Collingwood has long been a melting pot of ideas, culture, food and drinks and The Craft & Co’s Smith Street venue aims to unite that ethos under the one roof. Located in a grand building that dates back to 1861, the venue opened in 2015 as a space that treats beer, wine, food and, following the installation of a still, spirits with equal reverence.
The Craft & Co philosophy is simple: drinks should be made with care – or crafted, as the name suggests. The blended approach makes sense once you understand the venture comes from Paul Baggio, whose various businesses have been supplying breweries, wineries and other food and beverage producers and manufacturers since the early 1990s.
Even before you enter the historic two-storey building, it’s clear that it’s more than a venue: it’s a production space too. The aforementioned still sits in the front window to entice people inside; once they walk into the subway-tiled venue, a ten-hectolitre, Italian-made brewhouse can be found at the rear behind the kitchen.
When it comes to production, The Craft & Co have favoured the approachable on one hand – their core range of beers, for example, which is made up of core range of Hazy Pale, Draught and Japanese Rice Lager – with the experimental, such as beers made with a clay amphora. Their range of spirits is vast, from gins, whiskies and vodkas to amaro, vermouth and rum, and has picked up an impressive collection of awards over the years too.
Since 2022, the bulk of The Craft & Co’s production has come from their main facility in Preston, leaving the team at Collingwood to focus on experimentation and trialling new recipes. As such, the taps always cover a breadth of styles, and you’re not just limited to beer when it comes to tasting paddles: you can line up a paddle of gin too. Or select one of their cocktails or wines.
The menu goes to great lengths to make use of these drinks: their focaccia is made with spent grain; meats are often braised in beer; you can try trout cured with gin. The diversity of offering, and opening hours from midday until late most days, means the crowd inside can vary from hungry workers stopping in for some modern Australia fare on their lunch break, to mates enjoying a knock-off or those grabbing a bottle of wine or six-pack on the way home.
Beyond being a place for people to sample and buy food and drink, The Craft & Co is also a place in which you can learn. Staff frequently run beer and food pairing dinners, alongside those celebrating gin, dark spirits, digestifs and everything in between.
The upper level hosts events throughout the year, including their much-loved gin markets at which distillers from across the country show off their wares. It’s also a popular function space for work parties, weddings and other celebrations, with expansive windows offering views over the melting pot that is Smith Street below.
It’s a street, and indeed suburb, with no shortage of places to enjoy beer, wine, cocktails and food, yet The Craft & Co pulls them together in a way that’s unlike anything else in the area.