You can imagine the looks on peoples' faces as Woodlands owner Hayden George explained his vision...
"So, I want to open a craft beer and cocktail bar in a suburb way out from Melbourne's CBD where there's none of either. I'm going to take a rundown 160-year-old hotel, gut it, then turn one room into a pseudo-industrial bar complete with pink wooden birds and old film cameras, another room into Lewis Carroll's brain on acid, stick fantastical water features into the toilets and create an indoor / outdoor beer garden with weird sculptures coming out of the walls."
Sometimes you simply have to sit back and admire people for having the courage of their convictions because, since opening late in 2011, the Woodlands Hotel has quickly won over locals and craft beer lovers alike. Nobody who enters can fail to be amazed by the decor, created by Melbourne artist BLOKK, which ranges from two metre tall wooden soldiers to mirrored bars and all manner of head-turning details, including one of the coolest beer gardens you're likely to stumble across.
Flash surrounds wouldn't keep people coming back, however, which is where the 65 strong all-Victorian craft beer bottle list (plus the man cans) and rotating eight craft taps, plus all-Victorian wines and growing cocktail list come in. And, of course, the exquisite food from chef Jocelyn Riviere, who picked up a Chef's Hat while working at North Melbourne's Courthouse Hotel.
That it's an all-family affair, with Hayden backed by his dad and assisted in the building works by his brother, merely adds to the charm of what is one of the quirkiest craft beer ventures in the land and one that is helping push quality drinking further into Melbourne's outer suburbs.