Sure, the pub is an excellent go-to for catch-ups, but why not up the ante? Melbourne's craft brewers certainly have. What started about five years ago with a few canny creators seeking a way to entice more drinkers has turned into a citywide phenomenon. Regardless of which part of Melbourne you live in, you're never too far from one of the new breed of brewpubs.
Some are simply minimalist additions to existing breweries; others are huge, purpose-built taprooms that include extensive kitchens and entertainment that runs the gamut from ping-pong to live bands.
But why spend all that money when you can just put your best ale in a keg and ship it to the pub? Opening a brewery creates a connection between the brand and the consumer, who gets to chat to people who are experts at this beer biz and try out collabs and small-batch brews that often can't be supplied to pubs or bottle shops. The result is really a drinker's hat trick: interesting, fresh-as beers, excellent food, and somewhere you can happily take friends and family.
2 Brothers in Moorabbin. Photo: Melanie Faith Dove
2 Brothers Brewery
There's a low-key charm to this brewpub from brothers Dave and Andrew Ong. All the creative action happens directly behind the bar, with the gleaming tanks producing a range of beers that are available year round and seasonally. Further into the venue, there are plenty of different seating options: tall tables for two, picnic benches, and booths for between four and eight. On a recent Saturday afternoon, local families and groups of mates were enjoying quiet afternoon pints, accompanied by chilaquiles from La Tortilleria, which had taken over the kitchen. During the week, there's trivia, comedy and music.
One to try Got a mate who can't see past Carlton Draught? Introduce them to Kung Foo, a crisp, clean rice lager with character.
Kid and dog friendly? Absolutely. Children are welcome everywhere, while there's a small front courtyard where you can hang out with pooches.
4 Joyner Street, Moorabbin, 2brothers.com.au
Bad Shepherd in Cheltenham. Photo: Supplied
Bad Shepherd Brewing Co
Anyone living in the vicinity of Cheltenham can consider themselves lucky. Dereck and Diti Hales are the local couple behind this modern brewery. There's plenty of seating in the light-filled dining room, interesting, characterful beers, and a tempting menu of delicious beer snacks (hello, jalapeno poppers) and smoked meats. Watch out for Karma Kegs on Friday, brewery tours and trivia nights.
One to try The deep brown Jaffa Milkshake IPA has a malty dark choc taste with a hint of orange. Have it instead of dessert.
Kid and dog friendly? On Sunday evenings between 5pm and 8pm, children under 12 eat free. At other times there is a short children's menu, high chairs and games. Pooches are welcome on the veranda.
386 Reserve Road, Cheltenham, badshepherd.com.au
A tasting paddle at Bodriggy. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Bodriggy Brewing Co
You can tell hospo pros are behind this airy, industrial space in a former mechanics' warehouse. In fact, Jon Costelloe, Anthony Daniels and Pete Walsh also have Dr Morse across the street and their fingers in plenty of other pies. Beer-wise, there's lots to please, from smashable pale ales to some more unusual varieties. There are also natural wines and excellent cocktails on tap if you need to change things up. The feature that really makes Bodriggy a cut above, though, is the South American-style food coming out of chef Johny Dominguez's (previously of Vue de Monde and Dinner by Heston) kitchen. The fried jalapenos stuffed with swordfish then stuffed in a taco are *chef's kiss*. Plus, there are live bands bringing their tunes to the venue on Thursday and Sunday nights.
One to try If you're into sours, the Razzamatazz is great, and brewed with different fruit depending on the season.
Kid and dog friendly? Yep, sure is.
245 Johnston Street, Abbotsford, bodriggy.beer
Hop Nation in Footscray. Photo: Raoul Gerard
Hop Nation Brewing Co
Sam Harbour and Duncan Gibson gave winemaking away, got into gypsy brewing, then found the perfect spot to grow. The 1880s former candle factory in Footscray is one of the more eye-catching buildings you could possibly fit out with mash tuns and fermentation tanks. From the 15 taps, you can taste the core range as well as the small batch varieties created using local produce.
One to try Get in quick for the 2019 Wine Series, golden sour ales with muscat, riesling, gewurztraminer or malbec whole grapes, or skins and stems, from around Victoria.
Kid and dog friendly? You bet.
6/107–109 Whitehall Street, Footscray, hopnation.com.au
Moon Dog World, a massive new beer 'theme park' in Preston. Photo: Justin McManus
Moon Dog World
Having conquered Abbotsford, the pups at Moon Dog – brothers Josh and Jake Uljans and their buddy Karl van Buuren – have gone all-out with this endeavour in Preston. It's huge, and comes with a lagoon, beer garden and upstairs seating with table service (bonus points!). But all the trimmings mean nothing if you don't have the beer right. Thankfully, they do. There's a solid list of core beers, but the real joy comes from the seasonal and experimental drops. All of it comes from 72 taps.
One to try The Splice of Heaven IPA is your favourite childhood pine-lime ice-cream in a glass and it rocks.
Kid and dog friendly? Yes to both. In fact, on Saturdays, you might find yourself caught in a pram jam.
32 Chifley Drive, Preston, moondog.com.au/world
Stomping Ground in Collingwood. Photo: David Hyde
Stomping Ground Brewing Co
It feels as though Melbourne's original mega-brewpub, with its cavernous yet cosy space in a warehouse conversion, started something others were keen to replicate. There are easy-drinking beers alongside crafty numbers, good food, a beer garden and family-friendly atmosphere, complete with play area. You can find Stomping Ground's beers all over Melbourne, but there are some venue-only varieties coming out of the 30 taps. Aficionados should check out the Into the 'Wood range, aged in different spirit and wine barrels.
One to try If you're into dark beers, the roasty Bearbrass Nitro Milk Stout has some great coffee notes and isn't too heavy.
Kid and dog friendly? Sure thing. They tend to hang out in the beer garden.
100 Gipps Street, Collingwood, stompingground.beer
Tasters at Tallboy & Moose. Photo: Pat Scala
Tallboy & Moose
Is there anything better than a Sunday roast? There sure is – one you can have with a choice of ales, porters, goses and more. Wee Man's Kitchen, which pumps out good grub all week, turns it up a notch for the weekly roast with all the trimmings. This is a great spot to hang out with your mates, with some lounges down the back near the Miro-esque mural and ping-pong table. Dan Hall (the tall boy) and Steve Germain (he's Canadian and therefore the moose in this equation) have brewed up a little northside magic.
One to try Local honey from the Practical Beekeeper gives Queen B, a milk brown ale, its distinguishing flavour.
Kid and dog friendly? Absolutely. Pups can mingle in the outdoor area.
270 Raglan Street, Preston, tallboyandmoose.com
Danielle Allen, left and Jayne Lewis from Two Birds Brewing in Spotswood. Photo: Salona Chithiray
Two Birds Brewing
Craft beer can be a blokey, beardy experience, so thank the goddesses for Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen, the queens behind Australia's first female-owned brewing company. They've been going strong since 2011, and in their Spotswood headquarters – in a building that once made beer cans – since 2014, creating a crowd-pleasing range of regular and seasonal drops. Their gathering space is called the Nest, and it's just the ticket if you need to kick back for a couple of hours with a tasty beer and some good pint-friendly food.
One to try With the popularity of NEIPAs (New England IPAs) surging, you might want to have a go at the fruity, hoppy Chew Tang Can.
Kid and dog friendly? Yes to small people. There's a small area out the front where you can bring your dog, but it's uncovered.
136 Hall Street, Spotswood, twobirdsbrewing.com.au