THE Mighty Hunter Valley is located on Wine Country Drive but hoppy brews, rather than the region's famous wine, is the drawcard.
The pub, previously known as Potter's Brewery, is a little slice of paradise for beer drinkers on wine country turf.
The rebranding of the venue in October followed the arrival of Newcastle brewers, FogHorn, who set up their second brewery in the region earlier this year at Potter's (their original home is on King Street in Newcastle).
There are 15 beers on tap and FogHorn is the main attraction with their kolsch, ginger and chilli beer, vanilla milk porter, bock, lager, Newy pale ale, Dads With Prams NZ pale Ale, and the Young Americans IPA, which packs the biggest punch of them all, alongside other Australian craft breweries such as Sauce Brewing Co, Sparkke, and Jetty Road Brewing.
There's also a couple of pub standards, like XXXX, for those that prefer things a little less hoppy. If you can't decide, try a tasting paddle of four tap beers for $16.
The cellar door is open for tastings and tours of the brewery run on weekends for those eager to learn about the process from head brewer Keith Grice.
There's plenty of space inside the revamped hotel, which has been given a bright and modern makeover throughout. In the warmer months, though, it's hard to pass up a spot on the lawn at the outdoor tables where shade is provided by colourful FogHorn branded umbrellas.
And for those after wine, the offering is predominately Hunter Valley-based from the likes of Briar Ridge, Petersons House, Tulloch, Annandale, First Creek, Glandore Estate, Scarborough and Tintilla.
Head chef Sean Townsend's CV includes stints at Pokolbin fine-dining institution Muse and, most recently, The Prince of Merewether.
He is passionate about fresh, seasonal produce that is packed with flavour.
There are lots of gluten-free options and the menu highlights local suppliers such as Fawk Foods, Hunter Valley Premium Meats and Hungerford Meat Co in Branxton.
"We have taken the approach of being very seasonal, and we wanted it to be Australian," Townsend says.
"With Australian food, we steer toward the classic combinations, things like pork and apple. There's smoked ham and pea soup, which is a classic, and another is cherry-smoked Berkshire pork with roast potatoes, steamed greens and apple sauce. It's very clean and simple, but the focus is on flavour."
The menu starts with grazing options such as garlic bread damper rolls (supplied by Fawk Foods) with confit garlic and rosemary butter ($12) and Townsend's popular pork and pistachio terrine with pickles, mustard and toasted bread ($16).
For mains, choose from counter meals such as the cheeseburger with grain-fed beef patty, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, burger cheese with fries and aioli ($19) and steak frites 250g rump with fries, jus, bearnaise and mixed leaves ($28), or try the market fish with green beans, burnt butter and hazelnuts ($27) or grass-fed rib eye with potato gratin, green beans and jus ($38).
There are healthy bowls, including the vegan Super Bowl with oyster mushrooms, pecans, charred kale and broccolini ($18) and for dessert, don't pass on the chocolate mousse with strawberries and roasted hazelnuts.
Live music is also back on the menu, including a special show this weekend with Grinspoon frontman Phil Jamieson performing live on Saturday night along with Sophie Ozard and Newcastle band Soda. Tickets are $59.90 through Oztix or add on an extra $30 for a bus transfer to the show leaving from FogHorn Newcastle at 5pm.
- The Mighty Hunter Valley is located at Wine Country Drive, Nulkaba.
- Drink to try: FogHorn vanilla milk porter.
- Tip: Share the local lamb dish, which feeds two to three, which has slow cooked and glazed lamb leg with crushed potatoes, green beans tossed in olive oil, and sourdough bread ($78).
- Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 11am to 10pm; Friday 11am to 12am; Saturday 10am to 12am; Sunday 10am to 10pm.