While the west of Melbourne is slowly awakening from its craft beer slumber, there's still a good number of suburbs starved of a decent bottleshop or bar where they can find a selection that strays far from the mainstream. For beer lovers around Point Cook, however, the days of being starved of choice are over; indeed, with the arrival of Hopheads, the suburb went from famine to feast overnight.
Drop in to the store on Adelphi Boulevard and you’ll find them showcasing the best of Victoria and beyond across eight rotating taps and along shelves heaving with more than 400 (and growing) different brews from the likes of Stone, Garage Project, Kaiju! and Mikkeller.
The man to thank is Hopheads owner Adrian Chong, who we met in the earliest days of The Crafty Pint as he was plotting his first venture in the beer world. That saw him set up Taps, Malaysia’s first craft beer bar, along with his brother and three cousins, before he made his way back to Melbourne looking for a new challenge. Establishing a quality beer outlet in the west – akin to Richmond’s Slowbeer – seemed to offer the challenge he was looking for.
While the outer suburbs of Melbourne aren’t quite as conservative in their beer tastes as Kuala Lumpur, the ethos for setting up both Taps and Hopheads was similar: bring the beer to the people and they will come.
To wit, Hopheads’ shelves are stocked with an impressive array of core range and limited release beers from Australian breweries such Moon Dog, Hawkers, Pirate Life, and Feral, as well as internationals like Cantillon, Omnipollo, ParrotDog and Evil Twin. Put simply, it's a hard task to walk out the doors without at least a couple of bottles under your arm. Or, should you wish to enjoy them in house, you can pay a small corkage fee, ranging from $2 to $4 per bottle depending on its size.
But bottled beer alone – no matter how good it is – does not a community hub make, so Adrian installed taps too, through which the choice of beers rotates. He also ensured there was ample space for guests to settle in with a few mates – and some fish and chips from around the corner if they’re feeling peckish. Patrons are heartily encouraged to bring in whatever food their heart desires, park themselves at the long table near the bar or take one of the spots outside, then explore the beers available under the watchful gaze of the giant, bearded Hopheads mural on the wall. It's an approach that keeps things casual, and ensures that Adrian can concentrate on curating the beer list instead of testing out his cooking skills on the public.
Within months of opening, his venue had built a growing core of regulars stopping in a couple of times a week. And, according to one gentleman exploring the taps on the day of our first visit, you couldn’t ask for a better addition to the area. It’s an addition that offers regular Friday night tastings hosted by local breweries as well as ample opening hours that can easily result in a quick visit stretching into an long and enjoyable evening.
Since then, success inspired the opening of a second Hopheads in Altona. You can read more in this interview with Adrian.