Jeremy Sambrooks / 08.11.12
This was once my standard response when asked where one could find a decent beer bar in Perth. Mount Lawley’s excellent Five Bar has since improved matters, but it’s not exactly in the city centre. There, we have been restricted to pricy imports at the Belgian Beer Café, the regular James Squire range and a couple of house brews at The Generous Squire, one craft beer tap at the Adelphi Steakhouse bar and a few decent British ales at The Moon & Sixpence. To say that local craft breweries have been underrepresented in the Perth bar scene would be an enormous understatement.
So you can understand my excitement when I heard that the Colonial Leisure Group – owners of Margaret River’s Colonial Brewing Co – were planning to open a four storey hospitality precinct on St George’s Terrace, right in the heart of the Perth CBD. Named Print Hall, the heritage listed building was formerly home to The West Australian newspaper and is now home to four separate venues which have been created at a cost of $12 million.
Print Hall opened its doors in late September and while it isn’t quite the craft beer paradise many had hoped for, it’s certainly a welcome addition to Perth’s beer scene. Throughout its four levels, Print Hall pays homage to the building’s publishing past – the walls of the stairwell are papered with old newspaper articles and the original neon ‘The West Australian’ sign sits above the rooftop bar.
The lowest floor is set below ground and is home to Print Hall’s bakery, coffee roastery and café, Small Print. No beer here, only the best in-season current crop coffees and a selection of house baked pastries, breads, muffins and sandwiches.
On the ground level is the Print Hall Bar & Dining Room. Once the site of the West Australian printing press, the space now accommodates a sizable bar and restaurant with 24 beer and cider taps. Several brews are repeated across the taps, but gems can be found, such as Mikkeller American Dream, BrewDog Punk IPA, Lord Nelson IPA and four beers from Colonial. Behind the bar is a smart little bottled beer collection that includes Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss, Blanche de Namur, Birradamare Na Bio and Cantillon Framboise.
Next floor up is The Apple Daily Bar & Eating House, named after Hong Kong’s popular daily newspaper. Here is a South East Asian street style menu and a bar which, in a patriotic touch, serves only WA produced beer and wine. Beer is available on draught only and when I visited the 12 taps were accounted for by Nail Ale, Last Drop Hefe, Swan Draught, Feral White, Eagle Bay Mild, three brews from Little Creatures and four more from Colonial. Speaking with the restaurant manager, I was told that beers from many more WA craft breweries will be rotated across the taps.
At the top of the gazetted stairwell is Bob’s Bar – Print Hall’s rooftop terrace named after former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke. Here are good views of Perth’s tallest skyscrapers, a Spanish-inspired tapas menu and a small selection of draught and bottled beer.
Consistent across all four Print Hall venues is a level quality and attention to detail that has gone into every facet of the operation. Food, drinks, service, decor – all are outstanding. Beer-wise, Print Hall is well above average but there is still room for improvement. A greater variety of beers on tap at the Print Hall Bar would be a good start, as would seeing more independent WA craft breweries represented at The Apple Daily and a larger selection of bottled beer throughout the venue.
While Perth still lacks a truly excellent craft beer bar, things are certainly improving for beer lovers, particularly since the introduction of the small bar licence in 2007. I recently went bar hopping in the city, perusing beer lists and quaffing the occasional jar of craft. Bars in the CBD I can recommend are Andaluz Bar & Tapas, The George, the rooftop bar at Greenhouse, Pica, Sentinal Bar & Grill, The Trustee, Venn Bar and Wolf Lane Bar. A resource I found extremely helpful for navigating my way around the city was the Perth Small Bar Guide, which can be found here.
Head to Northbridge and among the dodgy nightclubs and booze barns there are now a number of small bars stocking craft beer. The best of the bunch are Frisk, Bivouac, The Bird and Ezra Pound, the latter being known for serving king brown bottles of Coopers Pale Ale in brown paper bags. A short but sweet beer list can also be found at Amphorus Bar in West Perth.
All of the aforementioned bars sell craft beer in bottles, many of them also on tap. None is a specialist beer bar, but all are quality venues that make an effort to offer drinkers a choice of beer that extend well beyond domestic and international pale lager. Next year will see the opening of the Northbridge Brewing Company, which should further improve the Perth beer scene. There is still a long way to go before Perth rivals Melbourne as the capital of craft, but things are undeniably looking up.
You can follow beer writer Jeremy Sambrooks on Twitter. And you’ll find the Print Hall at Brookfield Place, 125 St Georges Tce, Perth; (08) 6282 0000.