100 Gipps St Collingwood, VIC 3066
|Features||Licensed, Bar, Outdoor seating, Family friendly|
|Phone||03 9415 1944|
Want to know where every north-sider will be drinking this summer? Here. You could probably fit most of Collingwood into the venue at the same time and still have room for an upmarket hens party.
It seems bigger is better right now – check out the equally epic Higher Ground or Garden State Hotel for more examples of dining "on steroids". This one has room for more than 250 punters over 1500 square metres of prime warehouse real estate. I'd love to read the design brief – is it steampunk N'Orleans chic? There are rusted clawfoot baths filled with succulents, old wooden doors, original brick walls, patches of vintage tiling, metal folding chairs, glowing lanterns. Somehow, it works.
One side is vaguely outdoors, with a soaring retractable roof, numbered farmhouse tables and wooden benches clustered around an industrial metal fireplace (the only thing allowed to smoke around here). The indoor wing has a diner vibe with booths made from salvaged tram seats and a bustling open kitchen. To the west, behind glass, a gleaming 2000-litre brewery operation producing a range of beers for the 30 on-site taps.
Given the grand scale, it's no surprise to learn there's heavyweight experience behind the curtain: Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone own beer-obsessed chain the Local Taphouse, and enlisted long-term venue manager Justin Joiner as partner and brewer Ashur Hall to open the area's first new brewery in 104 years.
The user-friendly menu is neatly divided between food on one side and booze on the other. The headline brews are arranged from easy drinking to challenging, and are available in 100ml tasters, pots, pints or in retro one-litre carafes.
"Smoke on the Water" is a winning collaboration with Byron brewers Stone and Wood. Deemed "moderately challenging", it's a glowing lager made from smoked malt with the seductive savoury flavour of smoked almonds. The "Brick Tower" malt is the most hardcore of the current range, served in a wine glass, intense with toffee notes like a liquid Werther's Original.
Above the bar, there's a row of hot-to-trot craft spirits – Hippocampus gin, Hudson Baby Bourbon, Plantation rum – which you can dip into if beer isn't your jam. Otherwise there's a tight selection of red, white, sparkling or two batch cocktails.
The food is similarly streamlined and features classic snacks such as shoestring fries and olives, and share plates covering the latest checkpoints from saucy pork belly plate, to charcuterie, to extravagant brioche burger. A wood-fired oven is on its way from Italy so expect pizzas and roasting specials to come. It's competent designer drinking food cannily matched to the beers guaranteed to keep the good times rolling and the bill running without offending anyone.
And everyone is welcome here, even your miniature schnauzer. Kids are particularly well looked after, with a separate menu and a rather elaborate spotlit play area with a Wild Wild West theme. It's a one-stop shop for a Sunday session, with plenty of bike racks to park your fixie.
Some may find this polished brand of high-concept hospitality a bit overwhelming, but Stomping Ground offers an indie atmosphere on a multi-million dollar budget. Resistance is futile. If you live north-side you're bound to end up here, along with the rest of Collingwood.
Pro Tip: The owners also run the national GABS beer festival.
Go-to Dish: Barley-stuffed pork belly, $29.