It takes a particular set of skills – and a lot of hard work – to set up a brewery and restaurant in a spot very few beer people would have visited – or indeed had cause to visit – and then have people lining up for tables in the first week. But for anyone who makes the trip to Cheltenham brewpub Bad Shepherd it’s quite clear this is a project that was planned to perfection, right down to the recycled pallet walls dotted around the dining room.
Brewer Dereck Hales, along with his wife and venue manager Diti, have created a space that Cheltenham was clearly crying out for, with their menu of American barbeque food and finely curated beer list both proving popular with local businesses and those from further afield from its first days in November 2015.
The beer list makes a feature of Bad Shepherd’s own creations, including a luscious Hazelnut Brown and an American style Pale Ale – Dereck's "baby" that he's been perfecting since his earliest home brewing days. But, as well as sampling your way through Bad Shepherd’s wares, patrons can also make the most of the two taps dedicated to their in-house brewing buddy Wolf of the Willows, as well as guest taps showcasing the best of Victoria. That tap list rotates often, with a focus on pouring beers from some of the breweries that helped Dereck in his fledgling brewing days, including Mornington Peninsula Brewery where Dereck trained to be a brewer.
A good tap list alone doesn't make a brewpub, however; it needs a food menu to match, and on that point Bad Shepherd delivers. In developing the venue, Dereck and Diti wanted to create a space that matched their own style of entertaining at their home. That is: great beer on tap and American style comfort food, including smoked meats from their own smoker like pulled pork, brisket, and plenty of slaw. For them, comfort food should be flavourful, hearty, honest and simple. And, of course, perfectly matched with a beer.
Weekday menus include a selection of Reuben style sandwiches, perfect for the office crowd fitting in a quick break. For those with more time on their side, pulled pork rolls, smoked ribs, and sides such as jalapeño poppers or chilli cheese fries should do the trick.
To ensure the venue holds onto that feel of simple homeliness, many of the brewpub’s furniture and fittings are recycled, and staff are more than happy to have a yarn with any of the diners perched along the front of the bar.
With clientele going beyond beer lovers searching out new brews to encompass nearby office workers ducking in to grab a sandwich for lunch and families chatting over the hubbub of happy children, Bad Shepherd has created something of a community hub for Cheltenham. And, from the off, the suburb seems to be more than happy to be led into temptation.