Five of a kind: Craft beer

Ajitoya, Seddon.
Ajitoya, Seddon. Photo: Sarah Lynch

Ajitoya

When Adam Sleight's dog was sent to work in Japan 10 years ago (as a guide dog), he thought he might as well follow it. He returned to Australia three years later, partner in tow, and with a new appreciation for Japanese craft beer. ''Only 1 per cent of beers from Japan's 250 breweries makes our shores,'' he says, while pouring a Yona Yona Ale, one of 45 varieties available at his 36-seat cafe-bar cum Japanese grocery store. The menu is described as authentic home-style Osaka food, and Sleight says there are no chefs, only Japanese food enthusiasts who love to cook what they love to eat. The juicy karaage chicken is ideal beer food, although, with winter coming, the niku beef udon could easily match a Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale, too.
82 Charles Street, Seddon; 9687 1027; open for lunch and dinner Tues-Sun. ajitoya.com.au

The Terminus Hotel's Craftbar

After lengthy renovations, Melbourne's newest craft beer space officially opens today. Here you'll find 16 taps on offer, eight of which are rotated with some rare tasty treats from Australia and abroad. Also new is a purpose-built kitchen offering Vietnamese-style banh mi and four types of bao - think Chinese buns. The slow-cooked barbecue pork, with Asian slaw and pickled cucumber, is the most beer friendly. An undercover (and heated) beer garden has also been built, a handy option for those on the No.86 tram route.
492 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill; 9481 3182; open from 4pm Mon-Thur, noon Fri-Sun. terminus.com.au

The Wilde

As newly opened eateries crowd around it on Gertrude Street, for the past 18 months the Wilde has quietly built a loyal following among those wanting British food and warm pints of beer. Two chefs from Britain named Harold (one ex-Movida) control the kitchen, producing comfort food such as roasted Otway pork belly served on sauteed savoy cabbage with house-smoked bacon. Owner and Londoner Wayne Markus works the bar, standing behind a jar of pickled eggs and a hand pump, currently pouring 3 Ravens English Ale. There are just a few tables inside, but others scattered on the street attract those wanting to check out the passing parade. Traditional English breakfasts are served on weekends.
153 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy; 9416 4116; open from 4pm Tue-Wed, noon Thu-Fri, 10am Sat-Sun. thewilde.com.au

The Wilde, Fitzroy.
The Wilde, Fitzroy. Photo: Sarah Lynch

The Woodlands Hotel

Owner Hayden George is a proud Victorian, which is why almost every one of the 50 varieties of craft beer at the Woodlands is from his home state. ''I thought it would be best to showcase what we've got here first,'' he says. From the entrance, where two grandiose wooden eagle carvings greet patrons, the set-up could be best described as a mediaeval beer hall-meets-Mad Hatter's tea party. The wooden atrium-like structure out the back is especially striking. The kitchen team, headed by chef Rob Taylor (formerly at Josie Bones), uses beer extensively in the food. The chargrilled, slow-cooked pork ribs comes with a ''beerbq sauce'', and, for dessert, the toasted Holgate Temptress marshmallow is rich, chocolatey and decadent.
84/88 Sydney Road, Coburg; 9384 1122; open from 4pm Mon-Thur, noon Fri-Sun. thewoodlandshotel.com.au

The Park Hotel

A craft beer explosion is taking place in Werribee. Reopened at the end of 2012 after extensive renovations, the Park Hotel offers a staggering 400 domestic and international craft beers by the bottle, as well as 20 rotating craft beer taps and a hand pump. It's daunting. The menu gives a different slant on pub fare, the wild boar jungle curry with redcurrants and wild rice a citrusy take on Thai curry. The surrounds are spacious and bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows occupying the entire east side and looking out to the greenery of Railway Place. Plans are afoot to open a micro-brewery on site in the not-too-distant future.
12 Watton Street, Werribee; 9741 1441; Wed-Sun, 12pm-late. theparkhotel.net.au