Back in 2016, beers bearing the name Mr Banks started appearing across the Mornington Peninsula and in a handful of Melbourne venues. While the appearance of new breweries is pretty commonplace these days, it did raise one question: who was Mr Banks? Was he the guy on the side of the cans? Was he the bloke behind the brewery? Or was he some combination of both?
Not quite, it turns out. Banks was a dog. Specifically, it was the dog owned by Chris and Penny Farmer, the couple behind a new brewery in Seaford. In turn, Banks the dog was named after a fictional man: Adam Banks, the Mighty Ducks’ star player.
It seems fitting that Mr Banks was named after Chris and Penny’s dog, particularly since the brewery is very much a family story. By the time they launched, Chris had more ten years of “obsessively homebrewing” under his belt, while Penny’s background in accounting made her well positioned to handle the financial side of the brewery.
What’s more, it was while running his dad’s business that Chris first pondered starting his own brewery, with him and a mate regularly brewing together and buying whatever equipment they could get their hands on. The push to go professional came when Chris’ old man decided to sell his business, leaving Chris faced with the option of either taking over the family business or starting a new one.
After finding a home in Seaford, Mr Banks became a reality and tinnies of Chris’ pale ale were sent into the world. It was a beer he’d been refining for years and a steady stream of new releases soon followed. Some made it into the core range; others were kept to limited runs or appeared as seasonals.
Those beers also happened to stand out from the crowd thanks to the detailed, frequently eye-catching images decorating each can. Though the work of different artists and graphic designers, they’re united by a focus on fun, and highlighting that Mr Banks is a small brewery run by a young family.
It’s an approach given even more freedom in the brewery’s many limited releases, which have become ever more creative and boundary-pushing over the years, with the brewers' talent for creating high ABV hazies and oat cream IPAs in particular making them one of the most sought after brands for the country's beer chasers.
It wasn’t long before the small brewery soon couldn’t keep up with demand so Chris and Penny expanded into a new one complete with a new bar late in 2017 on the same site. What was previously a brewery and small cellar door turned into a serious beer destination in Melbourne’s south-eastern fringe.
It’s an open space filled with old couches and shared tables, large murals and festoon lighting, with every detail seeming to serve as a reminder that Mr Banks is about the good times. That includes space to shoot hoops next to the beer garden and a pool table across from the bar.
At time of writing, the kitchen was still taking shape, with the bar instead making full use of the local restaurants that surround it, along with the food trucks invited to take up temporary residence out front.
You’ll often find a fair number of local families at the venue, and this is very much by design too. The couple wanted to ensure it was a place kids could enjoy themselves, with a freezer full of Frosty Fruits and PlayStations on hand to help in that regard.
Given its location at the gateway to the Mornington Peninsula, it’s also a handy stop for visitors making their way to and from the local beaches, wineries and breweries. And, given it’s also only a short walk from the nearest train station, it’s not uncommon to witness beer fans from further afield wandering lost through this outer-suburban industrial lot wondering which converted panel beaters will be the one they are seeking.
Considering Seaford’s proximity to Frankston, the family-friendly brewery is also helping with the rehabilitation of the much-maligned town’s reputation. Every hoop scored outside, every Tony Hawke level unlocked inside, and every beer enjoyed both inside and out contributes to a picture a million miles from the stereotypes peddled by comedians for decades. All thanks to the Mighty Mr Banks.
Or, from November 2021, all thanks to Banks Brewing as the brewery underwent a rebrand that saw the Mr disappear from the name. Rest assured, the rapid release schedule of entertainingly-named and attired beers has not changed.