If someone told you a few years ago that Bendigo’s Centreway Arcade would one day be a hub of craft beer activity, nobody would blame your scepticism.
In a way, Flight Bar & Bottleshop’s location in the heart of the regional city’s CBD does make a perfect spot for a craft beer venue. Yet, it’s also true that babywear stores and hairdresser salons aren’t typically neighbours of bars.
Maybe it’s a sign of how quickly Bendigo is embracing craft beer that locals can expect to find it in all kinds of places. But, without the passion of some of those locals that have long been advocates, craft beer wouldn’t nearly be as prominent as it is in Bendigo today.
The two advocates behind Flight Bar & Bottleshop are Justin McPhail and Nick Horgan, both of whom discerning drinkers in Bendigo are likely to know already. Alongside Trev Birks, Justin was one of the founders of Bendigo Beer, which is how he got to know Nick.
The pair has also spent plenty of time on both sides of the bar in a number of Bendigo’s craft beer venues. It was while working at one of those venues – the city’s iconic Goldmines Hotel – that Justin and Nick started to hatch the plan for their ideal beer project.
It may have taken a little longer to come to fruition than they might have intended (Nick moved to the UK and picked up a Cicerone qualification while working for BrewDog along the way), but by the end of 2016 Flight Bar opened its doors. Described by the owners as a “collection of their biggest vices”, it’s focused on craft beer, local wine, fried chicken and coffee.
Operating out of a former deli, Justin and Nick have transformed the space into a beer bottle-lined bar and Southern fried chicken joint that shows how good plans are often the simplest. The wooden shelves and benches were all built by Nick and make the space feel more like it’s located in a hidden laneway than a shopping plaza.
When it comes to beer, Flight Bar’s list is well considered and offers plenty of choice for even Bendigo’s most seasoned craft beer drinkers. A lot of space is given to beers that don’t often make it to Bendigo, despite calling the same state home. Beers by Dainton, Blackman’s and Rogue Wave line the shelves and, while international beers and those from other states do make an appearance, primacy is always given to whatever can make it to the store as fresh as possible.
All the fried chicken is made to order and coated in house made rubs – once a desired heat level has been chosen by the customer. Like the beer itself, those rubs, along with various hot sauces are all made by Justin and Nick, and are available to take home.
But, with good house made food on offer and a quality selection of craft beer to wash it all down, few would be likely to leave too quickly. As the sign out the front suggests, drinkers should make sure they “come for the beer, stay for the chicken.”
Or, perhaps, as the sign out the back reads: “Come for the chicken, stay for the beer.”
Either way, you’re going to leave merrier than when you walked in.