Since opening their doors in November 2015, the Catchment Brewing crew have been asking the question: what does it look like to be part of the eclectic, artistic and historic landscape that makes up West End?
With a deeply established arts scene and a blend of cultures, it’s a haven for non-mainstream lifestyles and has long been known as a suburb that celebrates diversity and creativity. As one of Brisbane’s oldest suburbs, and the site of one of Brisbane’s first breweries, it’s also an area drenched in history.
While the suburb is a patchwork of character and colour, it takes time to become part of the fabric - particularly on Boundary Street, the deeply lined but lively face of West End. (If anywhere is suited to mixed metaphors, it’s West End.) So Catchment Brewing have been patiently weaving themselves into the local fabric.
At a community level, that’s included turning to local artists to design decals for seasonal beers and inviting Brisbane performers to bring live music into the venue.
At a historical level, Catchment wants to continue the legacy of the long defunct West End Brewery, which prided itself on being “The People’s Brewery”. A newspaper article about West End Brewery in 1896 said that “a light, refreshing, and mildly stimulating beverage is the order of the day”, and Catchment’s approachable core range fits that description. The Whynot Lager, Pale Select, Hoogley Session Ale and Indies gold medal-winning Vulture IPA are all designed to be supremely drinkable, which makes them ideal for sessions spent gazing over Boundary Street as the afternoon sun fades.
It’s worth taking a moment here to note how rare it is to find a brewery on the high street in the inner city, as opposed to tucked away in an industrial area. Such a location gives Catchment a number of opportunities – and challenges.
The high foot traffic and proximity to the CBD means this isn’t a Thursday-to-Sunday-evening brewpub. Catchment opens from 6.30am for coffee, and offers lunch and dinner six days a week.
The constant and diverse buzz of passers-by creates a need for different spaces within the venue too – a capacity of 200 is spread across three spaces, so a day at Catchment doesn’t have to mean facing the crowds.
The front bar – or Boundary Bar, as it’s called – has the familiar feel of a thriving West End joint, with a couple of fermenters behind the bar reminding punters this is an operational brewery serving up freshly made beer. This is the area perfect for mingling and people-watching, and keeping one eye on the bar and kitchen as you ponder your next order.
If it’s the brewery experience you’ve come for, pass through to the back to find Brewery Lane, the indoor-outdoor space that feels like a hidden laneway. This is the source of the beer, the centre of fun, and the heart of Catchment. Here you’ll find a row of stainless steel tanks glinting with the reflection of party lights, hanging plants soaking up the thrum of live music, and a street art style wall mural. Very West End.
Upstairs is Hidden Windows, the heritage-rich secondary bar that works as a function space. A pleasant sense of seclusion makes it just right for gatherings of friends to corporate events to wedding receptions. With one exposed brick wall, one wall covered with barrel lids, and terraced balconies looking out over the streetscape – yes, and some hidden windows – this room lets you enjoy your own private piece of West End, past and present.
It’s evident Catchment has an overarching ethos of diversity and accessibility without compromising quality. You can see it in the food menu: a Butcher’s Plate, soft shell crab roll and wings by the kilo are there for the meat lovers, with plant-based options standing unashamedly beside them: roasted cauliflower with apple glaze as a snack, a towering double-patty vegan burger, and vegan aioli served with the fries and wedges.
When it comes to drinks, the beer obviously takes pride of place. But even here there are broad options. As well as the easy-drinking core range, there’s always a few seasonals pouring. Brewer Daniel Venema keeps things interesting: sometimes he explores traditional styles and pays careful attention to their historical origins; sometimes he innovates with weird and wacky ingredients, with past inventions including a lemon myrtle pale ale, a Lamington stout, a citrus salted IPA and a Scotch ale infused with Christmas puddings.
There’s a full bar offering wine, spirits and cocktails for those after something other than a pint. But a close look at the drinks menu will show beer has even snuck its way into some of the cocktails. And back on the food menu, it’s crept into the fish batter, and the sauces as well.
It’s hard to escape beer at Catchment. But with the hundred-year-legacy of West End Brewery in the air, and fresh beer bubbling away in the tanks… why would you want to?