There's no denying that Melbourne is Australia's craft beer capital. And there's no denying that much of that is down to the role played by certain key venues that got into craft beer early: promoting it, seeking out the best and most interesting beers, hosting events that got drinkers excited and giving local brewers a showcase for their beers. Among them was Beer Deluxe in Fed Square, a venue that went from pouring mostly premium European lagers into a bar with one of the best beer lists in the country.
So, when new owners took over the joint in 2012, they knew they were on to a good thing and took the name and the concept to their other Melbourne venue, the former Undertaker in Hawthorn. The plan had always been to make the venue in the former funeral home on Burwood Road craftier and now they had the perfect means. They brought over some of the staff from Fed Square to reinvent the beer list and write a "Beer Bible" and set about giving Hawthorn a quality craft beer bar.
New taps were added that pour a rotating range of the best beers from across Australia and overseas, the bottle list was heavily expanded, the downstairs bar was opened up to become more casual and inviting and the walls were decorated with beer memorabilia. The bar staff look to cover all bases on their 12 taps - local lager and premium pilsner through pales, IPAs, Belgians and beyond - while the kitchen supplies the downstairs bar with beer food, including seriously epic burgers.
Upstairs, there's full dining as well as a covered outdoor terrace. And for those yet to buy into the wonders of great beer, there's quality wine and cocktail lists and a regular cocktail night too.
It's always good for Melbourne beer lovers to step outside of craft beer's heartlands and remind themselves how far there is to go - there are still huge swathes of the city pretty much untouched by the good stuff. Hawthorn was one such area, so it's great to see a venue working to sway drinkers and doing it with such style and a little humour too: on Australia Day they take Carlton Draught off tap because it's not Australian owned.