Prior to new owners taking over in early 2011, North Fitzroy’s Tramway Hotel was among the many inner Melbourne pubs lacking direction: sad, in need of love and with a dwindling band of regulars. Little more than a year later it was packed to the rafters with beer lovers when it became home to South Australia’s breweries during Good Beer Week’s Pint of Origin series – a sure sign of the amazing turnaround wine industry professional Jess Tregonning and former Polyester Records owners Chris Crouch and Warwick Lobb have achieved.
They’ve done it by taking a traditional corner hotel in a great location in the heart of North Fitzroy and giving it the treatment it deserves. There’s nothing flash, simply a good-looking, honest boozer with a fresh personality. In terms of its appearance, that means walls stripped back to the brickwork and painted white, furniture, bar and features of polished timber and the odd painting and sign that hark back to the pub’s long past.
In terms of the pub’s offering, it means drinks and food done well and without pretension. Given Jess’s background, you’d expect the wine list to be well curated; in a short space of time they’ve achieved the same with the beer too. Don’t expect an array of imported craziness; instead know that you’ll find some of the finest homegrown craft beers on tap, mostly from Victoria but with regular guests from interstate. On the food front, the Tramway Burger is already something of a local legend – and with good reason, as the hordes that pack every seat on Tuesday’s Burger Night will attest – while the entire menu focuses on offering fresh pub fare.
For craft beer to really take hold in Australia, it will take much more than the beer geeks and the bars and bottleshops with lists hundreds long. It will need to find a home in traditional venues boasting environments that are welcoming to allcomers. Just like the Tramway.
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