In recent years, Collingwood has been making an ever stronger claim to be considered Melbourne’s leading craft beer suburb. Myriad bars and pubs that call it home are constant champions of local beer, a mantra they often apply to spirits, wine and food too.
To those venues you can add a growing number of breweries – the likes of Stomping Ground, The Craft & Co and, from early 2017, The Mill Brewery – that have brought brewing back to a suburb where it was once an historical hub.
While he may have chosen an already well-established good beer locale when picking a site for The Mill, founder and head brewer Mirek Aldridge had been mulling the concept of opening his own joint long before IPAs were regularly poured through the taps of Smith Street. Indeed, he says the brewery was more than a decade in the making.
Inspiration came while enjoying a Little Creatures Pale Ale with his brother at the brewery’s Fremantle home, inspiration that led him to homebrewing and a rapid progression from kits to all grain brewing.
As his interest in brewing turned into an obsession, Mirek told friends, family and anyone else who would listen about his intention to open a brewery, all while working in the film and TV industry on some of the country’s finest “trashy dramas”.
Finally, towards the end of 2016, he took over an old mechanics garage in Sackville Street, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the junction of Smith and Johnston Streets, and began designing and building the small brewpub himself. Taking its name and logo from the hand-cranked Corona mill that did him proud during his homebrewing days, The Mill first opened its doors in March 2017.
The back of the warehouse is taken up by a 600L brewhouse, while the front bar is divided between shared tables, a vintage arcade machine and a table tennis table. It’s a setup that makes full use of its industrial setting, with rows of skylights and the large roller door allowing light to flood in during daylight hours.
Red gum tables line the walls indoors with the bar itself taking centre stage. The license allows tables and chairs to fill the brewery’s driveway, which gives the bar the feeling of a neighbourhood pub.
On most nights, that driveway plays host to regularly rotating food trucks for anyone looking for an easy excuse to stay put long after knock-off drinks. Indeed, while those after knock-off drinks make up a good part of The Mill’s clientele, it’s also evolved into a bar for locals as well as those on the search for new beers and breweries; as things stand, visiting the brewery is the best option for anyone wanting to try the beers as only a handful of kegs tend to make it outside the four walls where they’re brewed and into Mirek’s favourite neighbourhood bars.
When the Mill first opened its doors, it poured just three beers, some of them, like the pale ale and The Dark Lord Black IPA among the recipes Mirek had been brewing for years at home. Now you can select from a line-up of ten, most one-offs or seasonals and many brewed in collaboration with other local and not-so-local breweries, including Tallboy & Moose, Bodriggy and Hobart’s The Winston.
The close of 2017 saw The Mill released its first bottled beer too, a Lark Distillery barrel aged imperial stout dubbed The Great Russian – the perfect seasonal release for Melbourne summer.
It may have been a decade in the making but, as Collingwood’s craft credentials continue to grow and The Mill finds itself in good company, we’re pretty sure Mirek and those enjoying the fruits of his labours agree it was well worth the wait.