If anyone were going to bring craft beer to the masses, Beer DeLuxe is the right pub for the job. Both the Hawthorn and CBD locations are big, bright, approachable and fun. And while they don't have the character of an old school pub, there's a welcoming accessibility that's hard to fault. With top 40 pop on the playlist and footy (no sound) on the TV, you’ll never feel like you need a degree in brewing or a three-foot beard to fit in here.
Aimed squarely at the younger drinker, the Hawthorn Beer DeLuxe has the vibe of a newly built uni bar – all charcoal paint and grey concrete with accents of steel piping and bright red. Step up to the bar and start asking questions for a brilliant education in the world of craft beer, with a bank of taps pouring interesting brews from Melbourne, the rest of Australia and all over the world. Mornington Specialty Brain Squeeze Hoppy Sour is just that, bright and sour with a lovely whiff of fruity hops both on the nose and through the finish, while a Cucumber Hippie Sour from 8 Wired brewery goes brilliantly with any kind of spicy Asian or Mexican food. The beer of the week is a ‘Blanc de Blanc’ from Boatrocker; a wet-hopped sour that smells and tastes like chardonnay. It's bizarre and awesome and exactly the reason we come here, as this is one of only four kegs of this beer ever made.
For something a little more serious and wintry, a 2013 vintage barley wine from St Ambroise brewery in Canada is designed to age and should be consumed at just below room temperature. Rich, malty and raw-sugar sweet, it's like a drinkable loaf of farmhouse oat bread. All this can be had for cheap too, as their dedication to keeping the beer lines clean results in the best deal in town: $6 pints of everything on Mondays to kill the kegs and start the week afresh.
Food at Beer DeLuxe has never been a highlight, but you're a lot better off grabbing a pizza here to soak up the beer than trying to do it after the fact at the kebab shop. Their meat lovers’ deluxe has ham, prosciutto, chorizo, salami, bacon, good olives, decent sauce and plenty of cheese, and at $25 would easily feed two moderate appetites.
The highlight here, apart from the excellent beer selection, is always the crew. Young, keen, knowledgeable and ultra friendly, they're always excited to help you navigate the ever more complicated world of craft brews, asking questions to determine what you'll like rather than telling what they think you should drink. It's a huge distinction that many young bartenders get wrong, and a testament to the hiring policies and training program here, never failing across multiple visits and interactions with dozens of different staff members.
When asked for "something weird" they might drag you breathless to the beer fridge to see the large-format bottles, in particular a voodoo doughnut grape gorilla from Rogue that promises to deliver a flavour like Hubba Bubba. This is the kind of stoked we should all hope to be at work, and it makes drinking here a pleasure. If only school were always this much fun.