Like Field of Dreams, minus Kevin Costner and the schmaltz, The Public Brewery is living proof that if you build it they will come.
Prior to the multifaceted venue opening, the closest we came to encountering craft beer in this neck of Melbourne's outer east was making a couple of batches of homebrew with a guy called Brendan Guild when studying for a beer judging accreditation. Yet, thanks to the vision of local cafe owner Dale White, Croydon is now home to one of the best looking and busiest brewery venues in Victoria. And, in a nice quirk of fate, Brendan came on board as its founding brewer, ditching a career in HR to follow his – and Dale's – dream.
It's a dream that covers a lot of bases and one that began when Dale noticed that 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?
Thus began the process of securing the site, drawing up plans to clean, strip back and rebuild the old warehouse, then waiting to see if this part of outer Melbourne was ready for the sort of beers being lapped up in its inner suburbs.
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 Brendan 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. Such has been its success that the team was invited to open its impressive, three-storey second venue, The Cellar Door, as part of the multi-million dollar recreation of Eastland shopping centre, late in 2015. A crafty beer garden atop a shopping centre... Why not?
On the beer front, Brendan has, for the most part, focused on creating approachable beers with broad appeal – pale, red and brown ales plus a craft light beer that's a project close to Dale's heart – while also collaborating frequently with friends from the Victorian industry. Those friends are always allocated a spot among the venue's taps to showcase their wares. And, with demand for the Public's beers growing, an offsite production brewery opened at 100 Acres in Warrandyte in early 2016, where the team is also building a function space.
All in all, it's safe to say they were right in their hunch that this part of Melbourne was ripe for something crafty.