If there has been as much pre-launch hype and wall-to-wall coverage surrounding a new venue opening in Melbourne in recent years – especially one with craft beer at its heart – as was dedicated to Moon Dog World, we'd love to know.
Then again, if there's been a new venue opening in Melbourne in recent years – beer-related or otherwise – quite like Moon Dog World, we love to know about that too.
Whether it's the indoor waterfall and lagoon, the Wall of Warnie (photos of Shane Warne interspersed with other Aussie legends like Cathy Freeman), the pinball alley, the hidden tiki bar that's redefining the meaning of the word "hidden", the 40m mural of a trashy fish, or just the plain idea of creating a tropical paradise within a vast former Nylex warehouse in an industrial estate in Preston, it's not your run-of-the-mill hangout.
Yet, as you can read in our retrospective on the Moon Dog founders' journey from homebrewing teenagers to twin brewery owners with their sights set on becoming one of the biggest in Australia, it kind of makes sense.
The vibe of Moon Dog World retains the ethos of their original Duke Street home in Abbotsford, just with an added layer or three of madness, a few million to play with, and the confidence they'll be able to draw enough people to a 725-person venue that's hardly ideally located in terms of public transport or other venues (other than the nearby 3 Ravens brewery) to make the full commercial kitchen, three bars that share 70-odd taps between them, and a small army of staff worthwhile.
Certainly, if the early weeks are any judge, they've created a destination, alright, one where the issue on weekends is more a case of working out how to manage thousands of visitors over the course of a day and night. And, in the quieter times in the week, the design is such that you can call in when there's a few dozen there and it feels right.
Chances are there will be couples and small groups of mates making full use of the deckchairs by the lagoon, others gathering in the booths or round tables of one upper deck or peering through the fronds from the other, plus a few at the bar, in the beer garden, playing arcade games, or – as seems to be proving popular – hanging with their pre-school kids by the play area.
With little in the way of hospo offerings nearby, unless you fancy the food court at the Northlands shopping centre or one of the kebab shops or early hours cafés, the sharing and beer-friendly menu brings something new to the area (and caters to vegans and is gluten-friendly too).
Of course, it's not just a venue. Behind the ceiling high wall of glass (at least when the ceiling hasn't been retracted to let the sun shine in), they've fired up a brewery they hope will take them to the giddy heights of ten million litres of beer per annum. And, right at the back, on the edge of Darebin Creek and around from the car park, there's an underground space where they're ageing beer in barrels and getting up to whatever other mischief they can.
Moon Dog beers dominate the taps, but there are a few set aside for their mates, plus there's a few wines and cocktails on tap too. And, when it comes to mates, it's clear from the off they plan to use the space for as much as they can: in November 2019, just weeks after opening, they invited 20-odd brewing mates from across the globe to come and pour beers at their first Mate Fest.
It's a vibrant mix of the ambitious and the ridiculous, the colourful and the calculated. It's also not the first – and likely not the last – time they've brought something new to the Australian beer world too.