The Colonial Brewing story is one that can be neatly viewed in two parts – parts that are equally neatly centred on each coast of Australia. Part one began in the West, way back in 2004 when "craft beer" wasn't even a phrase used by those brewing it, while part two has at its heart this brewery and venue in Port Melbourne.
Starting at the beginning, it was in 2004 that Colonial Brewing opened its sleek brewpub in the heart of the Margaret River region. Many have since joined them in the region in which Bootleg first led the way, yet few come close to the Colonial brewpub's ambitious scope, broad vistas and epic playground for kids.
If you're someone who appreciates good beer, you'll likely have called in when touring the region. Yet, aside from tucking into their typically traditionally minded ales at the Margaret River base, you'd have struggled to find Colonial beers anywhere else unless you stumbled across one of a dozen or so venues in Melbourne, Perth or, most recently, Sydney with their beers on tap.
At least, that is, until we hit part two...
This part of the story began in earnest in 2016 after Colonial took over what had previously been Matilda Bay's brewery in Port Melbourne, walking into a ready made brewery that would allow them to instantly increase production capacity significantly while also having a base to get beer fresher to the East Coast. The East Coast story could have begun earlier, as the owners had been investigating the possibility of building a large brewery and venue at Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula but, as that dream remained out of reach, this new one came pretty much gift wrapped.
The brewery had already installed a canning line at its Margaret River home and started sending Draught (formerly Kolsch) and Small Ale into the world; with this second facility up and running, Colonial tap heads began appearing with greater frequency across the East Coast too. Since taking over the eye-catching old warehouse, new tanks have been added alongside a much larger and faster canning line meaning, well, meaning more of everything beer wise.
They were able to launch their new core range, adding IPA and Pale Ale – both in tinnies with the 360 degree lid they first introduced with Small Ale – and cold pressed Apple Cider Bertie, named with a nod to the Bertie Beetle lollies once made under the same roof.
The brewery in Port Melbourne comes in three parts: a space filled with old sofas sat underneath classic photos of AC/DC, 70s boozers and holidaymakers at the beach; one filled with benches and tables alongside a cinema screen of sorts amid a giant mural created during an event by Ian Mutch, the man behind their Small Ale artwork; and the area around the bar.
Usually, it's open from Thursday to Saturday although, with a capacity of 400 and plenty of space for entertainment and food trucks, it regularly hosts events and functions too. For those that call in, the view of the beamed ceilings, rows of tanks and stacks of tinnies is rather different to the farmland surrounding Colonial's original home. But, as the brewery accelerates its plans to become one of Australia's major craft players, it's this venue that will be its engine room.
Some photos copyright Simon Shiff