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BeechworthFeature

Beechworth buzzes for High Country Harvest

Jessica Schumann

Beechworth sparkles like a rare and precious jewel, rich in beauty, history and culture…”

With paths paved gold during the 1850s gold rush, Beechworth today is paved with gold of a different kind. It flows in the form of honey, and is just about the sweetest thing in this historic Victorian town — that is except for the locals.

Situated just 45km south of the NSW/VIC border, this beautiful town of many contrasts is the perfect weekend getaway with glimpses into centuries past, world-famous wineries to explore and an eclectic mix of shops and galleries to meander through along the main street.

To really make the most of this little town, I recommend leaving work behind on a Friday and hitting the road for that complete three-day escape.

After a four-hour drive via the Yass Valley Highway and out onto the Hume we arrive just in time for lunch alongside Beechworth’s historic precinct where we’re hosted by Beechworth Honey and treated to a beautiful degustation created by feature chefs from three of the region’s hatted restaurants (Provenance, Tani Eat & Drink and Simone’s) plus a few other local culinary stars.

BeechworthLunch

L-R: Tani’s Fresh Goats Curd seeds, pollen, nasturtium and honey; Papa al pomodoro (ox heart tomato, bread and basil soup) with Oxley zucchini flower and burrata; Poached Milawa Chicken, buttermilk fried chicken wing, apple slaw and jalapeno mayo; Slow cooked Myrrhee Goat, white gazpacho, cucumber, pickled grapes and ricotta; and Beechworth Honey and buttermilk panna cotta, blood plums, salted honey eclair and pumpkin seed brittle.

With five courses, it’s far from your typical lunch with the menu featuring not only regional produce but a “bee-rating” for each dish demonstrating the importance of honeybees to our food system. It is a system designed by Jodi Goldsworthy of Beechworth Honey and one that absolutely blows my mind.

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Beechworth’s local chefs…

“Each selection in the menu gives an estimate in terms of a bee rating created from the food and its dependence on the pollination of bees,” says Jodie, a fourth generation beekeeper.

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Beechworth Sparkling Honey Nectar, Beechworth Mead and a beautiful local 2014 Scion Fleur.

“The rating begins at zero which means no dependence on honeybees to a five bee rating where it’s absolutely critical.”

But it’s not until the following day that we really find our heads buzzing with an overwhelm of information and home truths about this precious liquid gold and its makers.

Although lunch was filling, we’ve a light dinner on the itinerary and it’s right up my alley — a relaxed glass of local wine with charcuterie and cheese at Cellar Door Wine Store.

Hailing from across the ditch in New Zealand, owner Aaron Taylor is a man who knows his cheese and a tragic for the region’s wines. But if you’re not a wine drinker, don’t be put off just yet. Aaron also knows his international craft beers and spirits including whiskey and mezcal. We opt for a glass of wine as we explore the collection of Beechworth’s iconic small wine producers along the shelves and then settle in with a platter of local and international cheeses.

BeechworthCheese

The next day sees an early morning start on the itinerary and so we head to Beechworth Discovery for a big breakfast that we pick from a rather innovative menu before heading out for a gentle 8-kilometre Blossom to Blossom bike ride, which is part of next month’s High Country Harvest Festival.

The menu itself is based on the bee-rating system, engaging customers of all ages. We both opt for a three bee rating big breakfast.

BeechworthBreakie

Breakfast at Beechworth Discovery: Workers Delight Juice – pear, orange, carrot and ginger; Make Your Breakfast and a Big Breakfast (bottom left); and Tropical Queen Smoothie – pineapple, papaya, passionfruit, coconut and honey.

Before we jump on our bikes, Jodie walks us through the Blossom Bee play space (perfect for the littlies) and Discovery Garden.

“Once you’ve had kids, you want to things accessible to all ages,” says Jodie as she begins the ‘Waggle Dance’ along the Waggle Walk.

“Bees do a waggle dance which is basically like a figure of eight dance that shows the direction and distance that the honey is from the hive. As you follow the Waggle Walk, you are also following the seasonal journey of a bee and a year in the life of a beekeeper.”

Beechworth

Ticking all the boxes, the Blossom to Blossom ride is fun, active, educational and perfect for the family. For the most part it is a gentle ride that doesn’t require much exertion but do pack a water bottle or two and wear layers…it makes it easier to cool down.

If you’re not keen on the guided tour, then you can still hire a bike, pack a basket of goodies, grab the Honey Bike Experience guided map and venture on out yourself…But don’t forget to stop in at Beechworth Discovery to pick up some yummy honey-based treats and of course, spot the Queen Bee.

Once you’ve built up an appetite (like we did), you’ll probably find your stomach grumbling post-ride so take a little wander to Bridge Road Brewers. As you walk through the brick tunnel alleyway, dotted with graffiti art on one side and the process of beer brewing on the other, the pungent and overwhelming aroma of hops is likely to hit you first before anything else. Yet as your sense of smell adapts, you’ll discover a vibrant and pumping beer garden bustling with couples, young families and out of town visitors.

With countless awards under its belt, Bridge Road Brewers is housed in a 150-year old Coach House and Stables. Yet despite its rather authentic and historic look, the Brewers itself is just 10 years young.

Owned by Ben Kraus and his Austrian partner, we learn that the menu was originally intended to have an Austrian flavour with an Austrian pretzel recipe the inspiration. But with a creative chef, Dominik Horvat, the menu moved into pizzas.

BeechworthBrewers

“Beer and pizza was the initial idea and is now a really common mix but it wasn’t necessarily the case 10 years ago,” says Ben, a family man of two.

As for the endless beer and cider on tap, Ben says it’s their Beechworth Pale Ale that goes down a treat.

“It’s not necessarily our signature beer but it is by far a favourite among locals and our number one seller,” he admits.

Either way you can bet that if you dine here for lunch, you’re guaranteed simple, tasty and enjoyable food matched with very reasonable prices. If visiting during the High Country Harvest than be sure to pop in for Bridge Road Brewers’ Smokin’ Beer Barbecue — a barbecue extravaganza as they rub, grill and smoke an assortment of local meats on an open fire grill. All of this is accompanied by endless craft beer options from the brewery bar.

After lunch we have the afternoon to ourselves, so we decide to go exploring…in the car. With a love for waterfalls and nature, we head back out of town (the way we arrived) to find Woolshed Waterfalls, which were once the centre of the richest Goldfields in Victoria. Five kilometres from Beechworth towards Chiltern, the Woolshed Valley is steeped in mining history and with large eroded gullies it makes for some beautiful photos.

BeechworthFalls

During summer and even autumn, it still remains a favourite swimming spot for locals too.

By the time the sun starts to dip, we’re about ready for a little sleep before dinner at Ox & Hound — all that fresh, country air really does exhaust you.

Occupying a quintessential shopfront with large windows that saturate the room with light by day and frame the streetscape by night, Ox & Hound is loaded with charm. From the pressed metal ceiling to the wicker chairs and original branch lighting, we never felt more relaxed nor chilled out in a restaurant.

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The personal touches and pride of owners, Sean Ford and Lauren Heidke are evident throughout this intimate establishment from the produce grown in their kitchen to the local produce they forage near home. While you can expect to find trout, pork, goat and nuts on the menu along with foraged foods like yabbies, blackberries and mushrooms, it’s the perfect pillows of potato, cream and cheese that will melt your tastebuds. A simple but complex dish, Sean confesses he still rolls every piece of gnocchi four days out of seven, because it’s a dish he just can’t take off the menu.

BeechworthDinner

“When we took over from the previous owners, we simplified everything and made the decision to stick to good basic cooking,” he says. “Our dishes aren’t rocket science; we just do it really simple.”

And it’s this element that really makes Beechworth a postcard destination.

Many, if not all, the local businesses are family owned and operated, which is rare these days. It’s a town that heaves with young families who want that city food scene but with the ability to return to the family home and their large backyards filled with trees.

“There are a lot of us — particularly the hatted restaurants — where we’ve all come from the cities in similar quality establishments,” shares Sean, who is a family man himself. “But if you want to bring up your children and have a backyard and a community around you, then that’s why you move here.”

Of course, no weekend getaway is complete without somewhere to cosy up at night and rest. Specifically designed for couples, Stone Tryst is the ultimate indulgence and while it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, really you’re situated right on the edge of the town village — so you’re still walking distance to the main street. There are three self-contained eco villas perched on five acres overlooking the craggy Beechworth Gorge and command stunning panoramic views that are not only breathtaking but tranquil too.

BeechworthBed

The villa itself is gorgeous with a simple but fresh interior that reminds you of why you escaped to the little country town in the first place — to get away from the hustle and materialism of everyday life. At night the starry heavens expand as far as the eye can see, twinkling with every possible constellation visible in the Southern Hemisphere including the gushing Milky Way. Despite its closeness to the village, there is no light pollution — only you, the stars above and the comforting sounds of the countryside. Quite frankly, it’s the ultimate reason among many as to why you should retreat to Victoria’s High Country this May.

The author and her partner dined and stayed in Beechworth courtesy of Tourism North East and the venues mentioned above.

The essentials

What: High Country Harvest
Where: Beechworth and surrounding villages throughout Victoria’s High Country
When: 15 to 24 May 2015
Events: Visit the High Country website all events
Web: www.victoriashighcountry.com.au

Photography by Jessica Schumann.

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Jessica Schumann

A 'rambling ranga' at heart, Jessica Schumann is a bubbly, creative social thinker who thrives on words, social media and an innate knack for sharing stories. When she finds the time to write, Jessica seeks out the beauty in change and the essence of human condition. Varied and diverse in nature, her writing delves into the enviable world of people, travel, food and culture. When you can't find her in a nook writing, just follow your nose and you’ll soon find Jessica indulging in her other passion – cooking – or curled up on the couch with a good book in hand. You can find her over at ramblingranga.com.au. More about the Author

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