There are few words destined to send a shiver down the spines of many Victorians more than “lockdown”, yet there are some aspects of the pandemic’s legacy that are positive. Prominent among those is the embrace of local businesses and a better connection with our surrounding communities; after all, when you’re unable to travel, why not get to know those living and working close to home?
The Local Taproom was born during lockdown when Carly and Chris Lambert took the leap and decided to bring better beer to Bacchus Marsh. Despite the town’s relative proximity to Melbourne and Ballarat, both of which have breweries and craft beer bars to satisfy the demanding drinker, theirs was a town that was missing out.
At least, that was the case until October 2021 when the long lockdowns and the sudden death of Chris’ father spurred the couple to reevaluate their careers. After floating a few ideas, Chris – who had already spent two decades working in liquor stores – stepped out of the shower one day and posed the question: “Why don’t we open a craft beer bar in Bacchus?”
Before too long, they found the perfect home to bring his idea to life: The Local Taproom sits inside a stunning, high-walled building from the 1890s. It was the ornate roof and impressive skylight in particular that won over the Lamberts and saw them set about turning what had once, long ago, been the community grocer and, more recently, a saddlery into a haven for beer lovers.
The old building today feels particularly suited for its conversion to a watering hole – the exposed bricks, vast wooden beams, and corrugated iron can have you feeling like you’ve stepped back in time and into an old saloon or barn in America’s Midwest. Its history is there to be discovered throughout the venue too, with an old vault, various posters, and a faded sign across the backbar all offering glimpses into Bacchus’ past.
In a similar vein, and very much echoing what American bars tend to do so well, The Local Taproom is the kind of welcoming place where you can easily pop in on your own for a beer and end up chatting with Chris and Carly or one of their regulars.
And, true to the “local” in its name, the taproom’s focus is on independent Victorian beer, with an ever-changing selection pouring across 12 taps. If you’d like to sample a selection of them, you can pick any six to try in a tasting “caddy”. Those caddies tie into the overarching craftsperson experience on offer but were also inspired by Chris’ old man. He used to love trying tasting paddles but sometimes struggled to balance them on his way back to the table with a precarious row of beers in one hand and his walking stick in the other.
If you’re looking to take something you’ve tried on tap home with you, or you’re just passing through seeking something new for the weekend, The Local Taproom’s fridges have you well covered too. At any one time, you’ll find around 140 different beers lining the shelves, including a numbered section dedicated to the dozen pouring on tap. It's an innovative idea and – while we might be wrong on this – possibly the first such example in the state. Certainly, we know beer reps have been impressed by the approach, so don't be surprised if you see more pop up.
It didn’t take long to realise Bacchus Marsh was ready for a craft beer bar, either, with their monthly meet-the-brewer sessions consistently selling out and offering pretty good proof there’s a population eager to discover more about beer. Likewise, the venue’s spirit tasting sessions have proven popular too.
When it comes to food, there’s a small fryer for bar snacks, while partnerships with a local deli and neighbouring pizza joint mean grazing plates and hot food flows as freely as the beer.
Chris and Carly put on much more besides: depending on when you call in, you might find live music, stand up comedy, trivia or a board game night, all of which have furthered The Local’s ability to act as a true, well, local.
As Bacchus Marsh’s population continues to grow and many Melburnians make the move west, it feels like The Local Taproom’s owners couldn’t have timed their arrival much better. Indeed, many househunters have popped into the bar on their way from an inspection and cheerily realised that moving from a big city doesn’t mean they’ll only have big beer on the menu.
It makes for a local any town would embrace; even without the craft beer, the warm hospitality, community spirit, beautiful design, and vibrant beer garden are a welcome addition to Bacchus Marsh’s hospo offering. Add in the ever-changing array of craft beer and it’s easy to wonder how this part of Victoria ever went without.
The bar’s tagline, writ large across its façade, is a simple one: Good Beer. Good Friends. Good Times.
And what more could you want from your local?