It is a little known piece of Australian brewing history that, in the late 1800s, the Collingwood neighbourhood had as many as 40 breweries, the highest density ever in Australia, before amalgamations and buyouts saw them all closed by the early 1900s.
While this little slice of history isn't often discussed, it was certainly in the minds of Stomping Ground founders Steve Jeffares, Guy Greenstone and their new partner (and longtime venue manager) Justin Joiner, when trying to find a name for their very own brewery and beer hall. The 1500 square metre space on the corner of Gipps and Islington Streets is the realisation of a dream the trio have had for quite some time: to give Collingwood a brewery again, and deliver a new local for people in the process. A new stomping ground, if you will.
The much loved and awarded branches of The Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst and St Kilda have given the trio the space to tap an incredibly diverse range of outstanding beers they wish everyone was drinking, and the ever growing GABS Beer, Cider & Food Fest in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland has paved the way for breweries to experiment with ingredients like never before. But, for Steve, Guy and Justin there has always been a gap – they wanted to brew their own great beer, create a venue inspired by the many world class breweries and brewpubs they have visited overseas, and provide an exceptional beer experience for as many people as possible.
The search for the right building took far longer than they wished, as always seems to be the way. But in 2014 they found the one they’d been waiting for and, after more than 18 months of bureaucracy and planning, set about converting the sawtooth roofed warehouse into an industrial style beer hall, garden and restaurant, and installing the highly regarded Matt Marinich as venue manager.
All those spaces have a view of the brewery’s tanks and are set around a vast central bar from which the custom tap fonts and hand pumps can pour as many as 26 of Stomping Ground Brewing Co’s creations (and occasional guest beers) at one time.
Despite the swathes of exposed brick, steel, glass and recycled timber, the entire venue is bright, airy and welcoming, thanks in large part to the partially retractable roof over the beer garden, where metal chairs, communal tables and a kid’s playhouse made from recycled materials demonstrate the venue’s "come one, come all" nature.
This is a place you could as easily have lunch with your grandmother, sister and your sister’s five kids as you could settle in for a beer tasting session with a few mates on a Saturday night. The menu offers up a broad range of dishes, from your classic pub burger and pizzas straight from their Italian wood oven, to more refined plates such as roasted pumpkin, mussels, and seasonal salads.
But if it’s the beer you’re keen on, what is it you’d be tasting?
Stomping Ground offers a wide range of beer styles with the intention to offer something for everyone – wherever you are on your beer journey. Since opening, head brewer Ashur Hall tried his hand at dozens of beer styles, including the popular Laneway Lager, Gipps St Pale Ale, One Eyed IPA and Bearbrass Nitro Milk Stout. But, with customers lapping up the variety of beers on offer, they've been joined by beers as diverse as a rauchbier collaboration with Stone & Wood, a double IPA named after Hawthorn AFL legend Robert "Dipper" DiPierdomenico, a Berliner Weisse with added syrups, and more besides.
Taking on board lessons from their venues and festival, the team has chosen to categorise beers as either easy drinking, intermediate or challenging to help you navigate the wide selection too.
Before opening their doors in August 2016, and to ensure Ashur was on the same page as them, Steve and Guy took their brewer for a trip Stateside, introducing him to some of the US breweries and bars that had so inspired their latest venture. These were venues that hit a sweet spot between being a beer lover’s dream venue and somewhere locals could claim as their own.
That commitment to a wider vision should ensure Stomping Ground doesn't lose sight of its core goal – to return a slice of brewing history to Collingwood.