There can be few industries in which adaptability is more important for longevity than hospitality. It's a trait in evidence at the Clifton Hill Brewpub, which operated as the Clifton Hill Hotel until the end of 2013. The suburban Melbourne corner hotel has been under the same family's stewardship for three decades and is now in its fourth incarnation during that period.
Up until 2013, it was a pretty typical inner suburban Melbourne boozer. The drinks list was unadventurous, the food was standard pub fare and it was home to a TAB at the rear of the front bar. Live music in a band room at the back helped it stand out from the crowd, while a busy Thirsty Camel drive-thru kept the tills ringing.
But just as beer culture is changing across Australia so in many places is the pub culture that surrounds it. It's a change that became abundantly apparent to the team at the Clifton Hill Brewpub via their bottleshop. They began introducing a few more lines of craft beer into the fridges, customers began paying attention, they introduced a few more and, before they knew it, the entire wall behind the counter was filled with predominantly craft beer and they were selling more beer than ever before. It was time to reinvent the whole venue.
The reinvention has been stark. The front bar has been completely overhauled with a bright, contemporary refit that mirrors the gentrification of Clifton Hill as a suburb. The TAB is gone, a light and airy outdoor area has been created between the pub and bottleshop and the band room is now a large dining room served by its own small bar. The new aesthetic is not that of your typical craft beer venue; while many tend to favour exposed brick, expanses of timber or a faux traditional or grungy approach, here there's a clean, more manicured feel. It's one likely to appeal to a demographic outside the craft beer hardcore and thus help better beer reach new palates.
Yet all of those changes are secondary to the major change: the installation of a brewery. The Crafty Pint was first notified that something was afoot by a friend who lives nearby after they spotted fermenters being craned over walls into the rear of the venue ' a monumental feat in itself. Now a 600 litre brewhouse and fermenters sit in the heart of the venue between the front bar and restaurant. There's plenty of glass surrounding it so inquisitive souls can watch many of the beers on offer at the bar being made ' and marvel at the fact that those beers have travelled no more than eight metres from where they were brewed before hitting their glass.
The in-house beers fill almost all of the 16 taps, while there's a growing collection of barrels out back with various liquid developing. You can join the brewers for monthly beer launches in the bar too.
On the food front, kitchen has raised the bar from the pub's previous incarnation and, while the band room has gone, there is still occasional live music alongside other events in the front bar.
As for the drive-thru at the rear, that continues to get craftier still. Now the entire back wall of fridges is stocked with nothing by quality local and international brews.