Festina tarde is an Italian saying – often associated with the Renaissance but also used by Roman rulers – that translates as "make haste slowly". By all means, hurry, but don't rush things, and take care too.
Westside Ale Works' story is one of “hurrying slowly”. It started in 2016, when Casey Wagner took over a small space in South Melbourne and installed what was effectively a highly-developed homebrew setup. Working with his 500 litre Braumeister, Casey focused on brewing the beers he loved from his home on America's West Coast, with those big, hoppy beers giving Westside its name.
As a venue, Westside has always been about as relaxed as they come: a cozy, globe-lit taproom, filled with beer hall tables and games for people of all ages. It's a place where, after taking your seat, you get handed a bowl of popcorn as a game of basketball plays on the TV.
However, at the original location, there was no room for a kitchen to make their delicious pizzas, not much space for brewing, and nowhere to install a canning line, meaning Westside needed a little more room to breathe. However, while most small breweries tend to look for a far larger site when they expand, that wasn't the plan here. Casey and the Westside team didn’t want to forfeit the feel of their laidback SoCal-style warehouse brewery, and luckily they didn’t have to move too far to find the perfect new space.
Their new location presented itself only a couples of doors down from their original location on Alfred Street, and it was then they realised moving the brewery didn't actually have to involve all that much moving. And so it was that, on Anzac Day 2019 – and presumably with little more than a forklift and a few pairs of hands, Westside Ale Works opened in a new home.
Fans of the old site will find much of what they loved about the original space translates to the new digs: it's still as relaxed a space as they come – production has just been “cranked up” a little. The new venue includes more room for people to enjoy Westside beers, a massive projection screen that plays big games from both here and the States, a private function space upstairs, as well as 30 beers on tap.
While 20 of these beers are brewed in-house by the Westside team, there are ten guest taps dedicated to other local breweries or rare releases and imports. The decision to pour other beers stemmed from their bottleshop. After realising how few venues in this part of the city are dedicated to independent, craft beer, Westside Ale Works was ready to shine in this area too.
Their bottleshop – dubbed the “Research and Development” fridge – is just as much a part of the new brewery as well. It’s filled with beers from across the globe as well as Westside's 355ml cans – all brewed and canned in-house. Before 2019 was out, they introduced a 500ml can takeaway option too, meaning you can pick any of their beers on tap and get it canned right in front of you.
While hop-forward releases remain a focus, Casey and the Westside team now have plenty of room to experiment across their 20 taps. Experimental brewing takes place on the 50-litre pilot system, where new recipes or unusual adjuncts can be tested out in the taproom. The eagle-eyed at the bar will also spot barrels lining the back row of the brewhouse; it's a collection that is steadily being filled with saisons, lambic-style beers, fruited sours, and stouts that will be seasonally released on tap and in can.
The move also allowed Westside to offer another American staple: pizza. Sure, they may be Italian in origin, but the South Melbourne brewery's pizzas are inspired by those from the West Coast of the States: the toppings plentiful, the sauce made in-house and the dough made with their Everybody Loves Pale Ale.
As the Westside story continues to develop, they have also been experimenting with distilling – hoppy gins added to the brewery's repertoire of drinks and other spirits in planning and ageing in oak. All in good time, of course, as the Westside Ale Works crew continue to hurry slowly along.