With the food at cellar door restaurants generally leaning towards fine dining and an environment unsuitable for young children, it was perhaps inevitable that something had to fill the more casual, family friendly dining niche in the South West. Considering the fact that the location of a brewery is arguably less terroir driven than wine (though cannot be discounted), the explosion of the 'Pizzas and Brewery' business model as the answer to this niche has been a surprising runaway success. Breweries are now such an ubiquitous fixture of all of Western Australia's major wine regions that families with younger children are probably more likely to have dined at a brewery than a winery during a trip Down South.
Located a very short drive away from Alissa's parents' home is Willoughby Park, a celebrated winery producing excellent cooler climate wines, though it is perhaps more well known to tourists as the home of microbrewery Boston Brewery. Turning into the winery's grounds, its clear that this is a large group and family friendly operation, complete with a playground amongst the vines and long outdoor tables.
Arriving as we did for a late lunch with Alissa's brother Ben and his partner Kelsey, most of the tables outside were taken, leading us to find a table inside the massive shed that is the long table dominated dining hall...
... and the actual brewery itself.
After settling in, we placed our orders at the separate drinks and food counters. With their pizzas being highly regarded, Alissa choose their Capricciosa for her lunch. Having been cooked in a wood fire oven, the pizza base was cooked very well, however we agreed that the crusty exterior to soft fluffy interior contrast was not quite as impressive as Neighbourhood Pizza in Mt Hawthorn in Perth or Swing Taphouse in Margaret River. Being a classic pizza combo, the toppings unsurprisingly all worked very well together, however for my tastes it was a bit heavy-handed toppings-wise when compared to the other aforementioned pizzerias. The level of toppings on a pizza is a debatable point - some would call what I prefer to be a bit stingy, and its probably a bridge too far for an expecting regional audience - so I get why they have gone for the level of toppings that they have. Overall, the pizza was a pretty good and was better made than the pizza I ordered at Truffle Hill (though that pizza was topped with insane amounts of black truffle).
We all shared a serve of the Dutch Chips, which were easily the best thing we ate at Boston Brewery. Fairly basic Chips, topped with a sweet Satay Sauce, Aoili and Salad Onions, the dish was a classic example of how something can be greater than the sum of its parts. The Chips were good to start with but went soggy fairly quickly, and seemed coated in flour rather than allowing a natural crust to form, and the Satay Sauce was clearly westernised in flavour - and yet we could not get enough of it! The dish was incredibly delicious in an over-the-top stoner/hangover cure/dude food kind of way, and would have to be a must-order item.
When choosing my dish, the 8 Hour Woodfired Suckling Pulled Pork with Half Marron, Basket Fries and White Truffle Aioli sounded to good to pass up given how excessive it sounded. And indeed, when it arrived we were all amazed by the very generous serve of food I was given for $36! Unfortunately, there were a few issues with the dish. The marron was well cooked however it was a bit bland, needing better seasoning and maybe a squeeze of lemon to give it some acidity. The Fries had the same sogginess issues of the Dutch Chips without the benefit of Satay Sauce, while the White Truffle Aoili was fine if not quite as intense in flavour as it could have been (mind, you White Truffles are considerably milder than the more common Black variety).
The bun and the Pulled Pork itself were good, however having eaten some of the best Pulled Pork I've ever tried at Foragers in Pemberton and excellent American-style Pulled Pork at Settlers in Margaret River, this fell a few rungs below.
The Verdict: Very Good
While the beer we tried was excellent, and I'm a big fan of Willoughby Park as a winery, the food at Boston Brewery was not quite as amazing as I'd hoped. Where Swings Taphouse's Pizza and Forager's Pulled Pork were excellent regardless of the fact it was served in a regional area, Boston Brewery's food has to be qualified as being Excellent for regional standards, but only Very Good when compared to a comparable establishment like Swings Taphouse. Still, the beer and the wine make Boston Brewery worth the visit alone, and I think if you treat it more as a snack place to by some wine for the cellar, and have a casual beer and a bowl of Dutch Chips, Boston Brewery is definitely worth a visit.