Since our last visit to Melbourne a little over two years ago, a number of beer bars had opened in the city center (or CBD in Aussie). With one last day before flying off to Western Australia, we decided to spend the day checking out what was new in Victoria’s capital.
After arriving in Melbourne in the morning, we wasted no time in getting our day started with a bit of culture: a visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol, where we ducked in and out of numerous small cells once inhabited by some of Australia’s first residents. Prominently displayed throughout the jail were the macabre death masks of those executed, including the infamous Ned Kelly.
Although our entry also entitled us to “enjoy” the Police House Experience, we opted out of it. We weren’t quite up to re-enacting the process of being booked into jail. Instead, we headed to the first stop on our Melbourne Urban Beer Hike – The Court House Hotel.
Not a brewery but a craft beer café, the corner establishment felt like a 1920s supper club. I love the movie The Cotton Club and the music playing could have been straight out of that soundtrack. We chose a high table in the small bar area near the entrance. The first customers of the day, the bartenders had time to chat with us about Australian craft beer and the high taxes on alcohol that result in beer costing between $9-$14 a pint.
I enjoyed the Golden Ale from Mountain Goat, a brewery we had visited on our last trip to Melbourne in 2010. Of course Chris went for the McLaren Vale IPA as we snacked on a charcuterie plate and marinated feta. This was our first of five planned stops, so we took it easy and moved on to our second stop (or at least tried to).
We followed along the busy main streets of Melbourne dodging city dwellers as they went about their work week. We found Biero Bar without problem, but they were closed. As in, we’re closed indefinitely. We later learned that the owners are re-branding the place and it may or may not be a craft beer café any longer.
We continued on and ended up in the small lanes of Chinatown. The dirty and somewhat seedy back alleys were lined with yummy smelling dim sum restaurants but Penny Blue, the third planned stop on the UBH, was no where to be found.** Chris finally gave up and started looking for our fourth planned stop – Cookie.
We couldn’t find Cookie, either. So far we were one for four on this UBH, a disappointing (and frustrating) prospect to say the least. However, we popped into a convenience store with a 24-hour internet café in the back, looked up the address, and much to our surprise learned that Cookie was literally right next door to where we were.
Up a dark staircase on the first floor, we found Cookie. The most striking feature of this place was the long white marble bar. We took seats at the bar and were served by an attentive young bartender.
Home to a large beer selection, we were a little disappointed in the lack of local beers on draft. Our well-meaning server even steered me to (what I found out later was) a pseudo-craft beer. However, they did have some good beers on, like the Temple Midnight IPA, a new brewpub in Melbourne that we wouldn’t have time to visit. Midnight IPA was a dark brew with a nice hop flavor and roasty character. They also had WiFi, so Chris and I barely spoke during our stop at Cookie.
We finished up our UBH at Beer Deluxe, a slick and modern establishment in Federation Square. The first thing I noticed about Beer Deluxe was that California beers (and the Bay Area in particular) were well represented, including Bear Republic, North Coast, Moylan’s, and Sierra Nevada to name a few. Of course we weren’t there to drink our local beers, though. We wanted local Australian beers and they had a nice selection of those, too.
Chris started with Feral’s Hop Hog, while I drank the Pale Ale from Stone and Wood. Beer Deluxe had great nibblies, as well, and the Turkish bread & dips and red lentil cakes paired well with our beer. The atmosphere was nice and it wasn’t too crowded, which was perfect for meeting up with James, an emerging beer writer (beerbarband.blogspot.com), to talk beer.
James took us to a James Squire pub nearby to taste their limited release Mad Brewer’s Hoppy Hefe. Just as the name indicates, the beer was a hoppy hefeweizen a la HopfenWeisse. While it was short in the Hefe department, the beer had a pleasant hop bite. A nice ending to a challenging Urban Beer Hike.
**During our hike, we eventually found Penny Blue, but it was closed for re-modeling.