The building that houses the Mill on Constance is undeniably one of the more impressive heritage buildings still standing around inner Brisbane. Yet for some time beauty was only skin deep.
The old flour mill that once served as a base for US airforce pilots was, not too long ago, home to little more than a collection of old offices. Then a pair of Irish builders were brought in to renovate the upper floors for a new business tenant, a move that had unexpected consequences.
The pair, Gerard Hartnett and Lorcan McCarthy, could see boundless potential amid its towering ceilings and industrial era brickwork. They suggested to Gerard's partner Gillian Letham that it was worth making further enquiries and soon the Mill was well on its way to a new incarnation.
Today, it's part of the burgeoning good beer scene around Fortitude Valley, albeit presenting its beers in an environment a million miles from the booze barns for which the Valley has been better known in the past. Suspecting they were onto a winner, the trio discovered even more than they'd bargained for: as they went to work stripping the building back to something approximating its original state, they discovered a back room you couldn't even tell existed from the outside.
Surprises aside, once the Mill was returned to its bare bones, they turned its ground floor into a two room venue: the front bar and a functions and events space going by the name "Defiance Bar" – in reference to the flour mill's original name – situated directly behind. The exposed brick and metal staircases remain, lighting is kept soft and relics of the building's past, such as old grain turners, are found hanging from walls and ceilings.
For beer lovers, there are eight taps lining the main bar, with a further four out the back, and they're regularly turned over as kegs are drained and for special events – beer launches, tap takeovers and so on. There's a strong focus on local, although outsiders are regularly welcomed onto the fonts, while there's help on hand for the undecided with "Gillian's Pick" adorning the decal of her favourite pour at any moment in time. If the eight taps aren't enough, the fridge behind the bar is full of gems too.
Aside from the beer, Gillian and her team offer a full bar menu as well as hosting acoustic jam sessions on Saturday afternoons. Depending on when you pop in, you might find anywhere from ten to 40 musicians filling the bar playing Celtic influenced folk music.
Always watching over them with bulging eyes and teeth bared is the Mill's resident metal dinosaur. Apparently, he was commissioned by a former owner around three decades before it was reincarnated as a bar.
"He's so heavy that we couldn't move him," says Gillian. "Now we quite like him."
Which is just how we suspect you'll feel when you pay the Mill a visit.
Photos by Ben Nichols.