Crafty Pint / 08.08.12
Long before Bane, Catwoman or the Joker, Batman faced an opponent of equal cunning. He didn’t have a cape, mask or penchant for crazy makeup, but John Pascoe Fawkner did have a ship called the Enterprize and a fierce determination. His battles with Batman, John, over the settlement of Melbourne including, among other things, the establishment of its early taverns, were at the heart of the Victorian capital’s birth and also form the basis for many of the tales on the latest venture from the man behind the Melbourne By Foot tours.
The Beer Lovers Guide To Melbourne takes punters through much of old Melbourne and a spot of the new, weaving the battles over licensing, men-only hotels, the six o'clock swill, classic inns, the rise of craft beer and the role that small bars have played in the city’s hospo revival into a three-hour jaunt around the CBD that should prove of equal interests to tourists, locals keen to learn more about the streets they’ve walked 1,000 times and beer lovers of any ilk.
“I’ve always had a passion for Melbourne,” says tour founder Dave Carswell. “I wanted to put something together which I hoped would show outsiders a side of Melbourne that I wanted to share. I wanted it to be something that I would want to see.”
Dave started his Melbourne By Foot tours two-and-a-half years ago, walking out on life as a public servant to do something less soul-destroying. The decision to add a beer-themed nighttime tour was sparked by the number of times interesting beer and pub stories cropped up in his research as well as his immersion in the growing craft beer culture. That he grew up on a hop farm may have helped too.
“My dad had a hop farm outside Scottsdale in Tasmania near Forrester,” he says. “He started the Forrester beer label as he wanted to put out a local product, commissioning a small batch to be made with hops from the area. When he decided to sell the hop farm he gave the label to Two Metre Tall.”
The farm is now used for dairy, but the beer name lives on in the Derwent brewery’s Forrester Ale, brewed with hops sourced from another hop farm in the Scottsdale area.
“Some of the stories I was encountering on my regular tour were about pubs and pub history so I realised there was enough for a completely separate tour,” he says. “It also allows me to share local product with visitors as well. People are interested in finding out about food and wine so [by introducing them to craft beer] this is doing something different.”
The tour travels from the Immigration Museum via the Mitre Tavern and various laneways to Penny Blue, Young & Jackson’s Chloe’s Bar before finishing with a huge burger and beer at Beer DeLuxe. As well as the history lesson, there’s Mountain Goat Hightail at the Mitre Tavern and a choice of local brews at the other venues. It’s a hi-tech tour too (sorta) with some multimedia action in one of the laneways.
“The idea is to create a night out where people learn a few new things and also get to have a beer in places they might not have been before,” he says. “We go to a couple of historical venues and also to a couple which are newish bars that have dedicated whole fridges to craft beer.”
For now it’s running on Thursdays, although there are plans for a second night when the weather heats up. The tour certainly seems to have hit the spot. When Dave invited The Crafty Pint along, there were a couple of locals plus a Korean student, American tourists and a couple of ladies from Perth on one of their regular mini-breaks in Melbourne. As the last of these sipped a Holgate Temptress in Penny Blue, one announced: “This is the best thing we’ve ever done in Melbourne.”
For more on Dave’s tours, head to the Melbourne By Foot website. Also look out for a short film taken on the tour on Crafty later in the week.