Like Field of Dreams, minus Kevin Costner and the schmaltz, The Public Brewery is living proof that if you build it they will come.
There was little in the way of craft beer in the part of Melbourne’s outer east around Croydon, yet thanks to the vision of local café owner Dale White, by the mid-2010s the suburb was home to one of the best-looking and busiest brewery venues in Victoria.
The Public Brewery’s story began when Dale noticed a former grain store and auction house that was falling into dereliction was going to be pulled down and replaced with a factory. He wondered whether it wouldn't be better put to use as a venue with a brew-your-own facility at its centre; he'd enjoyed a day at a similar business years earlier, albeit one where the hospitality side of things had left much to be desired. What if he could create his own, pass on the joys of the experience he'd had, but do it better?
At the end of 2013, The Public Brewery began to open in stages. First came the bottleshop stocking nothing but Yarra Valley wines and independent Victorian beers, then a venue with bar, kitchen and beer garden (growing herbs and hops for use inside), finally the various brewery elements: eight 50 litre brew-your-own kits and a 250 litre microbrewery upon which they started brewing their own beers.
And, straight away, they came. With nowhere between Melbourne's eastern suburbs and the Yarra Valley offering anything like this, especially in such carefully considered, rustic, charming surrounds, the place was soon busy – with families, beer lovers, wannabe brewers – and has never looked back.
On the beer front, the brewery has for the most part, focused on creating approachable beers with broad appeal, while also collaborating frequently with friends from the Victorian industry. An offsite production brewery followed in Warrandyte in early 2016.
Having helped transform drinking habits in Croydon and surrounds, the team at The Public Brewery used the COVID shutdown of 2020 to undergo a spot of transformation of its own, emerging reborn and, you might say, better than ever.
The beautiful venue received a complete overhaul while closed. New bar: check. New kitchen: check. New bottleshop: check. New beers: big check.
Despite all the changes, the patronage the venue receives has remained the same, as has the approach to brewing. On the beer front, the brewery continues to focus predominantly on creating approachable beers – pale, red and session ales lead the way, plus a lager and light beer, both of which are always popular with their regulars.
Then there’s their seasonal range, which chops and changes, meaning there’s likely to be something new each time you pay a visit, from an evolving range of sours to IPAs and brown ales.
All in all, it's safe to say the founders were right in their hunch this part of Melbourne was ripe for something crafty.