A Cotter Dam BBQ is nearly as iconic to Canberra as our concrete bus shelters. Groups spread out across the span of grass on either side of the car park playing soccer, frisbee and basketball. Maple trees cast their shade across the expanse but in autumn drop countless leaves to warn that winter is on its way.
The sizzle of BBQ onion and sausages fills the air with mouthwatering aromas and children play in the shallows of the Cotter River. Afterwards, the adults pry their kids from the playground to go on an obligatory stroll along the Cotter Dam Discovery Trail. It’s a fantastic Canberra tradition.
Next Saturday, though, on 13 February, the Cotter Dam BBQ is getting a boost. One word: coffee!
A couple of Saturdays ago, I pulled in to the Cotter, rushing and frazzled in my efforts to get there early to grab a table for our BBQ. And there, parked at the entrance like a welcome mirage, was a coffee van! Narelle and Karl Brenner beamed out from the van’s serving window, genuinely delighted to be out meeting folk at the Cotter and serving them wonderful coffee.
Thankfully, I had some coins in the car as the Cotter’s lack of internet coverage makes online payments an impossibility. My cappuccino certainly made the wait for everyone else to arrive much sweeter.
Pit Stop Coffee #1 is a new venture for the Brenners whose trial runs have exceeded expectations.
Narelle admits, “We are beginners at this. It is a total change for us. We used to be in the public service. We retired and then we thought, ‘let’s do something different’. Our daughter had bought us a coffee machine and we realised: We really like coffee!”
Karl adds: “We made coffee for friends and family. They began coming over for the coffee, so we thought we would expand. Our original plan was to cater to the workers building out at Whitlam.”
The Whitlam plan fell through, but friends and family encouraged them to take their van out to the Cotter.
A native-born Canberran, Narelle loves the Cotter, and husband Karl has a strong connection to the area.
“I am a motorbike rider from way back and we always do the Cotter Loop,” Karl says.
“Since the Cotter pub burned down in 2003, there has been absolutely nothing there to refuel thirsty riders. So we thought, let’s service the bike riders and the people who have their picnics down there. And, wow – we are overwhelmed!”
Narelle and Karl trialled their coffee van over the past few weekends at the Cotter, and they feel buoyed by the joyous welcome they have received.
“We already have regulars! One fellow came over the other day and said, ‘You should remember my order’,” Narelle laughs.
Pit Stop Coffee #1 serves up lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites with the usual milk varieties. They also stock cold canned drinks, cook fresh bacon and egg rolls and toasties, and sell cakes and slices.
Kart says their next acquisition will be a freezer so they can add iced drinks and ice creams to their menu.
Pit Stop Coffee #1 opens on 13 February and will serve all comers from 8:00 am until about 4:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Follow Pit Stop Coffee on Facebook. Remember, with no internet connection, it’s cash only.