The bar at White Rabbit Barrel Hall in Geelong offers snacky but effective food. Photo: Pat Scala
White Rabbit Barrel Hall
Address Little Creatures Village, 221 Swanston Street (corner Fyans Street), Geelong
Open Sun-Wed 11am–5pm, Thu-Sat 11am–9pm
Eat this Build-your-own-charcuterie, from $12
Drink this Red Ale, $10.50 for 570ml
Know this Pick up a picnic hamper to enjoy by the nearby Barwon River.
Say this "Maybe we should move to Geelong?"
Welcome to church for beer lovers. After seven years in Healesville, the White Rabbit brewers have shifted across town to a positively holy new home in Geelong's Little Creatures precinct in the depths of an old brick woollen mill.
The Red Ale at White Rabbit Barrel Hall is a tart, blushing cherry number. Photo: Pat Scala
A glowing sign declares this a place of "fermentation with imagination", and the congregation gets an instant education in the brewing process as they wander past stacks of bursting wooden barrels and funky open-fermenters on the way to the main bar.
It's a hulking wooden altar under a glorious, vaulted roof of rough beams, metal pipes and corrugated plastic panes. The space has been stylishly restored with contemporary touches, such as low leather couches and high wooden stools, with a gleaming row of taps pumping out pots or pints of the good stuff.
The dark ale is the beer that started the White Rabbit journey, and it's a refreshing, moreish malt ale with bitter notes of chocolate and toffee. The white ale is a warmly golden version with a whiff of gin on the nose: juniper, orange, coriander. A new pale ale is a complex, hoppy hit, and there are three other brews available exclusively on site.
The Red Ale is a tart, blushing cherry number; the Teddywidder is a low alcohol weisse bier flavoured with fruit cordials; and the Curious is a rotating boutique special that will likely blow your doors off with a higher alcohol content. Perhaps this is why the place isn't open late – it shuts by 9pm on weekends.
The food offering is snacky but effective – with no real kitchen, everything is served cold. A rustic tomato tart is a flaky pastry cup with a slick of goat's curd, caramelised onion and a scattering of rocket. There's also build-your-own charcuterie with jamon, capocollo and bresaola, or cheddar, brie and blue by boutique producers from the Adelaide Hills and King Island. These are the kind of party-friendly, easy nibbles you might serve at home over a few beers.
Staff are trained-up and on the ball, and there's a sensational general store selling a snapshot of designer produce from the area – if you need a Kris Kringle gift, come here and shoot fish in a barrel. Chutneys, cookbooks, knives, cheeses, picnic supplies, porcelain, take your pick. Prue and Trude would love it.
The new headquarters also gives the Rabbits space to produce up to 1.5 million litres of beer a year and spread the good word across the country. Amen to that.