On either side of the border between New South Wales and Victoria, separated by the Murray River, lie the twin towns of Albury and Wodonga. The latter, somewhat unfairly, has always lived in the shadow of the former, being slightly younger, smaller and home to fewer bars.
But, as most younger siblings eventually do, Wodonga has caught up and now even surpassed Albury in terms of craft beer selection, an achievement that's down to The Goods Shed, which opened its doors to a thirsty public in 2016.
Housed in what was quite literally a goods shed for freight trains transferring cargo at the state border, the venue was put up for lease as part of a government supported initiative to breathe new life into Wodonga’s former railway precinct. Dan O’Connell envisioned a vast beer hall style opportunity within the empty four walls and its transformation into The Goods Shed began.
Today, with parts of the old goods shed still remaining inside the new one, including red gum sleeper tables, railway track struts and a few other vintage pieces, the venue possesses plenty of rustic charm.
As for the beer, all 16 taps are dedicated to craft, ranging from easy-drinking lagers to challenging IPAs and stouts, with everything in between. Eight of those taps are core styles, chosen for the local palate, while the other eight are rotational, featuring a selection of the more weird and wonderful.
Across the taps, the focus is mainly on the local with many beers coming from surrounding breweries, such as Bridge Road, Bright, Black Dog and Mitta Mitta. But, if the team at the Goods Shed want to showcase a beer or brewery to the people of Wodonga, mere distance won’t stand in their way.
On one occasion when they were tapping a sought-after beer from the Gold Coast, it enticed punters to travel more than an hour by car for a taste. But that’s the beauty of a carefully-considered tap list: it makes The Goods Shed a worthy detour for beer fans – whether they're locals wanting to try something new, someone passing through town, or a beer tourist checking out the wider region and its ever-growing number of breweries.
Staff don't just scour the country for new and exciting beers, either, but exclusively indie beer too: everything you'll find on tap and in their bulging beer fridge comes from independent Australian brewers. So, while you’ll likely find any beer style under the sun, you won't find any from big brewery-owned craft brands or international brewers.
The motivation for such an approach stems from Dan’s former career. Having worked in the corporate world for many years and travelled the globe, he often found his hometown didn’t offer the same options for social and networking events over a good schooner of beer he’d found in other cities in which he’d worked.
Having taken steps to resolve the issue, these days he and his team not only relish the challenge of bringing in beers that otherwise wouldn't reach this part of Australia, but also the challenge of convincing more conservative drinkers to try something new. Their mission is fuelled by the guarantee there will be at least two new beers on tap every week and aided by tasting flights of six tap beers served in unique, laser cut wooden caddies. For those not afraid to commit to an entire bottle or can, the game of “beer bingo” makes full use of the impressive fridge list – and works exactly as one might expect.
The food and wine menus also focus on local, even more so than the tap list. Almost all of the wines come from surrounding vineyards, while the menu, which features favourites like pizza, burgers and a selection of share plates, is sourced locally where possible.
Whatever food and drinks you opt for, you can enjoy them either in the naturally and brightly lit indoors, or on a range of outdoor picnic tables running alongside the venue’s exposed brick façade. There’s also two function spaces available for hire, one in a mezzanine level overlooking the venue, another in a shed-like space on the ground floor, closed off from the main area by a huge metal roller door.
The turnout at the venue on any given afternoon is evidence The Goods Shed team have successfully mashed in (pardon the pun) the building’s eye-catching 1900s origins and the 21st century’s every-growing passion for great craft beer, local wine and good food to create an appealingly heady concoction.