136 Hall Street Spotswood, Victoria 3015
|Opening hours||Thurs 6-9pm; Fri 6-10pm; Sat noon-4pm & 6-10pm; Sun noon-8pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9762 0000|
Drive under the hulking Westgate Bridge, and everything is suddenly huge. The soaring silos, chimneys and concrete tanks of big industry dwarf houses and humans. Getting to Two Birds on Hall Street, with its clunking freight trains and factories, may be familiar turf for tradies, but for Jane and John Citizen looking for a craft beer and cracking bar food, not so much.
For all but those who live and work in these parts, it's a delight to pass the old Spotswood Pumping Station (haunted by Mad Max), glimpse the city across the river, and crane up through the top of the windscreen at some enormous industrial thing. It's exciting, too, that punching up among all these old giants of industry (Shell, Telstra) is a young boutique producer.
Two Birds brewery is one of a growing number of brewers bucking the bland-out of the big breweries to produce artisanal beers. One of the birds, brewer Jayne Lewis, says producing Two Birds involves an immeasurable amount of time, thought, care and effort. "We don't use preservatives or additives to extend the brewing process; we allow the core ingredients of malt, water, hops and yeast to be fully expressed."
The Two Birds range includes a few ales, and seasonal pours. "'Sessionable' (beer-speak for good for a session), 'approachable' and 'balanced' are words we throw around to describe Two Birds' beers," says Lewis. "We don't want to scare people, but we want to maintain flavour and interest." There's plenty of that in the beers and in the carefully matched food menu.
It's order-at-the-bar, number-on-a-stick food, with snacks, boards and sandwiches, but it's from Rockwell & Sons' Casey Wall - the man who can make a stellar sandwich that involves finicky processes, and still call it a sandwich. Among the four "sandwiches" is a half-beef, half-pork smoked hotdog in a squishy bun topped with beef mince and a good squiggle of mustard. On the side is a collection of pickled vegetables, all very good.
Beer and cheese? You bet. "It's no different to matching wines with cheese," says Wall. "We use a nutty, smoked cheese from Spain to complement the sesame flavour of the Golden Ale. Or we might match a more acidic beer with a more creamy cheese." Dishes like gribenes (fried chicken skins) and duck liver parfait with rhubarb-ginger jam go with everything - and go fast.
While other eateries in Melbourne strive to affect an industrial aesthetic, Two Birds is industrial by nature. It's basically a few trestle tables among the brewing equipment, stainless steel tanks and shelves of ingredients, in a beautiful brick Deco warehouse with big windows. When it comes to beaut beer matched with good food and top service, Two Birds is a giant.
Do Look for seasonal brews with special food pairings.
Don't Drink beer? There are non-beer options.
Dish Gribenes (fried chicken skins), and half-and-half smoked hotdog.
Vibe Unpretentious boutique beer hall.
The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 is available in selected bookshops and online at theageshop.com.au for $9.99.