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Road trips to the best pubs

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The North Central Review
The North Central Review
The North Central Review is an independently owned newspaper publishing company based in Kilmore that is responsible for publishing two community newspapers each week, covering communities within the Mitchell Shire

A new book exploring the best pubs across Victoria also delves into the family history of author Paul Chai – some of which centres on Seymour.

Chai’s grandparents lived in Seymour, and he spent many holidays there during his childhood.

Despite admitting to having ‘loved to hate Seymour’ because it was too far from the big city of Melbourne, Chai details how he now appreciates the region, particularly new additions to the food and wine industry.

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While the Nagambie Brewery and Distillery, Mitchelton Winery and Avenel’s Bank Street Wood Fired Pizza and Gardens are all glowingly mentioned, Chai also details stories of his childhood and links to his grandparents.

“But you travel to a place long enough and you get to know it intimately,” the book reads.

“You discover hidden duckboard walks behind the Seymour Football Club where my grandfather used to run a hamburger stand, you accidentally hook a platypus and let it go while fishing on a bucolic bend of the Goulburn River, and you watch your own kids turn the metal dials and handles on the old, retired black steam train you used play on as a child while your grandparents watched.

“You discover that inside the Seymour Railway Station are some of the oldest hand signals on the entire rail network that are over 150 years old and still in operation.

“You find out Seymour is kind of interesting.”

But one of the best stories about Chai’s grandparents has nothing to do with road trips or pubs – it is about his grandfather who used to be a train driver.

“My grandfather had a very unique claim to fame as a train driver, a profession not known for its excitement,” the book reads.

“On one of his shifts his train hit and killed a rogue elephant in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

“Topsy the elephant had escaped from the local circus after a small dog had nipped at her heels and she had stumbled onto the railway line as my grandfather’s train headed in town.

“He was saddened by the event of course but it earnt him a fair degree of notoriety.”

Little gems of stories are dotted throughout the book, as well as plenty of research, local knowledge garnered through interviews with key people within the local hospitality industry and general observations of buildings, menus and wine lists.

Whether looking to sample a mouth-watering pub lunch with a group of friends, checking out a great band, or hiding quietly in a nook with your phone and a pint, there are venues of all shapes and sizes detailed in the book.

Chai takes readers on the road to check out some of the best pubs in Victoria, from the Victorian high country to the wine regions, and a pub where people can pull up by boat.

Chai said a great pub fits its location like a glove: it attracts local people, reflects local producers on the menu and taps into, and feels part of, the fabric of the neighbourhood.

The book description is: “A great pub will have warmth, intimacy and be welcoming to all, including kids.

“There are quirky locals, sprawling country beer barns and the odd crafts brewery.

“Some you stay at, some you drink at and some you catch a band at, but all of them are embedded in their local communities, so Paul celebrates the alpine hikes, the winery tours and the wildlife treks that surround them.”

The book will inspire people to hit the road for the perfect pint, the longest of lunches and the comfiest couches – all to enjoy the best pubs in Victoria.

‘Road Trips to the Best Pubs in Victoria’ is published by New Holland Publishers and retails for $24.99. It is available from all good bookstores or

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