Straddie ‘brewairy’ flight takes beer tasting to new heights
Sampling beers above the locations that inspired them make this a brewery tour like no other.
Pssssch. That’s the irresistible sound of a freshly-cracked can of Point Lookout Lager from Straddie Brewing Co, which I’m opening on a Cessna 172 flying above the beer’s namesake point on North Stradbroke. The water far below is crystal clear; the Pilsner-style beer in my hand, crisp and refreshing.
It’s a pretty unusual experience to try a beer while soaring over the very place it’s inspired by (and being careful not to spill it on the plush upholstery) but that’s actually why I’m here.
I’m onboard a Brewairy Tour out of Brisbane, tasting a trio of Straddie Brewing Co beers – each one named after a local Stradbroke landmark – while also taking in the untamed beauty of the world’s second largest sand island, also known as Minjerribah.
Three beers are offered for tasting during the 55-minute flight: the fruity Jumpinpin IPA at Jumpinpin Channel, a stretch of water between North and South Straddie; the aforementioned Point Lookout Lager, an old-world Pilsner; and an Amity Pale Ale, which is described as “an esky filler, instead of a boat rocker”.
My pilot, tour guide and attendant Brendan Lidster is the creator of this hoppy adventure at 2000 feet. When not training new pilots as an instructor for Flight One Academy in Archerfield, he’s taking passionate beer fans (and those who just love to fly) on day trips to Stradbroke.
While pub crawl flights are somewhat common, Lidster believes his Brewairy tour is unique.
Rather than just a charter from point A to B, it’s a full experience – a scenic flight and tour delving into the often-fascinating history of the island, combined with the beer tastings that explore the flavour profiles of each brew.
“As far as we can tell, it’s the only one of its kind in the world,” Lidster enthuses, shortly before our 10:30am take off from Archerfield and the impressive Brisbane skyline views out the left window that follow.
“There are pub crawls out west, but this is the only one – that we can find – which actually pairs inflight beer tasting with the scenery those beers are named after. It’s pretty exciting.”
One can is usually shared between two passengers, with beers and glasses tucked into an esky in the seat back pocket. It’s a self-pour situation, with no room on this cosy Cessna for another attendant.
As the flight tracks towards Jumpinpin, where North and South Stradbroke were once physically linked, passengers open the first can: the IPA. Its label features an image of the Cambus Wallace: a three-masted steel barque dubbed ‘the ship that broke an island’.
Lidster explains over the headset that after running aground some 200m off shore in September 1894, the ship – carrying a chief cargo of salt, spirits and a hefty amount of dynamite – began taking on water, with its wreckage later strewn along the beach at Jumpinpin.
“The waterlogged dynamite became unstable and it was decided, for safety, to detonate it right there on the sand. Witnesses say fragments of the ship and sand were thrown 100 feet in the air.”
Not long after the detonation, erosion patterns at Jumpinpin were noted to have changed dramatically, and by May 1895, encroaching sea and storms had split the island in two.
This is just one of many stories throughout the flight. Of course, there’s plenty of time to soak in the view as well, as the plane rounds Point Lookout, skirts the tip of Moreton, and soars over Amity Point before landing at Dunwich Airport, where a visit to the brewery ensues.
Straddie Brewing Co has been around for almost three years now, with its core range of six beers a regular presence in bars and bottle shops across Brisbane and the Redlands area. Its brewery on the island, however, only opened in October 2022.
Like so many businesses, their original plans were derailed by the pandemic. Rather than call it a day, owners Kylie Taylor and Troy Beaven, and head brewer Andrew Sydes – formerly of Green Beacon – decided to get production up and running with assistance from a brewery on the mainland first, before opening their own facility.
“We kind of went about it in the reverse order,” laughs Kitty Lunny, the brewery’s Experience and Events Manager, while giving me a brief orientation of the new three-level venue.
On the ground floor is the production area, the space filled with gleaming stainless steel fermenter tanks and canning equipment. The brewery’s tasting room is up on level two and its restaurant on the rooftop, looking out to the sapphire expanse of Redland Bay.
On arrival, guests are free to enjoy lunch and a tasting paddle at their own expense – I recommend the Myora Springs Gose and Mid Track Session Ale – before making their own way back to Brisbane via the Cleveland ferry. An optional return flight can be arranged too.
Lidster says there’s a 50/50 split of passengers opting for the ferry, with the 2:30pm return flight (if purchase) resulting in less time to further explore the island. Taking the boat relieves that time pressure, with guests able to kick on at leisure into the afternoon.
Leaving Dunwich behind as we make our way back to Archerfield, the waters around Peel and Coochiemudlo islands sparkling in the sunlight, the return flight takes just 12 minutes. While not as much time to soak in the view, it’s still a sight worth raising a beer to.
About Brewairy Tours:
Starting from $399 per person, Brewairy Tours include a one-way flight from Archerfield to Dunwich airstrip, the tasting of three beers, and a transfer to the Straddie Brewing Co brewery. Optional extras include a return flight to Archerfield (instead of making your way back on the ferry), along with a fly-by of Q1 Tower on the Gold Coast or flyover the Tangalooma wrecks.
The writer travelled as a guest of Brewairy Tours and Straddie Brewing Co.
Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Straddie ‘brewairy’ flight takes beer tasting to new heights