It might have been constructed back in 1934 but it’s the recent history of Moonah Hotel & Cellars that seems to best capture why it was built. When the first stones of any pub are laid, surely the idea driving the founders is that they’re creating a legacy that will last – that the gathering place will always be a place for friends, families and anyone looking for a cold drink and hot meal to enjoy themselves.
Over its history, the pub in the northern Hobart suburb of the same name has gone through many owners, names and facelifts before becoming the modern classic haunt it is today. In 2021, it was taken over by Benn and Sarah Hooper, who many Aussie beer fans will have first become acquainted with via Fox Friday, the brewing company they acquired in early 2019.
For the Hoopers, their move to become brewery owners saw them move from Perth to Moonah and, like many in the suburb, they felt it could do with a better local. Historically, Moonah has been known as a working-class area that was once beyond the Flannelette Curtain – the name given to the divide between those from Hobart’s outer north and everyone else.
It seems that curtain was particularly good at holding back craft beer too; up until recent years, Hobart’s good beer scene largely centred around the CBD and North Hobart. But, courtesy of the Moonah Hotel’s renovation and renaissance, locals no longer have to travel far to enjoy a pint of fresh IPA or one of the country’s finest barrel-aged sours.
Step inside the pub and bottleshop and you can’t help but feel that, despite all those different owners and fit-outs over the years, its current guise is the most fitting. The Main Street exterior takes cues from Spanish revival architecture, and while the building’s bones have always been good, there was much else to be improved; straight away the new owners pulled carpets up to reveal beautiful, freshly-polished floorboards, loaded the fireplaces with logs, and allowed stunning old windows to once again fill the place with light.
Given it houses a public bar, dining room, spacious beer garden and bottleshop, Moonah Hotel & Cellars is the kind of place that demands multiple visits to really soak in the sprawling yet cosy atmosphere that can only be found in old pubs. It’s therefore handy to find it’s open from midday every day, that the main bar’s dozen taps continually change, and that food comes in the form of classic, high-quality pub fare.
As far as the beer list goes, even though the pub and bottleshop have been lovingly restored by the Fox Friday team, don’t walk in expecting some kind of Fox taproom; if you’re after that, head to Hobart’s CBD. If, however, you walk in hoping for one of Tasmania’s widest selections of craft beer and minimal intervention wines for enjoying in or taking home, then you’re in luck.
While those dozen taps tend to skew towards breweries from the small island, you’ll also find beers from mainland craft breweries, some of which you might have occasionally seen in Tassie before plus others which you certainly won’t find pouring anywhere else.
If it’s particularly rare beers you’re after – barrel-aged sours, fresh-brewed and cold-freighted American hazies, for example – it’s likely the Cellar side of the business that will lure you in. Hundreds of beers sit in the fridges, wines line the shelves, and an extra two taps are dedicated to whatever’s exciting the team.
You can pick up a selection to take home or enjoy them there and then – and it’s very tempting to do so. In part, that’s thanks to one of the venue’s finest features: a wide window that opens onto Moonah’s Main Road and provides one of those perfect vantage points from which to watch the world go by, ideally as you share a bottle of wild ale with those closest to you.
So, while Moonah Hotel & Cellars might set out to be a local’s local at heart, it also feels very much like the kind of craft beer experience any beer-loving mainlander on a tour of the south should add to their must-see list. After all, when a boozer nails the basics – good food, good beer, good wine and welcoming service – it does tend to have a magnetic pull.
Given the place helped bring down the Flannelette Curtain, we’re pretty sure it won’t struggle to put a smile on your face. You can still wear your favourite flannel of course – classics are classics for a reason.