to Ann Arbor for midnight album releases at Tower Records. Most of the time we were there to get something specific—back in these Dark Ages you usually only knew about an album release if you read about it in a magazine or saw a promo poster at the CD store—but sometimes it was just to pick up whatever looked interesting. Looking back I’m a little surprised our parents consistently let us do this, particularly since we were no angels. Thanks, mom and dad.

I clearly remember one such occasion, during the summer of 1996. It was after graduation and just before our crew would begin its gradual and natural fracture as we struck out into the world, when we hopped into my gun-metal gray Mercury Marquis and cruised to Tower to pick up Ween’s 12 Golden Country Greats. We had no idea what to expect, except that clearly this was one of the band’s trademark in-jokes and this supposed “country album” was in all likelihood thrash metal or punk rock or anything other than country.

We got in the car, sparked up… the sound, and then the slow country-fied twang of “I’m Holding You” blew our minds. What the hell was this? And then another country tune, and then another, and then a one-minute excerpt of an amped-up Muhammad Ali being Ali closes “Powder Blue,” and… yeah man, a real bonafide country album in perhaps the biggest curveball an “alternative” band has ever thrown. It was made with tongue firmly in cheek, of course, but with love, respect, and backed by a cadre of accomplished Nashville country musicians. Some months later many of those musicians joined Ween on tour, and the gig at St. Andrews Hall in downtown Detroit stands as one of my favorite Ween shows.

Colonial Brewing Co
Colonial Brewing Co

I was too young to fully appreciate the greatness that is 12GCG immediately, but it grew on me quickly and is still in the rotation. I took an instant liking to Colonial Brewing Company, however, a sprawling brewery that opened in 2004 on a beautiful patch of farmland not too far from Margaret River town. We visited on a sunny Sunday afternoon, when a folk-rock band performed in the brewery’s grassy backyard, which is dotted with cow statues, and when kids were running wild in the playground while the parents were getting toasty with Colonial’s range of balanced, highly drinkable brews that included a kölsch, pale ale, IPA, and a few seasonals.

Like at many of Margaret River breweries it felt like being down on the farm, among friends, with nothing to do but drink good beer and appreciate life. What a beautiful place, and what a great song. colonialbrewingco.com.au

Margaret River Brewhouse

as “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night,” Quebec, by Ween

“Heard that you are new in town, someone said you party down. Well later I’ll be comin’ round, we’ll rack ‘em up and suck ‘em down.”

With that, lead track “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night” storms the otherwise downer-drugged Quebec in a thundering homage to Motorhead and a hat tip to late nights getting f’ed up on whatever happens to be in front of you. (In contrast, the album’s hazy post-pills-pop second tune, “Zoloft,” has its finger right on the pulse of these sessions.) Though in Ween he’s always been the man wielding the axe first and man on the mic a distant second, Melchiondo has a way of stealing the show when he sings—and this tune is the only one on Quebec on which he takes lead vocals. It’s a ripper, to say the least, and the album is among our favorites in the Ween oeuvre.

Visits to Margaret River Brewhouse are a ripper, too. Tucked into a forest just outside of downtown Margaret River proper, the Brewhouse feels like the type of place you’d take somebody you just met to kick back awhile and rack ‘em up and suck as many of ‘em down as you can. The brewery was, after all, founded by three homebrewers who opened the place so as to have a brewery to which one could actually walk, at least if you’re in Margaret River town. Indeed, the wide open spaces of Western Australia mean lots of driving between watering holes (and many unhappy designated drivers).

Margaret River Brewhouse
Margaret River Brewhouse

Suck many down you shall wish to do, too, as the beer is generally fantastic. We’re partial to the Red Tail IPA and Undies Oatmeal Stout, but it’s safe to pick and choose your preferred beer style: nine of the 10 beers listed on the brewpub’s website won gold at the 2017 Perth Royal Beer Show, the annual competition that celebrates Western Australian beer.

Help stretch it into a long night—or day, as it were, since the latest Brewhouse is open is 9pm—by sopping up the booze with one of the tasty housemade pizzas; our favorite is topped with field mushrooms, spinach, nuts, seeds, and roasted olives. brewhousemargaretriver.com.au

Bush Shack Brewery

as “My Own Bare Hands,” La Cucaracha, by Ween

“I can do so many things, with my own bare hands!” boasts Melchiondo on this frantic, shit-talking rock ‘n’ roll jam on Ween’s last (and, sadly, least inspired) studio album. Those many things include taking your DNA and replicating a man, being your lawnmower and cutting your fuckin’ grass, and something about an, ahem, “cock professor” that I’m not going to get into here. Look, this isn’t one of Ween’s deeper tunes—it’s the equivalent of winning a keg stand contest or crushing an empty beer can on your forehead. This is a stripped-down vehicle for Deaner’s furious guitar, and we love it.

Now, we’re not saying there isn’t anything deep about Bush Shack Brewery. On the contrary, it seems like there’s nothing co-owners Coralie and Danial Wind couldn’t do with their own bare hands at their remote brewpub, which you’ll find somewhere in the Yallingup bush next to an expansive paddock frequented by languid kangaroos. Around since the late ‘90s, when it was known as Wicked Ale Brewery, Bush Shack appears to be thriving despite its mildly creepy location, in part because there’s foot traffic from Yallingup Forest Resort and Yallingup Lodge, which share the same plot of land; in part because of the Winds’ adventurous brews; and also who doesn’t want to drink good beer in the Yallingup bush?

Eight beers were tapped on our most recent visit, including a lager bittered with 18kg of avocado flesh, a pale ale brewed with fresh strawberries and honey and, somewhat randomly for the month of May, Old St. Nick, a 8.5% double Scottish ale with “Xmas cake flavours and aromas.” (We were driving, so didn’t get a chance to try that one.) Danial Wind was behind the bar pouring beers in his wonderfully bizarro beer shack, and as with just about everywhere we stopped in Margaret River the place was almost full.

We’re not sure if the Winds made it with their own bare hands (wouldn’t be shocked if they did), but there’s a rounded pool table here, too, with two house rules: the black ball must be sunk in the middle pocket to win, and there’s a requisite $1 donation to the jar whenever a ball leaves the table. How very brown. bushshackbrewery.com.au

Brian Spencer
written by: Brian Spencer
Brian Spencer is a Singapore-based freelance journalist and the founder of Beer Travelist. Say hello at brian [a] beertravelist.com.