There might be a lot of breweries in Melbourne but there are still ways to stand out. One way is to brew beers that are a little more traditionally-minded than most modern lineups, or you can throw a tonne of hops and adjuncts at beers and spend your time on new ingredients and styles. Alternatively, you focus on the food element of a brewpub as much as you do the beer and give locals a place they want to keep returning to.
In the case of Burnley Brewing, which launched in 2017, they’ve largely made a name for doing all three of those things at once. Launched by a group of mates from both the beer and wider hospitality worlds, Burnley Brewing took over a space that previously housed the Italian restaurant Romulus & Remus on the easterly edge of Bridge Road, where nobody is sure if it’s part of Richmond or its own suburb.
In doing so, they added an extra dimension to Bridge Road’s good beer scene, while also bringing a new kind of brewery to Melbourne. In part, that was thanks to the brewery retaining some of what made the restaurant so appealing: the booths that had long been filled with families sharing antipasti remained a place for sharing, although now it wasn’t just food but tasting paddles being passed around; the space’s light shades remained, complemented by the north-facing windows that bring natural light flooding in and keep the brewery’s pastel logo shining bright.
Unsurprisingly, considering the new brewery’s former inhabitant, Burnley’s focus has been as much on good food as it has been on the beer pouring through the taps. With Romulus & Remus’ staff retained, the brewpub inherited a wealth of hospitality experience along with a menu based around house-made pastas and pizza. To that has been added more traditional pub fare – burgers, steaks and the kind of snacks that go hand in hand with beer.
But, of course, at its heart, it’s now a brewery; so bringing this all together is the beer – 14 taps of the stuff. They’re the work of brewer Michael Stanzel, a Melburnian who spent years learning to brew (and malt barley) in Germany before returning home. Indeed, his background as a brewer is a winning combination for an inner city Melbourne brewery: he’s just as comfortable brewing a Reinheitsgebot compliant lager as he is throwing fruit into a stout.
Burnley, however, is very much a family affair with Michael’s wife Chloe Hoiberg heading up sales and the pair of them eventually moving from being employees to having a stake in the brewery. Their beloved dog, Harry, is a key part of understanding the brewery too, with the Vizla casting a large shadow across the brewery and inspiring many beers born in his honour.
For the first few months of the brewery’s life, the beers were contract brewed as the Burnley crew waited for not one, but two brewhouses to arrive. The first of those to be installed was the brewery’s Dandenong South production site, while the second now sits in one corner of their Bridge Road home.
The production brewery focuses on the beers destined for wider release, while also serving as something of an incubator for brewing companies seeking a space to brew from. Meanwhile, the smaller, 500-litre brewery is in a state of constant flux, with the brewing team using it to experiment and create new beers with their own staff and other beer businesses. When ready, the majority travel directly from bright tank to your glass.
Whether it’s thanks to the tanks that line the front windows, or the bar that wraps around the brewhouse, or even the staff’s willingness to recommend their favourite beer and food combination, there’s no doubt you’re in a brewery. It’s just one that combines German-conceived lagers, heavily fruited sours and a food offering a little more refined than most.