Anyone who has spent time in the company of Fraser "Frase" Rettie and Craig "Grum" Knight, the duo behind Melbourne-based gypsy operation Exit Brewing, will know they are gregarious, men of the people sorts. Such a description can also be readily applied to their mate David Pike, someone whose relationship with the local craft beer industry was once perhaps best defined as "enthusiastic enthusiast" but who is now rather more deeply involved – and not just because his wife is a brewer at Mountain Goat.
The trio, who had met and become mates over the years at bars, breweries and beer events, are responsible for Uitgang Bar in Richmond. It's a venue that, on the surface – and indeed the common ground between the venue and brewing company branding – is a home for Exit. But, scratch that surface and it doesn't take long to realise the threesome behind it see it more as a celebration and showcase for the broader independent craft booze world.
Sure, much of the time you'll find three or four Exit beers amid the dozen taps but at others they're happy to turn over the entire joint to their mates from the beer (and occasionally cider and coffee) world. It's a similar ethos with beers in the fridge, where 90 percent of the space is given over to the likes of KAIJU!, Bad Shepherd, Boatrocker and Wolf of the Willows.
The idea for the bar was first hatched over coffee: Fraser mentioned he was considering opening a bar and, when a venue space opened up in Bridge Road close to where he and David live, they moved in.
Uitgang Bar opened in April 2017, its name derived from the Flemish word for "exit", a hat tip to the brewers’ love of Belgian beers and a nod to where Frase and Grum's journey from homebrewers to brewing company owners began. If you're wondering how to pronounce it, wrap your lips around "out-gang" and you won’t be too far wrong.
At any one time, you'll find at least six of the dozen taps rotating through an impressive range of brews from Victoria and interstate. You may also find a couple turned over to cider and North St Carbonated Coffee – which will come as little surprise to those aware of Frase and David’s love of near neighbours Maker Fine Coffee. Keep an eye out for the house beer too – if the Uitgang team has been working on something special as a trial brew it's likely to pour here and here only.
The venue's support for all things small, local and independent spreads beyond beer, coffee and cider. On the shelves, you'll find locally crafted spirits such as gins from Four Pillars, Melbourne Gin Co and Archie Rose and whiskies from the likes of Starward, Bakery Hill and Lark offering something harder for when the occasion calls. Completing the picture is a growing collection of wines from local, independent wineries.
In terms of the venue itself, perhaps the pièce de resistance is the beer garden out back, destined to become a busy spot during warmer weather. Throughout the year, look out for regular beer events too.
With Bridge Road a fiercely competitive strip, the team at Uitgang has put the focus on community connection rather than competition. Food can be brought in from any venue you like, with delivery possible from a selection of Bridge Road restaurants such as Mister Minh and St Domenico pizza. What’s more, this isn't where you’ll find super cheap bottles of Exit intended to undercut the neighbouring bottleshops. Instead, they’ve steered clear of an off licence altogether and encourage patrons to go visit the likes of Purvis and Slowbeer nearby.
It’s a fitting approach for a business whose roots are in sharing brewing space and for a team known for its fierce love of the Richmond area. It’s their chance to give Richmond something back, and you can just tell they’re loving it.