Don’t fancy yourself as a church-goer? Gibbston Valley’s Cargo Brewery may just see you rethinking that position! A refreshing change from the many wineries for which the valley is known, Cargo Brewery is a casual dining and beer-tasting venue located down a quiet unsealed road (Church Lane) half an hour from bustling Queenstown. While the Central Otago hoards flocks in droves to the region’s formal vineyard eateries, Cargo offers old-fashioned lavender-lined pathways and a tranquil beer garden with views over its own 2018-planted hop gardens. And if you’re into historic buildings, the establishment’s quaint Dutch-waxed, rimu-lined restaurant is housed in what was previously a historic church.
Negotiations for the purchase of the now-deconsecrated Wangaloa Presbyterian Church from South Otago took many months, and the building was finally shifted onto the property in 2000 in a daring transportation move that saw the entire building (minus its roof), carried in one piece, on the back of a truck. The journey was over hundreds of kilometres and took in the Gore to Kingston road with its winding Devil’s Staircase that hugs bluffs high above Lake Wakatipu. Sitting in the restaurant today, and looking at the width of the building, it’s almost impossible to believe that the daring feat was a success.
Nowadays, a bustling kitchen occupies what was formerly the church’s vestry, while a few steps away, it’s possible to take a look-see, through viewing windows, into the brewing operation itself. The operation is home to the Cargo Classic Range which includes, among others, Pilsner, Pale Ale and IPA. If cider is your tipple, sample Lillevik Alpine apple, and if you’re a wine buff, you’re in for a treat with the neighbouring vineyard’s light and spicy Pinot noirs.
If you have kids in tow on your visit, you’re in for an uninterrupted afternoon as Caro offers a wide expanse of playing area and outdoors games such as cricket and petanque to keep the young ones busy. And if you’re dining with folks with a range of dietary requirements, Cargo will go out of its way to oblige – including offering delicious, vegan melt-in-the-mouth cheese toppings on its pizzas.
As for where to start with Cargo’s menu, we suggest you begin with the restaurant’s highlight – flight-tasters featuring a selection of four different beers (you can swap in a cider if you wish) or local wines. Tasting platters to accompany drinks include fries with truffle oil aioli, and baked Brie accompanied by the Central Otago tastes of fragrant beetroot and rosemary chutney with sour dough bread. While a range of mains are available, Cargo’s pizzas are a must with their crispy bases and tasty toppings accompanied by peppery wild arugula that tastes for all the world as if it was picked straight from a sunny garden. The friendliest of staff are the icing on the cake!
Time it right
Cargo Brewery hosts a range of events over the year, so head to their webpage to find the very best reasons to head there.