When Flight Bar & Bottleshop opened in 2016, it offered an experience that wasn’t just new to Bendigo but most other cities too. Located in an old arcade between hairdressers and a babywear store, the space was dedicated to what its owners call a “collection of their biggest vices”: craft beer, fried chicken and local wine.
Those two owners are Justin McPhail and Nick Horgan, both of whom discerning drinkers in Bendigo would have known for some time before they launched Flight. Alongside Trev Birks, Justin was one of the founders of Bendigo Beer, which is how he got to know Nick.
The pair had also spent plenty of time on both sides of the bar and in the kitchens of a number of Bendigo’s craft beer venues and 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 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 and was soon embraced by locals.
Indeed, Bendigo locals embraced Justin and Nick’s idea so wholeheartedly the once quiet arcade would regularly bustle with people waiting for orders and, by 2020, Flight was ready to fly the coop and expand. By then, they’d launched the burger-focused Hustler and, after finding a new space for that venue, moved Flight to Hustler’s original home at 5 Abbott Arcade.
The move didn’t result in any grand changes for the bar and bottleshop but what it did do is provide Justin and Nick with more space to showcase their love for beer and chicken. Aside from more room for fridges and shelves, it also gave them four taps to dedicate to independent beer and a slightly larger kitchen in which to tweak the menu.
When it comes to the beer, Flight’s list is well-considered and offers plenty of choice for even Bendigo’s most seasoned craft beer drinkers. Beers from Victorian breweries line the walls and fill the fridges alongside those from other states and overseas, but primacy is always given to whatever they can get 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 and various hot sauces made by the Flight team are available to take home.
It seems like a simple combination but bringing together fried chicken and a quality selection of craft beer to wash it all down also feels like a winning one. Indeed, there’s likely no better evidence than the fact that Justin and Nick’s vices are now shared by so many others in Bendigo too.