Ipswich, the ‘grande dame’ of Queensland, is being reborn, her stately buildings and houses undergoing rejuvenation as the city takes on new life. There are lots of attractions in Ipswich if you take time to look: road and rail events, heritage walks, funky cafés and a load of owner-operated niche interest, vintage and gift shops. It’s easy to plan a weekend around your interests.
If there’s one place which exemplifies the progressive attitude of the town, it’s the Pumpyard Brewery. Home to Wade Curtis’ award-winning 4 Hearts beer, first released commercially in 2011, the brewery takes its name from the site’s historical role: the place where in the 1860s locals came to collect their four free buckets of water daily at a pump tapping a natural underground spring.
Comprising four compellingly gothic, institution-like red brick buildings opened in 1901, the site was used as a technical college before being sold to use as a brewery. The original buildings were to have been opened by Queen Victoria, the event marred by her death two weeks prior!
Now, it has become a place of business and pleasure, leaseholds in the upper floors containing professional offices while the brewery and several dining areas fill the back of the venue.
A quick tour of the Pumpyard’s buildings and beer with GM Shaun Hunt shows us the tasting area and bar integrated into the brewery, 20 taps run straight off the fermenting tanks. There’s plenty of beer to try: the low alcohol Ipswich Challenger, Red IPA, Seasonal (which tastes much like a German ale), 1910 (which packs a massive punch in both flavour and alcohol), Coalminer’s Stout and Wabbit Saison (beer made with Scenic Rim carrots). How local can you get! It’s easy to settle on the ‘sessionable’ Slippery Slide, and indeed it is!
The brewery offers casual family and group dining in an atmospheric industrial setting. Unused wood from the site has been upcycled into dining tables between the bar and the vats, the bar constructed from the old Esk Bridge. Some remnant machinery from the old woodwork workshop provides atmospheric décor pieces, an historic reminder that our history is never far away.
Meals at the brewery are well-priced and pitched to match a session: Hot wings and Sweet potato fries are a great way to start, leading into Brioche burgers served with beer-battered fries, a Brewer’s Board or Pizza to share, or mains such as Middle Eastern lamb or Fajitas.
Save some room for dessert! The Bacon Ice Cream Sandwich or the Chocolate Macadamia Brownie with salted caramel sauce and chilli stout ale ice cream are decadent ‘must do’ desserts! There’s also a separate kids’ menu, making the venue family-friendly.
In April 2017, the Pumpyard expanded their dining options with the opening of their new conference centre (the Lord Lamington Room that can cater for up to 200 for cocktails and 120 for sit down dinner) and à la carte finer dining restaurant Dovetails, (named in honour of the many carpenters who trained at this former TAFE complex).
The expansion is the jewel in the Pumpyard’s crown.
“Ipswich has been screaming out for a place like this,” says Nathalia Sousa, the Day Manager.
Maintaining a sense of heritage with its panelled timber walls and simple elegant furnishings and lighting, the large banquet table shows off dovetail joints on its timber top; the skill after which the restaurant was named. Look further and you’ll see more attributions in the large dining room adjoining the marble bar.
Many diners will choose to dine on the expansive deck instead. Shaded by 100-year-old Poinciana trees, the deck extends out from the building to overlook the park alongside.
The overall masculinity of the venue and styling is softened in Dovetails with a fine touch. The beautifully balanced cutlery and floral-fringed wine and food menus provide femininity. The carefully curated à la carte menus are well suited to the dining public, with the fusion of well-chosen dishes for lunch and dinner influenced by classic French and modern Australian cuisine. In a short wine list of just a dozen wines, almost all are available by the glass, but of course there’s also 4 Hearts beer, one of the venue’s star attractions.
With breakfasts ranging from gluten-free crumpets with local honey ($8), to French toast with caramelised banana, or Eggs Bene with chard, smoked salmon and lemon hollandaise ($21.50), breakfast on the deck has real appeal – the perfect place to hold a business meeting or to begin an indulgent weekend.
We dine on a weekend at lunch, enjoying the peaceful ambience and polished service. Shared entrées of Herb-crusted kangaroo carpaccio and Queensland scallops with cauli purée, black pudding crumb, and lemon hollandaise are delicious, light meals.
We share the more substantial main: Wagyu beef cheeks braised in Coal miners’ stout with potato gnocchi and mushroom ragu ($26), leaving room for a stunning Beeramisu – sponge fingers soaked in Coal miners’ stout with coffee and creamy mascarpone.
Somehow, as we sit on the veranda, we’re imbued with a sense of place and the accumulated history of this venue. With a glass of pale ale and Gippsland’s Bass River Pinot Noir on hand, we blissfully spend a few hours in conversation and laughter, shaded by ancient trees like so many who’ve gone before.
We marvel at the foresight and hard work necessary to restore this venue rather than demolishing it, as so many others may have done.
What a bonus this revitalised complex is to Ipswich! It’s a ‘must visit’ attraction.
88 Limestone St., Ipswich, Queensland 4305
Ph: 07 3282 9076
Brewery open: Wed -Thurs: 12noon – 9:30pm; Fri – Sat: 12noon – 11pm; Sun: 12noon – 5pm
Dovetails open: Mon – Tues 7am – 4pm; Wed – Sun 7am – 10pm.
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NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of the City of Ipswich.