Melbourne's craft beer scene is going from strength to strength, and it means we have a whole host of brewery bars where we can take a tour, meet the beer geeks behind some of our favourite local beverages and drink the freshest ales in town. Don't mind a bit of a drive? We've also put together a list of our favourite out of town breweries.
Inner-city brew pubs
The longest and most established of Melbourne’s microbreweries has grown from wild parties in co-founder Dave Bonighton’s backyard to weekly gatherings in the shadow of the tanks at its Richmond base. Its first beer, the Hightail Ale, remains a go-to but now shares a roster with the organic Steam Ale and a fruity Summer Ale that's made for tinnie-slinging in local parks on balmy afternoons. The brewery is open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 5pm, as well as Sundays from noon to 6pm. Brewery tours are free and run on Wednesdays from 6.30pm. Hungry? They also serve wood-fired pizzas along with their beers to keep you on an even keel.
Tallboy and Moose is the kind of brewery bar where toddlers can go free-range among the toys and books in the play area. There's a backyard barbecue vibe as older kids thwack ping pong balls next to the shiny steel brewing equipment. The space is a big, light industrial warehouse with a long wooden bar. Behind the bar, a 12-metre cool room keeps every drop chilled from the minute it leaves the fermentation tanks, so your pint is as fresh as it gets. Expect an engaging mix of on-trend styles and easy drinkers.
This is a lovely place to hang out, rain or shine. The brewing tanks in this Collingwood warehouse gleam from behind big windows you can look into from the public area. You can get tasting paddles of six beers, either their choice or yours, as well as special releases and a delicious nitro porter. There's even a hand pump for manually tapped ales. The food is all offered with beer pairing suggestions, and there's plenty of space for pram-toting families.
There's plenty to be proud of when it comes to Two Birds Brewery. This westside beer house is Australia's first female-owned brewing operation. Founders Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen started out as a mobile operation, renting tank space to turn out their sunset ales, and now their Footscray brewery (lovingly called the Nest) is a destination in its own right. Try Two Bird's signature golden ale, the lightweight Bantam IPA and Lewis's citrus, coriander and lime taco beer for something different. There are also rotating guest taps from the Bird’s favourite breweries.
The Moon Dog boys, brothers Jake and Josh Uljans and their mate Karl van Buuren, opened their Abbotsford microbrewery with nothing but a fistful of coins. But times have changed for Melbourne’s flavour frontiersmen. These days you’ll find Van Buuren moseying around in his gumboots, having a post-brew chat and a pot. The beer list, chalked up behind the bar, is Moon Dog-centric with the odd ‘fancy’ guest pour. Definitely try the signature Love Tap, a refreshing lager suitable for all-day drinking. Hungry? There's a van outside serving wood-fired pizzas to soak up those ales.
Hop Nation is an independently owned brewery by former winemakers Sam Harbour and Duncan Gibson. They have no shortage of barrel-aged brews in the works; a call back to their winemaking background with their small-batch beers made using natural ingredients with no fining or pasteurization and minimal filtration. The brewery is only open on the weekends, and there are food trucks on rotation to keep you fed.
This inner-city brewery may be in the industrial end of Port Melbourne, but it's serving up plenty of good times if you happen to live or work around the area and are after fresh tinnies and food truck fare. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Colonial Brewing Co opens to turn on the taps for the signature draught, IPA, pale ale and its sweet Bertie cold-pressed apple cider. The brewery is big enough to accommodate up to three food trucks inside the warehouse, so look out for some meals on wheels while you're cracking that tinnie.
Temple Brewing Co is a space built for worshipping beer. You’re drinking in a working brewery, so get used to vats, chrome, and the freshest beer humanly possible. The Brunswick warehouse brewery serves bar snacks like beer battered fries and larger bites like the killer charcuterie and cheese platter. Go for the tasting paddle to sample the best of the bunch, like the Anytime pale ale or the dark and molasses-like New World Order stout. Everything available to buy is also available to go, from bottles to whole cases.
Having fallen for the charms of the burgeoning US craft beer scene while working Stateside, brothers Andrew and David Ong decided to open their own brewery in their home town. The Moorabbin brewhall has been serving locals so well, with fresh brews, a pub food menu, and weekly live music performances, that word's getting out about this cool spot in the middle of industrial Melbourne. Try the crisp Kung Foo rice lager and the Growler American brown ale. These two beers couldn't be any more different, but they perfectly encapsulate the Ong brothers' cultural influences.
Melbourne’s best pubs are in our suburbs – that’s just a fact. Generally, the bustling heart of Melbourne just doesn’t have the goods, unless you’re talking about Crafty Squire; previously the James Squire Brewhouse at the Portland Hotel. This Melbourne CBD pub (and working microbrewery) boasts 80 taps – many of them pouring James Squire beers. And while these beers are hardly the boldest or newest flavours in hop town, they’re all tasty and approachable examples of their styles.
Urban Alley Brewery has the potential to finally give Docklands residents the local they’ve sorely lacked. Located underneath the Melbourne Star, the venue is part craft brewery and part pub, with a line-up of four core beers (the signature pale plus a lager, IPA and American pale ale) brewed on site – you can even watch the team hard at work through the massive glass windows. The beer is kosher and vegan, with special brews released seasonally.
This multi-purpose venue in Collingwood is equal parts delicatessen, boutique food store, restaurant and bar. The over-achieving venue even boasts an onsite micro-brewery, distillery, cured meats and cheesemaking rooms and a coffee roaster. Grab a tasting paddle of the house-made beers like American pale ale, IPA and the porter with rich, deep, roasted toffee notes.
Thunder Road Brewing Company is probably not what you'd expect from a brewery experience. Rather than large, hop-driven beers or high ABV brews, Thunder Road is about serving smashable, crowd-pleasing lagers, bitters and pale ales. Food takes much of the same approach, with favourites such as potato cakes, dimmies and eggplant parmas being menu staples.
Homebrewer turned 'probrewer' Mirek Aldridge founded this brewery after years of tinkering with a 70-litre garage setup. Though small, there are always four core and four speciality beers on tap that can bump their way up to 8% ABV, so beware.
The best breweries in regional Victoria
Regional Victoria is probably best known for its wineries and cellar doors, but take a second look and you'll find plenty of breweries complete with in-house bars where you'll be able to taste test ales. From the High Country to the Yarra Valley, these are some of our favourite out of town breweries.