Proof that craft beer has the power to save! The building housing the Odyssey Tavern (soon to be "Tavern and Brewery") had been home to all manner of businesses: Italian restaurant, run of the mill bar, ice cream factory. Yet by 2012 it was sitting empty and in serious need of love. Then along came a craft beer loving new owner with big plans and within weeks of opening it was hosting full houses every weekend.
Given it has eight taps pouring nothing but craft beer - all on rotation - and a well stocked fridge full of around another 70 predominantly Aussie varieties, you might think it's little wonder the Odyssey is doing so well. But when you consider it's located on the Surfcoast Highway midway between Geelong and Torquay - previously a real craft beer desert - its instant success seems quite remarkable. What it suggests is that owner Grant Byrne is doing things well and that there was a seriously untapped desire for better beer on the Surf Coast.
The Odyssey Tavern is the culmination of a long held dream for Grant, one that took him and his wife around Australia visiting as many craft breweries and beer bars as they could to crystallise what they liked into their own venue. What that translates to - other than the great selection of beers - is a wide range of beer-friendly food (with matches suggested on the menu), live original music several times a week, a laidback vibe and - soon - its own onsite microbrewery. The bar also offers an ongoing mini degustation in which they match four tapas sized items with four beers on tap and, in July 2013, tapped the first ever Odyssey beer, the Calypso brewed at Prickly Moses.
Guests can tuck into tasting paddles if they're not sure what to drink, while bar staff are encouraged to offer samples to newcomers struck dumb by the lack of Carlton Draught on tap. Such has been the success of this policy that there have been groups sampling imperial stouts on the same evening they tried their first craft beer, then bringing their mates back the next weekend to repeat the experience. It's a policy that's working wonders and one that should act as an inspiration to bar owners outside the main centres.
And, as of 2013, keen beer lovers can sign up for the Odyssey Real Beer Club, "for those who want to spread the love of great beer, improve or share their knowledge and enjoy a drink with good people." There's heaps of benefits - weekly and monthly meetings, trips to breweries, discounts, an honours board and much more. Ask at the bar next time you're in.