270 Raglan St Preston, VIC 3072
|Opening hours||Wed-Fri 4pm-11pm; Sat noon-11pm; Sun noon-9pm|
|Phone||03 9484 7803|
We can probably agree that 2016 hasn't been the best year for a few things (politics, celebrity deaths, restaurant takeovers), but it's certainly been a good year for beer.
There's been a genuine boom in independent brewers opening vast, easy-going beer halls serving ever-more-elaborate ales, lagers, pilsners and hefeweizens. It's with a certain degree of familiarity that Tallboy and Moose slides open its roller door in a Preston backstreet opposite a drive-through kebab stand and a beige block of apartments.
The venture is named after owners "Tall Dan" Hall (the Tallboy) and "Canadian Steve" Germain (the Moose). They opened in late October, and the place already feels like a boozy community hub, with a bright open-plan space that's big enough to accommodate the entire mid-north new wave: bearded lumberjacks, families with prams, warring dog tribes, mates and dates. Come one, come all.
The long, lofty warehouse has been stripped back and freshened up with Scandi timber, indoor plants and liberal splashes of red, white and blue. A cheeky mural dominates the back wall like a magic eye drawing – with tallboy dressers, quirky faces and terrace houses hidden among the lines.
Hang up your bike and rock up to the long bar, grab a bench at a canteen-style table or settle into one of the couches down the back for an afternoon session.
They make four beers on site, available by the pint, pot or in 130-millilitre tasters. Tallboy's Table Beer has a sweet hoppy punch with Stone & Wood vibes, the Cream Ale is a classic easy drinker with a bitter edge ("Tastes like beer!" says the notes) while the Deep Steep is an American Amber infused with camomile. The beast of the family is Only Ella at 5.3 per cent alcohol, a rich caramel colour throbbing with Ella hops – quality beer, not reinventing the wheel.
There are also four guest taps with rotating brewers such as 7 Cent and Wolf of Willows, or apple juice crushed to order with your favourite spirit.
They offer a sleek takeaway service, with one litre "crowlers" freshly filled and sealed by a snazzy machine for the freshest can of suds in town.
One thing they don't do in-house: food. There are a few bags of chips available at the bar, and the car park out the front sometimes hosts food trucks slinging Sparrows' Philly Cheesesteaks and Le Petit Montreal poutine. Otherwise you can literally spread out a picnic or order in from nearby spots UAE (United Arab Eatery), Chew Burger or Noi Pizzeria.
Our pick: Noi's potato pizza, one of the best going around. With a chewy, charred base, paper-thin potato slices, crisp gnarls of pancetta, stretchy mozzarella, a strong hit of rosemary topped with bitey radicchio, it's a perfect match for a pint.
It hits all the buttons for late-2016 DIY hospitality: fun, friendly and no frills, the kind of place you want close to home when you live in gentrifying Preston. Will it cut through in a crowded craft beer market? Let's hope so – with today's headlines, we can all do with a beer.
Go-to Dish: Beer tasting paddle, $12.