1. FORESTER'S HALL
Self-described as a "speakeasy on a grand scale", it's true everything at this newly opened beer and music hall goes large. From the 32 craft brews on tap, to the foot-stomping bands performing in a golden clam-shell stage above, this jovial late-night barn has Smith Street in a spin. Match the beers with a well-priced gourmet pizza (most around $15 – try the mushroom and truffle) which are available for takeaway until 2am to sate those late-night munchies.
64 Smith St, Collingwood; forestershall.com.au
2. RAILWAY HOTEL
Re-opening last week, the Railway's new owners have saved the bones of the majestic three-story building, but added handmade and recycled wooden furnishings to create a relaxed space that fits Brunswick well. Framed by two spacious beer gardens, peeps have already started lapping up an all-day menu that focuses on imaginative pizza toppings and a shout out to USA's southern border. The Chimmychanga (deep-fried burrito) is the ultimate sponge and the Mallee Dorper Saltbush lamb ragout is the signature dish. Next door is a serious 250-capacity band venue on the weekends.
291 Albert Street, Brunswick; 9380 8888; railwayhotelbrunswick.com.au
3. THE CURTIN
For the past few years, RMIT folk have made downstairs their own, while music aficionados head above to the 300-capacity band room. Yet since Huxtaburger opened a pop-up here last month, burger lovers mingle between the two. Just like their other stores, the menu is named after Cosby Show characters, so sit in the grungy but comfy front bar booths with a Denise (jalapeño and sriracha mayo) for a bit of heat before the gig.
29 Lygon St, Carlton; 9663 6350; johncurtinhotel.com
4. GASOMETER HOTEL
Head straight to the swivelling purple leather bar stools, order a local craft beer and munch on the braised beef brisket, corn and slaw tacos for something light in anticipation for the dance floor ahead. In the newly renovated band room, with its Hollywood-Bowl style retractable curved roof, bands come from all genres, from Oz icons such asTumbleweed to all-day Bob Dylan cover tributes.
484 Smith St, Collingwood; 9416 3335; thegasometerhotel.com.au
It's known as the non-profit bar, where takings from each drink are sent to projects in the drink's country of origin, though many wouldn't realise a sizeable band room awaits in the basement. Opened in March, and run by the Corner Presents crew, bands are burgeoning, often on the verge of playing to bigger audiences, so things get lively fast. Arrive before a gig, sit outside on the laneway tables and grab the crispy pork belly and chicken liver parfait banh mi, washing it down with a Beer Lao.
36 Manchester Lane, CBD; 9650 6931; shebeen.com.au