When you hand over the reins of a pub to one of the men responsible for founding Feral – the West Australian brewery named Australia’s best multiple times at the Australian International Beer Awards – you know the commercial beers hogging the taps are going to suffer. And that’s what happened when Al Carragher took over Carlton North’s Great Northern Hotel in August 2009.
Within weeks, 14 of the 18 taps had been switched to craft beers, offering a mixture of Australian micro brews and top quality imports. Handpumps were soon added along with more taps, including a number in the revamped beer garden bar.
Today, the last of the contracted taps is long gone, with the last of them, Pure Blonde briefly used as an educational tool before it was canned: Al bought a giant tin of jelly beans and offered one to everyone ordering a pot. Why? That’s how many calories you cut out by choosing a low carb beer over a normal one.
It wasn't just the beers that underwent a massive overhaul. The 180-seater beer garden has been the site of massive investment, becoming one of the best in the city, complete with all manner of seating and a massive undercover projector screen that pulls big crowds for sporting events (particularly for Freo footy matches...). New rooms were added and old ones given a serious makeover – although not all of them; the front bar and main dining area have been left pretty much intact, retaining the classic old community pub feel.
The kitchen uses beer in several of its dishes, which are of the typical pub grub fare (with steaks that once won a national competition that saw Al take his entire staff on holiday to Vanuatu) and can be enjoyed in the main bar, restaurant, beer garden, snug or private dining room.
There’s pool in the front bar, sofas in the lounge and regular events throughout the week, including the raucous Funky Bunch Trivia nights.
What's more, as well as becoming a popular hangout for people wanting to watch the big games on the selection of big screens, the staff have developed a habit for throwing big parties too. Sure, you won't find them running beer events every week, but when the likes of Good Beer Week land or they line up a beer launch with one of their favourite brewers, expect big crowds and good times aplenty.
It's a heady mix that shows the power of combining the staples of a classic community pub with damn good beer.