In a year in which lockdowns and closures formed a far greater part of the narrative than Melbourne’s beer fans would have liked, Range Brewing delivered a welcome piece of news. In the dark of midwinter, the Brisbane brewery revealed they would be opening a new taproom before 2020 was out – and their second home was to be Abbotsford.
Like neighbouring Collingwood, the inner-north suburb has become something of a hub for craft beer over the years, but anyone who’d followed the Range story or visited their original Newstead brewery would know this was an opening destined to offer something new to the suburb.
Founders Matt McIver and Gerard Martin only unveiled their singular vision in 2018 yet, in tandem with head brewer Mitch Pickford and the rest of their team, Range and their beers were very quickly causing a buzz among Australia’s craft cognoscenti.
Having launched with no core range, the brewery instead follows a mantra of “forever exploring, forever evolving” and drops new releases each week. Often, they’re incredibly hazy, lush and hop-laced, but, over time, the mantra has seen them follow many different paths, so don’t be surprised if you head in and find a delicate, subtle lager on tap sandwiched between a berry-laden sour and and a high octane oat cream IPA.
If there was any doubt the brewers were making some mighty impressive beers then taking out Champion Australian Independent Beer and Champion Small/Medium Brewery at The Indies in November 2020, while also being named Queensland’s State Champion, put those to rest, and showed that not brewing to a recipe doesn’t have to mean not being able to brew to style.
Prior to 2020, with little presence in the city’s bottleshops, Melburnians didn’t enjoy anywhere near the access to Range as their peers in Brisbane. Now, however, each Friday at midday both Range venues open their doors with a fridge full of new releases, with great care taken to ensure the cans’ and kegs’ journey down the east coast of Australia doesn’t do the beer any harm.
Range have always been advocates for shipping and storing cold and part of the reason they fell for the former tattoo parlour in Abbotsford was rear access that allows them to deliver pallets of fresh beer straight inside. Coolrooms are typically out of sight, but here it’s a centrepiece: sat in the middle of the venue, it’s a showcase for the newly-arrived kegs and cans that await drinkers. You can enjoy them from the dozen taps at the front of the bar, while another dozen sit at the back ready to pour for events and parties with Range’s brewing mates.
The space itself shares elements of the Newstead brewery, while moving in its own direction too. Along with the clean, subdued Scandinavian-inspired tones found in Newstead, Gerard’s background in furniture design led him to create a space that incorporates elements of Brisbane’s suburbs into Melbourne’s inner north. The windows that greet you as you enter from Johnston Street replicate the front of a classic Queenslander, while teal-coloured vertical joints that run the length of the light, white space combine with the open roofing to make it feel less like a taproom and more like a modern home.
It’s a feeling enhanced by the native plants throughout, and the paintings featuring past label designs for Range’s beers. Both the beer garden at the rear and booths inside are alluring places in which to share a beer, or indeed open your laptop and spend an afternoon working; well, at least until your productivity levels fade as you explore the taps.
Unlike Newstead, the Melbourne Range has no kitchen but, if you’re after a feed with your beer, there’s plenty of tasty options surrounding the taproom. For the crew pouring the beers, however, the focus is clear: it’s all about the beer and where their desire to explore and evolve will take them next.