You often hear talk of gateway beers, the sort that can smooth a beer drinker's transition from the mainstream to the wonders of the craft beer world. So how about a gateway venue? If ever you were to sit down and design one, chances are you'd come up with something similar to the Portland Hotel. Slap bang in the heart of Melbourne, it's mixes bar, brewery and restaurant within one venue in such a way that those looking for an easy-drinking beer in a traditional pub environment can feel just as at home as a craft beer lover venturing in to try out the latest limited release from the wood-clad onsite brewhouse.
Located inside one of Melbourne's most historic hotels - a building with a long history both as a pub and, prior to the James Squire Brewhouse being installed in 2001, as one of Melbourne's original "gentlemen's clubs", Santa Fe - its taps offer the full James Squire range plus limited release Mad Brewers beers and others brewed in house. In 2010, the onsite brewery knocked out its 200th beer, an excellent Double IPA called Two Centurions, while year round it mixes regular seasonals, such as the ever popular Speculator, with occasional experimental brews. Visitors can join brewery tours from the Brewhouse Bar where there is live entertainment throughout the week.
Newcomers can work their way through the taps with one of the six-beer tasting paddles, while staff are happy to answer questions about their beers too. The Portland also hosts regular beer events, from pairing dinners to new beer launches. The latter are usually free of charge and open to anyone who is signed up to their mailing list. It's also a key venue during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, during which time it becomes filled with comics and their crowds, while those after a laid back meal can head to the Portland Lane restaurant across the corridor.
NB: Year round, you'll find the full range of James Squire beers on tap at the Portland. Those listed below are those that are brewed on the onsite brewhouse.