There's a tiny area in Melbourne's Brunswick East that's turning into something of a Mecca for craft beer lovers. First to open was the Blackhearts & Sparrows bottleshop and its neighbouring bar, Atticus Finch. In 2011, two breweries - Thunder Road and Temple - opened within a few hundred metres. And then, in the middle of 2012, came The Alehouse Project.
As the name suggests, its project is simple: the serving of ale (and a little bit of lager). And it's doing it with some panache. Aside from the house lager tap, all of its 12 taps pour quality craft beers, with a few rotating through the likes of Little Creatures, Feral and Mountain Goat, and the others open to all-comers. Predominantly, the focus is on showcasing the best and newest from the Australian craft beer scene, but you'll find the odd whopper from the States, Japan or across the Tasman cropping up too.
It's got good pedigree, with one of the owners part of the staff at The Local Taphouse in St Kilda when it went full craft a few years back before opening Grumpy's Green in Fitzroy. And it's got the looks, with what was formerly the Comfortable Couch stripped back to its bare brick bones, polished then filled with sturdy, beer hall like benches and tables made from reclaimed wood and the odd funky couch. The beer garden at the back that was left to become overgrown at the previous venue, has been given a serious clean out, instantly becoming a fine addition to the city's suburban options.
Aside from the beer, there's a small list of boutique wines and ciders, plus a range of cocktails, while the overhauled kitchen specialises in food that could grace the tables of any gastropub yet spiced up with some uniquely beery touches: tender as hell, hop-smoked Scotch fillet; a dessert that look like a foaming beer. The bar runs semi-regular events, such as the Hip Hop Hooray IPA Fest, too while there's a Buck Hunter machine out back and you'll catch live music there several evenings a week. Or perhaps Dirty Dancing on repeat, depending who has taken control of the stereo...